Russia: Chemical weapons inspectors head to Syria site

Russia's Foreign Ministry says a team of worldwide chemical weapons inspectors has departed for the Syrian town of Douma, site of an alleged chemical weapons attack that prompted a retaliatory missile strike by the US, United Kingdom and France.

The U.S., France, and Britain blamed the Syrian government for the attack, and struck suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities one week later. The delegation of nine inspectors arrived last Saturday in Damascus and until today, a week later, it was unable to enter Duma.

The samples collected in the Syrian town of Douma "will be transported to the OPCW Laboratory in Rijswijk and then dispatched for analysis to the OPCW's designated labs", the press release says.

Moscow, a key ally of president Bashar al-Assad, has said its own probe into the events in Douma found no traces of chemical use.

The inspection, now a fortnight after the alleged 7 April attack in which some 70 people were said to be killed, will take place after repeated delays.

Investigators reached Syria a week later at the country's invitation, arriving just hours after a coordinated wave of French, American and British missile strikes.

"The way for a political solution is known: it is the resolution of the Security Council number 2254, with a communiqué in Geneva, and it is through the intra-Syrian talks between government and opposition to be able to overcome differences that exist".

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Western powers slammed Syrian and Russian authorities, saying proof that chemicals were used in Douma was probably being hidden.

Harrowing pictures said to have been taken shortly after the attack show the bodies of women and children with foam around they mouths. Inspectors had been trying to reach Douma for several days but were delayed after an advance security detail was sacked upon on April 17.

Western intelligence services say they have evidence the deaths were caused by chemical weapons.

"Autopsy samples, if available, will provide invaluable evidence and nerve agents can be found in many organs", Hay told AFP.

Douma was the final target of the government's sweeping campaign to seize back control of the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus from rebels after seven years of revolt.

Set up in 2014, the on-going mandate of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) is "to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic". The Assad regime and its main ally Russian Federation have repeatedly dismissed the accusations of a gas attack as "fabrication".

  • Adam Floyd