by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria — On Wednesday, April 26th, French officials stated that the chemical weapon attack in Syria earlier this month which killed eighty-nine people bears the “signature” of President Bashar al-Assad.
The French Foreign Ministry posted a tweet, which read “[t]here’s no doubt that Sarin was used.” The Foreign Minister of France, Mr. Jean-Marc Avrault, stated that samples had been taken from the attack site of the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun and that they matched samples which had been taken from a previous attack. Mr. Avrault noted that the French government had “definite sources” which confirmed that the procedure utilized to make the sampled Sarin is “typical of the methods developed in Syrian laboratories[.]” He indicated that they were able to compare the samples since French laboratories had stored samples taken from other chemical attacks in Syria. He added that the French government established responsibility for the attack by analyzing the method used to develop the Sarin, which “bears the signature of the regime[.]”
The French Foreign Ministry stated that samples taken from the attack site along with the blood of one of the victims confirmed that Sarin had been used in the attack. The Ministry added that the attack site and blood samples were compared with samples taken from a 2013 Syrian attack, in which three Sarin grenades were dropped from a helicopter. The French army had noted that the only forces in possession of a helicopter were the Syrian regime, and had thus concluded that the attack had been carried out by Syria.
The Ministry further added that a “warplane had been deployed from the Syrian regime’s Shayrat airbase on the morning of April 4[.]” The statement indicated that the plane had executed up to six airstrikes in the area of Khan Sheikhoun, and that only the Syrian regime is in possession of such assets.
A report released by French intelligence services alleges that the Sarin, or similar substance, used in the attack came from “hidden stockpiles of chemical weapons[.]” Syria had been required to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 after 1,400 people had been killed in an attack in Damascus.
Western countries have been blaming this month’s Sarin attack on the Syrian government. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), however, indicated that its international chemical weapons inspectors had found “incontrovertible evidence that Sarin, or a similar substance,” had been used in the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun. After testing samples gathered from the attack site, scientists from the United Kingdom had previously confirmed that Sarin, or a similar chemical, had been used. The French Foreign Ministry stated that its “independent investigation” supported “with certainty[,]” the findings of the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey and the OPCW. Syria, on the other hand, has maintained its long-standing position that it is not in possession of any chemical weapons, and has denied any involvement in the Khan Sheikhoun attack, dismissing allegations as “fabrication[.]”
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