UN chief condemns additional chemical weapon attacks in Syria

Photo: UN chief condemns additional chemical weapon attacks in Syria / Arabic region

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Friday condemned the four additional gas attacks in Syria that were established by a team of investigators in the final report on chemical weapons use citing credible evidence, dpa reported.

"I note with a deep concern that the team collected evidence and information corroborating allegations that chemical weapons were used on several occasions at multiple sites against both civilians and military targets," Ban said.

Ban briefed the UN General Assembly on the findings of the report that was released Thursday, noting that witness interviews and other evidence point to the use of chemical weapons despite the team's inability to access the exact locations of the attacks.

"While the mission was unable to independently verify every aspect of these allegations, its assessment is that chemical weapons were probably used," Ban said.

The secretary general called on UN member states to hold the perpetrators accountable, calling it the "moral and political responsibility" of the international community.

However, the current report purposefully did not include any indication of who carried out the attacks because the mission's only mandate was to establish whether such chemical weapons had been used.

Ake Sellstrom, the leader of the investigations team, said that the mandate prohibited them from even carrying out the type of forensic work that could point to the perpetrators.

"I could speculate, and quite frequently, when I sit by myself or with my friends, I speculate on these issues," Sellstrom said. "But I don't have information that will stand in court."

Sellstrom said it would be up to a mission with the specific mandate to find the perpetrators using the information his team has collected and finding additional data.

In the final report, which was produced after the joint investigation by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the findings show clear evidence for one attack using poisonous gas Sarin on August 21 in Ghouta near Damascus.

The facts about the Ghouta incident were first established in a September report that focused solely on the attack, which happened while investigators were on the ground.

The report also found "credible information that corroborates with the allegations" of the use of chemical agents in Khan al-Assal in northern Aleppo province, where the Syrian government said rebel forces attacked soldiers and civilians on March 19, however, investigators could not visit the site.

Similarly, the team found evidence based on witness testimonies and medical tests for possible gas attacks in Jobar on August 24, Saraqueb on April 29 and Ashrafiah Sahnaya on 25 August.

The report could not establish any evidence for two alleged incidents in Bahhariyeh and Sheik Maqsood.

While many of the allegations that prompted the investigation were submitted by Western countries that support rebel forces, the reports of incidents in Ashrafiah Sahnaya, Jobar and Bahhariyeh were sent by the Syrian government alleging gas attacks by opposition forces.

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