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UN panel blames Syrian forces for deadly sarin attack in April

Syrian soldier wearing gas mask (Tech. Sgt. H. H. Deffner/

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government was behind a deadly chemical attack that killed scores of civilians in a rebel-held village last April, an investigative panel said in a report to the United Nations Security Council.

The April 4 attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun killed more than 80 people and injured almost 300 others, according to a report Thursday by a panel of investigators known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism. In June, investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said the attack probably involved the use of sarin, a lethal nerve agent, or similar toxic weapons. But that agency isn’t authorized to conclude who’s responsible for the use of banned chemicals.

After the attack, as images of dying children gasping for air circulated in the media, the U.S. placed blame on the Syrian military while also accusing Russia, which backs Assad’s government, of pushing a “false narrative” that rebel forces were behind the incident. In an early test of his administration, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered dozens of cruise missile strikes on the Shayrat airfield from which the jet fighters had launched.

The attack on the town crossed “many, many lines, beyond red lines,” Trump said at the time.

Assad’s government has repeatedly denied the charges.

“Time and again, we see independent confirmation of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in a statement after the report was circulated. “The Security Council must send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons by anyone will not be tolerated.”

The use of chemical weapons would also mean Syria violated a deal to destroy such weapons, an accord brokered by the Obama administration and Russia after an August 2013 sarin attack killed more than 1,000 people in a Damascus suburb.


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