Sarin gas confirmed as weapon in Syria attack


A banned nerve gas was used on civilians in northern Syria in April in an attack which prompted retaliatory missile strikes by the United States, the global chemical weapons watchdog has concluded. Washington accused Damascus of using chemical weapons, after which the US Navy delivered a missile strike overnight to April 7 on a Syrian military airfield in the province of Homs.

USA envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley issued a written statement expressing confidence in the report, "which confirms what we already knew: chemical weapons were used against the Syrian people".

"It is the conclusion of the FFM that such a release can only be determined as the use of sarin, as a chemical weapon", a summary of the report circulated among members said. The UN confirmed that the report had not yet been made public.

The JIM has found Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015 and that Islamic State militants used mustard gas.

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US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said she looks forward to the JIM investigation, "so we can find justice for the victims".

The investigation did not apportion blame but its findings will be used by a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation team to assess who was responsible.

The attack in April caused an worldwide uproar, with photos seen around the world of children struggling for breath and dying.

Two days after video emerged of the April 4 attack, President Donald Trump authorized the firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha'irat, from where USA intelligence said the chemical attack was launched.

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Syrian President Bashar Assad denied responsibility for the attack.

Russia, Syria's ally, has dismissed the findings as not credible.

The results of the OPCW FFM did not come as a surprise, as OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu had already said not long after the attack that test samples showed sarin or a similar agent was used.

However, the organization still has unanswered questions about the completeness of Syria's initial declaration, meaning that it has never conclusively been able to confirm that the country has no more chemical weapons.

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