Syria Slams Watchdog Report Saying It Used Chemical Weapon in Douma Attack

Global chemical weapons watchdog report says it found 'reasonable grounds' that chlorine was used in the 2018 strike that killed over 40 people

File photo: UN chemical weapons experts wearing gas masks carry samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus August 28, 2013.
REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah

Syria’s government has strongly criticized a report issued by the global chemical weapons watchdog that said chlorine was likely used as a weapon in a deadly attack on the Syrian town of Douma last year.

In a statement Thursday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the report was “full of flagrant falsification of facts.” It said the report lacks “professionalism” and accused those who prepared it of being far from neutral and objective.

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The report issued last week by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ fact finding mission found “reasonable grounds” that chlorine was used in the April 7, 2018 attack. Medical workers said at the time that the attack killed more than 40 people.

The mission’s mandate does not include laying blame.

Survivors reached by The Associated Press in the aftermath of the attack said they were overwhelmed by the smell of chlorine on the night of April 7. Activists said many of the dead were found with foam around their mouths, an indicator for suffocation. Medical workers said they treated symptoms including difficulty breathing and fainting.

The United States, Britain and France blamed Syrian government forces and launched punitive airstrikes. Syria denied responsibility.

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. Militants gave up the town days after the alleged attack.

Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, rejected claims that Syria was responsible for the attack and even brought what it called witnesses to The Hague to describe their experiences.