No nerve agents but possibly chlorine used in Douma: OPCW

8 July, 2018 12:00 AM printer

THE HAGUE: The world’s chemical arms watchdog said Friday it had found no evidence nerve gas was used in an alleged attack on the Syrian town of Douma, but chlorine may have been deployed, reports AFP.

Rescuers and medics have said about 40 people were killed in an alleged April 7 attack on the then rebel-held town, which stirred international outrage and led to unprecedented Western air strikes on Syrian military installations.

After being denied access for a few weeks, a team of inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) took more than 100 samples from some seven sites in Douma, on the northern outskirts of Damascus, several weeks later.

“The results show that no organophosphorous nerve agents or their degradation products were detected either in the environmental samples or in the plasma samples from the alleged casualties,” the OPCW said in a long-awaited interim report late Friday.

But it added the fact-finding mission did find “along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals”.

It is understood that could mean some samples contained potential markers of exposure to an active source of chlorine, not found naturally in the environment.

“Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is ongoing,” the OPCW added.

Medics and rescuers say many of those killed died when a cylinder landed on the roof on a housing block.

That house as well as an apartment where another cylinder was found lying on a bed, and the hospital where patients were treated were among the sites visited by the inspectors. A total of 34 people were interviewed.

The fact-finding team was still working on the “provenance” of the cylinders which will require a “comprehensive analysis” by experts, the OPCW said.

The team’s mission to Douma was launched following international outrage over images of adults and children appearing to be suffering from the effects of a poison gas attack.