Sunday 4 December 2016

Isil 'deployed chemical weapons in Syria'

Dean Gray in London

Published 07/11/2015 | 02:30

A woman from Kobani in Syria, 87, looks on as migrants queue to cross the border into Spielfeld in Austria from the village of Sentilj, Slovenia.
A woman from Kobani in Syria, 87, looks on as migrants queue to cross the border into Spielfeld in Austria from the village of Sentilj, Slovenia.

Chemical weapons experts have determined that Isil used mustard gas during fighting in Syria in August, according to a report by an international watchdog.

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The chemical - which causes severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and lungs and is banned under international law - was used during a battle between Isil fighters and another rebel group, diplomatic sources said.

The confidential October 29 report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a summary of which was shown to reporters, concluded "with the utmost confidence that at least two people were exposed to sulphur mustard" in the town of Marea, north of Aleppo, on August 21.

"It is very likely that the effects of sulphur mustard resulted in the death of a baby," it said.

The report provides the first official confirmation of use of sulphur mustard, commonly known as mustard gas, in Syria since the regime of Bashar al-Assad agreed to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, which included sulphur mustard. Several Western governments have questioned whether the government declared its entire arsenal.

One source said: "it raises the major question of where the sulphur mustard came from."

"Either they (Isil) gained the ability to make it themselves, or it may have come from an undeclared stockpile overtaken by Isil. Both are worrying options."

The finding, which will be formally presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later this month, adds to a growing body of evidence that Isil has obtained, and is using, chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish authorities have alleged the group fired mortar rounds containing mustard agent at Peshmerga fighters in Iraq during clashes in August, citing blood samples. A team of OPCW experts has been sent to Iraq to confirm the findings.

A special session has been called by the OPCW's 41-member Executive Council to discuss the Syrian findings and it will be held in The Hague on November 23, sources at the OPCW said last night.

Irish Independent

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