Thursday 22 August 2019

Chemical weapons 'becoming routine' in the Syria conflict

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag

Robert Burns

The use of chemical weapons is "becoming routine in the Syrian civil war", a US official has said.

Rafael Foley was speaking at a closed meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) executive council, which was called to discuss recent findings, including that a "non-state actor" likely used the chemical agent sulphur mustard, or mustard gas, during fighting in the Syrian town of Marea in August.

Mr Foley, the US envoy to the chemical international weapons watchdog, said Syrian opposition forces were fighting Islamic State (Isil) in the town close to the Turkish border.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned last week that associates of extremists responsible for the November 13 Paris attacks could use chemical and biological weapons. Meanwhile, the US military is accelerating its attacks on tanker trucks used by the Islamic State to haul oil for its lucrative smuggling operations.

A US spokesman in Baghdad said the US hit 283 oil tanker trucks in eastern Syria on Saturday, as part of a concerted campaign to cripple the militants' oil revenues.

US officials say oil accounts for about half of the group's income.

On November 15, the US began targeting oil tanker trucks by bombing 116 of them. It is also attacking oil facilities.

US Army Col Steve Warren, in Baghdad, said it appears no civilians were hurt in Saturday's attacks. He said US planes chased off the drivers by dropping warning leaflets and making strafing runs in the area prior to bombing the trucks.

Irish Independent

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