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Syrian government forces blamed for third chlorine gas attack on civilians

A UN and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons report has concluded the Syrian army had attacked the village of Qmenas (above) with chemical weapons in March 2015.? Photograph: (Reuters)

United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY, United States Oct 22, 2016, 02.22 AM (IST)

An inquiry by the United Nations and a global chemical weapons watchdog has said Syrian government forces were responsible for a third toxic gas attack -- Syria has already been held responsible for two earlier attacks -- in the country. 

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) presented the report to the UN Security Council on Friday; the report said the Syrian army had attacked the village of Qmenas with chemical weapons in March 2015. 

Syrian forces had used helicopters to drop barrel bombs which released chlorine gas, the report said. The report added the helicopters were from the 63rd brigade but it "could not confirm the names of the individuals who took command" of the operation. 

A previous report had blamed President Bashar al-Assad's government for two earlier chlorine gas attacks, one in Hama province on April 21, 2014 and the other in Idlib province on March 16, 2015. 

Chlorine gas, a highly deadly hydrochloric acid, is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. Syria had agreed to destroy its chemical weapons under the deal brokered by Moscow and Washington. The UN Security Council had backed the deal. 

With the report's investigators demanding those "with effective control in the military... be held accountable", the latest report has set the stage for a showdown between the five UNSC powers.

Syria's major ally, Russia, has said the conclusions cannot be used to impose UN sanctions. 

The 13-month long inquiry focused on nine chemical weapons attacks in seven areas of Syria, but the inquiry was unable to reach a conclusion in five cases.  

(WION with inputs from agencies)
 

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