The Russian defence ministry today said that seven people died in an attack by Syrian rebels in the battleground city of Aleppo using weapons loaded with a "poisonous agent".
Lieutenant-General Sergei Chvarkov was cited by Russia's TASS news agency as saying that the Nureddin al-Zenki rebel group yesterday launched weapons packed with an unnamed "poisonous agent" from an opposition-held neighbourhood to a government-controlled area of Aleppo.
Chvarkov, the head of Russia's reconciliation centre in Syria, said that "as a result of this terrorist attack, seven people died and 23 were evacuated to hospitals in Aleppo with breathing problems and airway burns."
He said the Russian authorities have informed the United States, which backs the rebels, of the attack. Syrian state media said yesterday that five people were killed and that eight others suffered injuries induced by suffocation after rebels fired rockets containing poison gases.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the toll from the rocket attack at six dead, saying the casualties were in fact soldiers. The Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman could not confirm that any kind of gas had in fact been used. The Russian claim came a day after the Observatory reported 24 people suffered breathing difficulties in rebel-held Saraqeb, a town 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Aleppo, after a barrel bomb attack.