Chemical weapons watchdog: investigation in two Syrian towns inconclusive

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The global chemical weapons watchdog on Friday said it had been unable to determine whether banned toxic agents had been used in attacks on two Syrian towns in 2016 and 2018 that injured dozens of people.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that sample analysis, data examination and witness interviews had not enabled it to establish whether poisonous munitions had been used on Nov. 24, 2018, in northwest Aleppo, or in Saraqib, in Idlib governorate, on Aug. 1, 2016.

The Syrian war has caused deep political division at the once-technical OPCW in The Hague. Damascus, backed by its military ally Russia, rejects Western accusations of chemical weapon use, which have led to military intervention by the United States, Britain and France.

The OPCW, established to oversee the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, concluded in a report in April that Syrian Air Force airplanes and helicopters had dropped bombs containing poisonous chlorine and sarin nerve gas on a village in the western Hama region in March 2017.

Syria and its military ally Russia have consistently denied using chemical weapons during the decade-old civil war.

Between 2015 and 2017, a joint United Nations-OPCW team known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) found that Syrian government troops had used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs on several occasions, while Islamic State militants were found to have used sulphur mustard.

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