Chemical weapons watchdog to send probe to Douma, Syria

A Syrian man mourns after an alleged chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma in Syria. At least 78 civilians, including women and children, died according to the initial findings. Photo by Mohammed Hassan/UPI

April 11 (UPI) — The world’s chemical warfare watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said Tuesday it would send a team to Syria after reports of a gas attack there.

The organization said it’s monitored the situation since local groups in Syria first reported over the weekend that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dropped at least one barrel bomb of chemicals that killed dozens of civilians in Douma, a rebel-held enclave near the capital of Damascus.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Tuesday it asked Syria to arrange for the group to send a fact-finding mission to Douma. It added that Syria and its ally Russia also requested a probe.

But during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have paved the way for a separate, independent probe of any possible chemical attack. The probe, suggested in a U.S.-drafted resolution, would have lasted a year and would’ve been required to identify those responsible for the attack.

Russia also put forth a resolution of its own, which didn’t receive enough votes to pass. That draft would have allowed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to choose the members of an investigation into the attack reports.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Russia’s resolution would give the country the chance to sway any probe.

“At a certain point, you’re either for an impartial, independent investigation, or you’re not,” Haley said. She called the U.S. resolution the “bare minimum” of what the U.N. Security Council should do.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a product of the international Chemical Weapons Convention, has an ongoing investigation looking into possible use of chemical weapons in Syria since 2014.

It determined that last April, Syrians fell victim to a chemical attack that killed more than 90 people — but the group didn’t say whether Assad’s forces launched the attack.


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