Two weeks after a suspected poison gas attack, chemical weapons experts have begun their investigation in duma, syria.
The organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW) team has taken samples from the town near damascus, which will now be analyzed in rijswijk in the netherlands, the OPCW said. "The OPCW will assess the situation and consider future steps, including a possible further visit to duma," the statement continued.
OPCW experts had been waiting for days for the mission and were stuck in the capital damascus. Security problems were cited as the reason. United nations security officials had recently come under fire as they sought to assess the security situation for the OPCW team.
The USA suspects a russian-led filibuster behind the delay. "We have credible information that russian proxies are cooperating with the syrian regime to deny inspectors access to duma and to influence witnesses," washington’s department spokeswoman heather nauert had tweeted friday night. France had already raised concerns that evidence could have been siphoned off.
On 7. On april, activists and aid organizations had reported an attack with poison gas in the city. According to the civil defense organization weibhelme, more than 40 people were killed in the attack. Russia expects "maximum impartial investigation" of events in duma, duma office spokeswoman maria zakharova said in moscow.
Until the alleged attack, the town in eastern ghuta had been controlled by islamist rebels. The government had previously besieged the region for five years. Unprecedented bombardment and a ground offensive broke the insurgents’ resistance. The last rebels in duma did not agree to withdraw until the day after the suspected attack.
The U.S., the U.K. And france had responded with a missile strike on several toxic gas facilities in syria. More than a week ago, more than 100 air ambulances had been deployed. However, western powers have failed to provide evidence that the assad government was behind the reported attack.
The OPCW, as an international organization, does not want to take sides in the conflict. Therefore, the team should only determine whether it was an attack with chemical weapons and if so, what kind of material was used. But the results could lead to conclusions about the culprit.
Experts believe that evidence of used substances may still be found after a long period of time – for example, through higher concentrations in buildings or the environment. Symptoms of victims can also point to certain substances. Crucial here is the access that experts gain to locations, victims and witnesses.