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UN inspectors confirm use of chemical weapons in Syria

– U.N. inspectors said Thursday that chemical weapons were probably used in four locations in Syria this year in addition to the confirmed attack near Damascus in August.

The report by U.N. chemical weapons experts, led by Swedish professor Ake Sellstrom, examined seven alleged chemical weapons attacks and said it lacked information to corroborate the allegations at two locations. The inspectors’ limited mandate barred them from identifying whether the government or opposition fighters were responsible for any of the attacks.

Sellstrom issued an initial report Sept. 16 that concluded that evidence collected in the Ghouta area of Damascus following an Aug. 21 attack provided “clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used.” Graphic video footage showed dozens of people gasping for air and bodies lined up.

Thursday’s report said evidence indicated chemical weapons were probably used in Khan al Assal outside Aleppo, Jobar in Damascus’ eastern suburbs, Saraqueb near Idlib in the northwest, and Ashrafiah Sahnaya in the Damascus countryside.

The confirmed use of chemical weapons in Ghouta, and the threat of possible U.S. military action, led to a U.S.-Russian agreement to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014. The process of getting Syrian chemicals that can be used to make weapons out of the country is underway.

The experts said they collected “credible information that corroborates the allegations that chemical weapons were used in Khan al Assal on March 19, 2013, against soldiers and civilians.” But the report said the release of chemical weapons at the site couldn’t be independently verified because it lacked “primary information” on how the chemical agents were delivered and because environmental and medical samples weren’t scientifically collected, preserved and analyzed.

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