Chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria: OPCW chief

OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu speaks during a ceremony marking the OPCW's 20th anniversary in The Hague, Netherlands, in this photo taken on April 26, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 April 2017

Chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria: OPCW chief

THE HAGUE: Experts from the world’s watchdog tasked with destroying chemical weapons are probing reports that toxic arms have been used 45 times in Syria since late last year, the body’s chief said Friday.
Ahmet Uzumcu, its director general, said there was “a huge list of allegations” of the use of toxic arms reported to the operations hub of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In the “second part of 2016, 30 different incidents, and since the beginning of this year, 15 separate incidents, so 45,” he told a reporters, brandishing a list of several pages which he chose to keep confidential.
They include the April 4 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun. “All these allegations are recorded by our experts, who follow this every day from our operations center,” Uzumcu said.
“The mission, if it goes ahead, will not be an easy one. The Syrian regime had enough time to erase whatever traces were left (of the chemical attack). It will have time to do that until the watchdog arrives in Syria,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations expert, told Arab News on Friday.
“The regime has been condemned for using chemical weapons against civilians, and this was proven by the British and the French, who conducted tests on samples taken from the victims. The question is, will there be any accountability based on the results of the new mission,” Al-Shehri added.
The OPCW is currently trying to ensure it is safe enough to deploy its fact-finding team to the town for further analysis, after Uzumcu said last week that “incontrovertible” test results from OPCW-designated labs on samples taken from victims showed sarin gas or a similar substance had been used.
The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has “already stated that it would support this mission, actually it has invited us to go via Damascus,” he said.
“The problem is that this area is controlled by different armed opposition groups, so we need to strike some deals with them to ensure a temporary cease-fire, which we understand the Syrian government is willing to do,” he added.
“If we can put all this together then we will deploy. The team is ready, and we have the volunteers.”
However, it is not yet mandated to also visit the Shayrat air base in the central Syrian province of Homs.
The base was the target of a US strike launched in the wake of the Khan Sheikhun attack, and Russia has called for the allegations that it was stocking chemical weapons to be investigated.
Uzumcu also confirmed that the OPCW, based in The Hague, believed Daesh terrorists had used “sulfur mustard” near Iraq’s second city of Mosul last week.
The Iraqi military said some security personnel were injured in the April 15 attack as part of the operation to recapture Mosul.
— With input from AP, AFP


Bollywood superstar Padukone summoned by police in drugs probe

Updated 23 September 2020

Bollywood superstar Padukone summoned by police in drugs probe

  • The 34-year-old’s suicide initially triggered a debate over mental health in the multi-billion-dollar industry
  • But his family disputed reports that he suffered from depression and accused Chakraborty of stealing his money

MUMBAI: Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone has been summoned for questioning as part of an escalating drugs probe into the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Indian police said late Wednesday.
The investigation has already seen actress Rhea Chakraborty arrested for allegedly buying drugs for her former boyfriend Rajput, who was found dead in June in his Mumbai apartment — with police saying he took his own life.
A star with many hit movies to his name, the 34-year-old’s suicide initially triggered a debate over mental health in the multi-billion-dollar industry.
But his family disputed reports that he suffered from depression and accused Chakraborty, 28, of stealing his money and harassing him. She has strongly denied the allegations.
Rajput’s death has sparked a media storm in India, where calls have mounted for a wider probe into Bollywood’s so-called “drugs mafia,” with television channels speculating that Chakraborty supposedly drove Rajput to suicide by purchasing cannabis for him.
India’s top anti-crime agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, has been probing his death since last month. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) was looking into his consumption of cannabis.
Earlier this week, TV channel TimesNow broadcast sections of a WhatsApp conversation about procuring hash, alleging that the two people chatting were Padukone and her manager.
K.P.S. Malhotra, deputy director of the NCB, told AFP the agency had summoned Padukone as well as actresses Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh for questioning.
The police have already detained others in connection with the case including Chakraborty’s brother and a member of Rajput’s house staff.
The investigation has grabbed headlines for months, and some celebrities including actresses Vidya Balan and Sonam Kapoor have accused TV channels of carrying out a “witch hunt” against Chakraborty.
Born in the eastern state of Bihar, Rajput quit his engineering studies to pursue a career in acting.
He got his big break in 2013 with “Kai Po Che,” a film about cricket, love, and politics that won acclaim at the Berlin film festival.
He was also lauded for his portrayal of Indian cricket hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a hit 2016 biopic.
In an interview with AFP that year, Rajput spoke of the emotional rollercoaster he experienced while filming the movie, which portrayed the heartbreak suffered by Dhoni when his girlfriend died.
“After we did the preparation, in my head I was him and everything that was happening was actually affecting me,” he said.