Syrian air force behind chemical attacks, investigation team finds

An United Nations vehicle is seen outside the hotel where the international experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are staying in Damascus on April 18, 2018. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Syrian air force behind chemical attacks, investigation team finds

BEIRUT: Syrian Arab Air Force pilots flying Sukhoi Su-22 military planes and a helicopter dropped bombs containing poisonous chlorine and sarin nerve gas on a village in the country’s western Hama region in March 2017, a new team at the global chemical weapons watchdog has concluded in its first report.
The special investigative unit was established by members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in 2018 to identify perpetrators of illegal attacks. Until now the OPCW had only been authorized to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them.
Officials in the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and its military backer Russia have repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and accuse insurgents of staging attacks to implicate Syrian forces.

The OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), the formation of which was opposed by Moscow and Damascus, said more than 100 people were affected by the attacks, carried out on March 24, 25 and 30 in 2017 in the town of Ltamenah.
Syria’s 50th Brigade of the 22nd Air Division of the Syrian Air Force dropped M4000 aerial bombs containing sarin on the town and a cylinder containing chlorine on a hospital, a summary of the report said. The raids were conducted from the Sharat and Hama air bases, it said.
While individuals were identified by the OPCW investigators, their names have been redacted from the report, which was to be circulated to the OPCW’s 193 member states on Wednesday.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the perpetrators of the use of sarin as a chemical weapon in Ltamenah on March 24 and 30 March, 2017, and the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon on 25 March, 2017, were individuals belonging to the Syrian Arab Air Force,” OPCW team leader Santiago Onate-Laborde said in a statement.
“Attacks of such a strategic nature would only have taken place on the basis of orders from the higher authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic military command,” he said.
The OPCW’s identification team is not a judicial body and it will be up to the OPCW’s members, the UN Secretary General and the international community to “take any further action they deem appropriate and necessary” OPCW chief Fernando Arias said.
An attack on the Syrian town of Douma led US President Donald Trump to carry out missile strikes on Syrian government targets in April 2018 with the backing of France and Britain.
Created in 1997, the OPCW was initially a technical body to enforce a global non-proliferation treaty, but it has become the focus of diplomatic conflict between Syria and Russia on one side and the United States, France and Britain on the other.


Germany warns dual nationals off Iran travel after arrest

Updated 57 min 58 sec ago

Germany warns dual nationals off Iran travel after arrest

BERLIN: Germany has warned citizens who also hold Iranian nationality against travelling to Iran after a dual national was arrested in October.
The foreign ministry did not name the detained citizen, but she has been identified as Nahid Taghavi by her daughter Mariam Claren.
"There have been several arrests of German-Iranian dual nationals in the past -- including most recently in October 2020, often without comprehensible reasons," said the German foreign ministry in an online update of its travel warning.
"Further detentions of people who also possess Iranian citizenship cannot be ruled out," it added, stressing therefore that "unnecessary travel by people who are also Iranian nationals is strongly discouraged".

 


Taghavi is a 66-year-old architect, who is reportedly being held in solitary detention in Iran.
Her daughter Claren said she has had no access to her since October 15, a day before she was believed to have been arrested.
Human rights group IGFM said Taghavi should be viewed as a political prisoner because she has for years been fighting for human rights in Iran, in particular for women's rights and freedom of expression.