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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Agency finds 'chlorinated' chemicals in Syria's Douma

The attack killed more than 50 people

A child receives oxygen through a respirator following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria in April 2018. Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP
A child receives oxygen through a respirator following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria in April 2018. Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP

A preliminary report by the world's chemical weapons watchdog said "various chlorinated chemicals" were found at the site of an attack in Douma, Syria, in April that killed dozens of civilians and prompted air strikes by Britain, France and the United States, it said on Friday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) sent a fact-finding mission to Douma in mid-April, roughly a week after the April 7 attack in the enclave near Damascus.

"Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites," it said, indicating that chlorine may have been used as a weapon.

The OPCW said that its team was continuing its work to establish the significance of the results.

The OPCW has documented systematic use of banned munitions in Syria's civil war, including nerve agent sarin and sulphur mustard gas. It has not assigned blame for the attacks.

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In Douma, OPCW inspectors visited two sites where they interviewed witnesses and took samples, which were split at their laboratory in the Netherlands and forwarded to affiliated national labs for testing.

Two samples recovered from gas cylinders at the scene tested positive for chlorinated organic chemicals, the report said.

Washington and other Western governments blamed Syrian government forces for the attack in Douma.

The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons during the country's long civil war but a previous joint inquiry of the United Nations and the OPCW found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April 2017 attack and has also several times used chlorine as a weapon. It blamed ISIS militants for mustard gas use.