December 7, 2013
UN chemical experts confirm sarin gas used in Syria attack
UN chemical investigators have confirmed the use of sarin nerve agent in an Aug. 21 poison gas attack outside the Syrian capital in a long-awaited report that confirmed the West's suspicions but was not intended to assign blame.
"This is the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja (Iraq) in 1988," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "The international community has pledged to prevent any such horror from recurring, yet it has happened again."
The UN team was investigating only whether chemical weapons were used in a deadly assault on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta. It was not charged with concluding who launched the attack.
"On the basis of the evidence obtained during the investigation of the Ghouta incident, the conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale," said the report by chief UN investigator Ake Sellstrom of Sweden.
"In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used," it said.
The report said the weather conditions on Aug. 21 ensured that as many people as possible were injured or killed. Temperatures were falling between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., it said, which meant that air was moving downwards toward the ground.
"Chemical weapons use in such meteorological conditions maximizes their potential impact as the heavy gas can stay close to the ground and penetrate into lower levels of buildings and constructions where many people were seeking shelter," it said.