Chemical weapons investigators enter Syria’s Douma

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Damascus, April 18 (IANS) Investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons entered the Syrian town of Douma in Damascus to determine if an alleged chemical attack took place there earlier this month, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said on Tuesday.

The OPCW had yet to officially confirm that its team arrived in Douma, although on Monday Russia said inspectors would be able to enter the city the next day, Xinhua reported.

Russian and Syrian units were to finish clearing the Damascus-Douma road of mines planted by the Jaysh al-Islam rebel group, which controlled the town at the time of the alleged attack.

On Monday, the OPCW said the inspectors were told by Syrian and Russian officials that the team could not access Douma due to “security issues”.

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Also on Monday, the US expressed its concern that further delay could allow Russia to manipulate the scene of the alleged attack, and called on all parties involved in the conflict to allow the OPCW access as soon as possible.

Both Syria and its ally Russia had called on the OPCW to send a fact-finding team to the site of the alleged chemical attack, which the US, the UK and France claimed was carried out by the Syrian government.

The alleged chemical attack was used by the three western powers to justify missile strikes on Saturday against chemical weapons facilities in Syria, despite the fact that the OPCW team had yet to begin its investigation.

The attack in Douma on April 7 reportedly killed at least 70 people, including around 40 allegedly showing symptoms of exposure to chemical toxins.

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