Toxic attack kills 58 in Syria, military denies hand

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Damascus, April 4 (IANS) A senior Syrian military officer on Tuesday denied reports of military toxic attack on rebel-held area in Idlib province that is said to have killed 58 people, including 11 children.

“This didn’t happen and will not happen, not now and not before,” the military officer told Xinhua news agency on condition of anonymity.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack struck the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Idlib. According to medical teams, the victims showed symptoms of asphyxiation.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council following the gas attack reports.

“A new and particularly serious chemical attack took place this morning in Idlib province. The first information suggests a large number of victims, including children,” Ayrault was quoted by Xinhua.

Condemning the “disgusting act”, the French diplomat called on “everyone not to shirk their responsibilities, to cope with such serious actions which threaten international security.”

The High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian opposition on Twitter claimed that around 100 people were killed in the attack.

In a Facebook post earlier, it said that four thermobaric bombs containing chlorine gas were dropped.

The reported gas attack comes at the start of a two-day conference on Syria’s future hosted in Brussels by the European Union and the United Nations.

The opposition accused the Syrian air force of being behind the attack.

But the senior officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the rebels were the ones using the toxic gas against civilians to frame the Syrian army.

The officer said initial speculations indicate that a depot of chemical weapons that belongs to the rebels was blown up in Idlib.

–IANS

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