Rights group blames Syrian regime for chemical attack
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The international NGO Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the Syrian government was most likely responsible for two deadly chemical weapons attacks near Damascus on August 21.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday it had concluded that two chemical weapons attacks on two Damascus suburbs that killed hundreds of civilians on August 21 were likely to have been carried out by the Syrian government.
A 22-page report issued by the international NGO said that the munitions appeared to be a weapons-grade nerve agency, most likely Sarin.
HRW said it had analysed eye-witness accounts, seen the physical remnants of the weapon system and investigated the medical symptoms of the victims.
“Rocket debris and symptoms of the victims from the August 21 attacks on Ghouta provide tell-tale evidence about the weapon systems used,” said HRW’s Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert.
“This evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government troops launched rockets carrying chemical warheads into the Damascus suburbs that terrible morning.”
The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the attacks and has blamed opposition groups.
“The increasingly evident use of chemical weapons in Syria’s terrible conflict should refocus the international debate on deterring the use of such weapons and more broadly protecting Syria’s civilian population,” Bouckaert said.
The United States says more than 1,400 people, including 400 children, were gassed in the attack, which has prompted the threat of punitive military strikes by President Barack Obama.
Other outside estimates have set a lower but still high death toll.
Western states and the Arab League have condemned the alleged barrage as a war crime and blamed it on Assad's regime, which has denied the charges.
HRW also said two kinds of rockets appeared to have been used – a 330 mm rocket with a warhead designed to carry a large payload of liquid chemical agent, and a smaller 140 mm rocket capable of carrying a warhead packed with 2.2 kilograms of sarin.
Human Rights Watch described the attack as the first major use of chemical weapons since the Iraqi government gassed Iraqi Kurdish civilians in Halabja 25 years ago.