Inspectors take samples from Douma chemical massacre site

Inspectors take samples from Douma chemical massacre site
2 min read
21 April, 2018
Chemical weapons inspectors said that they have taken samples from the Syrian town of Douma, where a gas attack killed dozens of civilians.
The watchdog waited two weeks before being allowed entry into the city [Getty]

Samples have been taken at the Syrian town of Douma by inspectors of a chemical global watchdog, following a toxic gas attack at the site two weeks ago.

A fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) finally entered the area on Saturday after days of being held back.

"[We collected] samples for analysis in connection with allegations of chemical weapons use on 7 April 2018," the body said.

"The OPCW will evaluate the situation and consider future steps including another possible visit to Douma."

The watchdog has waited two weeks to be allowed into Douma, where a chemical attack saw over 40 civilians lose their lives.

Douma was recently handed over to the Syrian regime, after rebel group Jaish al-Islam surrendered a day after the attack.

The massacre has been widely blamed on the Syrian regime. Russia and Damascus' refusal to allow entry to the OPCW team - citing security concerns - led to accusations of a cover up.

Russia claimed today that the inspectors have been allowed to the site.

"According to information we have, the special OPCW mission arrived on the morning of 21 April in the city of Douma at the sites suspected of having toxic substances," the Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The samples collected by the nine-strong team will be brought back to the OPCW's laboratories in Rijswijk, a suburb of the Dutch city of The Hague where the organisation has its headquarters.

They will be "dispatched for analysis to the OPCW's designated labs. Based on the analysis of the sample results as well other information and materials collected by the team" a report will be drawn up, the OPCW added.

Inspectors arrived in Syria just hours after unprecedented US-led strikes on regime targets, but the watchdog said safety fears had hampered plans for the experts to travel to Douma.

The town was controlled by rebels until Russian-backed regime forces fully retook it last week.

The United States, France and UK have accused Assad's regime of carrying out the suspected chemical attack, but Russia and Syria deny toxic gas was used in Douma.

According to the UN report, a security team travelled to two sites on Tuesday escorted by Russian military police.

Graphic footage purportedly of the aftermath shocked the world, with harrowing testimony from medics of victims gasping for air and frothing at the mouth.