OPCW team has visited second Douma 'gas attack' site

AFP , Wednesday 25 Apr 2018

OPCW Label
Labels of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are seen iside a damaged house in Douma in Damascus, Syria April 23, 2018. (SOURCE: REUTERS)

Experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog Wednesday visited a second site in the Syrian town of Douma as they probe an alleged poison gas attack earlier this month, the body said.

"Today, the FFM (fact-finding mission) team carried out a visit to a second location in Douma. It also collected samples at this site," the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement.

It is the team's second visit to Douma after they managed to gain access to the town on Saturday for the first time since deploying to Damascus on April 14.

The mission came amid international outrage over images of adults and children appearing to be suffering from the effects of a toxic weapon attack.

The gruesome footage from the apparent April 7 attack horrified the world and prompted unprecedented Western strikes on Syrian military installations.

Along with the first samples taken at the weekend, all the evidence collected in Douma will be brought back to the OPCW's labs on the outskirts of The Hague.

"They will be split and dispatched for analysis by the OPCW designated labs," the body said.

The watchdog also confirmed that Russian diplomats are organising a briefing on Thursday in The Hague for OPCW member nations and would "bring some Syrians to speak about the reported Douma incident".

The Russian embassy in the Netherlands said in a tweet that the briefing would involve "witnesses from Syria who were at the staged videos of #WhiteHelmets" – an alleged humanitarian organisation made up of some 3,000 volunteers working in rebel-held areas.

On April 7, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the White Helmets jointly said dozens of people died in a "poisonous chlorine gas attack" in Douma.

The OPCW said it had urged the Russian delegation to allow its experts to interview the witnesses first, and to hold the briefing "once the FFM has completed its work".

"Nevertheless, the Russian delegation stated that it would go ahead with the briefing and that its intention was not to interfere with the FFM's work," the OPCW statement added.

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