Report: U.S. Officials Downplay New Syrian Chemical Strike Allegations

Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 20, 2014, 7:06 a.m.

Al­leg­a­tions of a new chem­ic­al at­tack in Syr­ia’s civil war ap­pear to have gained little at­ten­tion in Wash­ing­ton, the Daily Beast re­ports.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives from the rebel-held city of Daraya are de­mand­ing a U.N. in­quiry in­to the pur­por­ted Jan. 13 strike, the pub­lic­a­tion said on Thursday. However, loc­al lead­er Ous­sama al-Chourbaji said U.S. State De­part­ment of­fi­cials “didn’t seem to care that much” when they heard last week from a del­eg­a­tion of wit­nesses vis­it­ing Wash­ing­ton.

The pro-op­pos­i­tion Syr­i­an Sup­port Group ac­cused forces loy­al to Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad of killing four rebel com­batants with a gren­ade-like device loaded with an uniden­ti­fied gas. The sub­stance is said to have caused a range of ail­ments par­tially al­le­vi­ated by a sar­in nerve agent an­ti­dote.

Dan Lay­man, a spokes­man for the U.S.-based group, said “all of those who were af­fected or killed had the ex­act same symp­toms” as vic­tims of an Aug. 21 sar­in strike in a rebel-oc­cu­pied area close to Dam­as­cus. As­sad’s re­gime nev­er claimed re­spons­ib­il­ity for the 2013 at­tack, but later con­firmed hold­ing chem­ic­al weapons and agreed to sur­render them amid warn­ings of a po­ten­tial U.S. mil­it­ary re­sponse.

Al-Chourbaji, a spokes­man for the Daraya loc­al coun­cil’s med­ic­al branch, said an in­di­vidu­al claim­ing to be from the U.S. State De­part­ment had asked his mu­ni­cip­al body to trans­fer samples from the in­cid­ent to neigh­bor­ing Jordan for ana­lys­is. The coun­cil mem­ber said that re­quest came shortly after the Jan. 13 event, but the Daily Beast re­por­ted that ma­ter­i­als col­lec­ted from the pos­sible at­tack had yet to leave the city as of Thursday.

Al-Chourbaji ad­ded that State De­part­ment of­fi­cials dir­ec­ted the wit­nesses vis­it­ing Wash­ing­ton last week to take pho­to­graphs as they col­lect chem­ic­al traces from any fu­ture in­cid­ents.

“They said, ‘If they strike you again with chem­ic­al weapons, take pic­tures and tell us,’” he said. “They just ad­vised us to take pic­tures [to doc­u­ment the tak­ing of the samples] as if we were in a CSI epis­ode. People are dy­ing [and] we are mak­ing a movie.”

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