NTI: Testing of soil has provided the United Kingdom with cause to believe chemical agents have been employed in the Syrian civil war, the London Times reported on Saturday.
Specialists at the British chemical and biological research complex at Porton Down have determined that “some kind of chemical weapon” was used in Syria, defense insiders said.
The soil was reportedly taken near Damascus, according to Agence France-Presse.
A U.N. team is still waiting for authorization to enter Syria to investigate suspicions of chemical weapons attacks, including a March 19 incident that killed more than 30 in the northern town of Khan al-Assal. The Assad government blames rebels for that strike and wants the inquiry restricted to that location; opposition forces have claimed earlier military attacks occurred near Homs and Damascus.
The British findings do not indicate who might have used the chemical warfare materials or whether they had been more broadly applied in fighting.
“There have been some reports that it was just a strong riot-control agent but this is not the case — it’s something else, although it can’t definitively be said to be sarin nerve agent,” an unidentified insider said.
Syria’s large chemical arms stockpile is believed to include sarin.
Syria dismissed the newspaper account, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
“Any soil test that isn’t undertaken by the relevant international agencies, and without the approval of the Syrian government, has no scientific, legal or political value,” according to Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi. “Any such test is considered a forgery against the rights of the state of Syria.”
Meanwhile, a Saturday gas strike in Aleppo was said to have caused three deaths and 16 injuries in Aleppo, Reuters reported.
People exposed to the gas from two munitions thrown out of an army helicopter “hallucinated, vomited, had excess mucus and felt their eyes were burning,” physicians reported to the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.