A British newspaper reports that British military scientists have found forensic evidence that chemical weapons were used in the conflict in Syria.
The Times of London newspaper quoted unnamed defense sources on Saturday, April 13, as saying a soil sample smuggled out of Syria proved a chemical weapon was used. The sources could not tell if the weapon was fired by Syrian government forces or rebels.
One source disagreed with reports that have said the weapons are a riot-control agent. The source said the weapons are something else but that it is not definite they are a sarin nerve agent.
Syria’s government and rebels have traded accusations about the use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Syrian rights activists say government forces have killed 16 people in an air strike on a Kurdish village and destroyed the minaret of a historic mosque that helped to launch Syria’s two-year rebel movement.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the government air strike targeted the village of Hadad in the rebel-dominated northeastern province of Hassakeh. It said several women and children were among those killed in Sunday’s attack.
Syrian activists also posted a video on YouTube showing the collapse of the minaret of the Omari mosque in the southern city of Daraa, apparently as a result of shelling by government troops.
The activists accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government of a “barbaric” attack on the mosque, which is thought be more than 1,000 years old. It also served as a hub for opposition activists who were among the first to stage peaceful protests against Assad’s autocratic rule in Daraa in March 2011.
In other violence, Syrian state news agency SANA said a suicide car bombing wounded three journalists working for state television in Aleppo province.
Opposition activists also posted a video on the Internet that appears to show government jets dropping bombs on the town of Saraqeb in the northwestern province of Idlib on Saturday. Chaotic scenes ensued as residents tried to put out fires and rush victims to a medical center. Elsewhere in the province, the observatory says Syrian troops killed at least 12 rebel fighters in an assault near the village of Baboulin.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been trying to take control of Baboulin, which is near the Damascus-Aleppo highway. A few days ago, Syria’s government said it rejected a request by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to allow inspectors to investigate reports of chemical attacks in the country.
More than 70,000 people have been killed since March 2011, when the uprising against the Assad government began.
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