Children recover after a suspected gas attack in rebel-held Idlib, Syria.  Picture: REUTERS
Children recover after a suspected gas attack in rebel-held Idlib, Syria. Picture: REUTERS

Geneva — On Wednesday, UN war crimes investigators said they had evidence that Syrian government forces were behind the chemical attack that killed at least 83 people in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4.

In the first UN report to officially lay blame for the attack on Damascus, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it had gathered an "extensive body of information" showing Damascus was behind the horrific sarin gas attack. The report also says Syrian forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during the country’s civil war, including in the deadly Khan Sheikhoun attack that led to US air strikes on government planes.

The attack was previously identified as containing sarin, an odourless nerve agent, but that conclusion, reached by a fact-finding mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, did not say who carried it out.

"Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas. In the gravest incident, the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children," the report said, declaring it a war crime.

In all, UN investigators said they had documented 33 chemical weapons attacks to date, of which 27 were by forces of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including seven between March 1 to July 7. Perpetrators had not been identified yet in six early attacks, they said.

The Assad government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. It said its strikes in Khan Sheikhoun hit a weapons depot belonging to rebel forces, a claim dismissed by the UN investigators.

AFP and Reuters

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