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Syrian Rebels ‘Use Chemical Weapon’

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Damascus – Syrian state media says rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have fired a chemical weapon in the north of the country. “Terrorists launched a missile containing chemical products into the region of Khan al-Assal in the province of Aleppo, killing 15 people, mainly civilians”, Sana news agency said. The government routinely refers to rebels as “terrorists”.

Rebels denied the report, accusing the government of using chemical agents. “We were hearing reports from early this morning about a regime attack on Khan al-Assal, and we believe they fired a Scud with chemical agents,” a senior rebel and spokesman for the Higher Military Council in Aleppo, Qassim Saadeddine, told Reuters news agency.

“Then suddenly we learned that the regime was turning these reports against us. The rebels were not behind this attack.” The Aleppo Media Centre, which is affiliated with the rebels, said there had been cases of “suffocation and poison” among civilians in Khan al-Assal after a surface-to-surface missile was fired at the area. But it said this was “most likely” due to use of “poisonous gases” by government forces.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said that as many as 86 people had been injured in Khan al-Assal, calling the incident a “dangerous escalation”. He also said that Turkey and Qatar, both of which support Syria’s uprising, bore “legal, moral and political responsibility” for the attack, state TV reported.

The Syrian government itself has a large stockpile of chemical weapons, and there has been widespread international concern about their security and the possibility that they might be used. An estimated 70,000 people have been killed and one million have fled Syria since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began two years ago. (BBC)

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