US says Syrian forces used chlorine in Idlib attack
Mike Pompeo condemns the Assad regime for employing chemical weapons
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo speaks at a press conference in New York, US, on Monday. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the US had concluded the government of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria had used chlorine as a chemical weapon in an attack in May during a battle with insurgents in Idlib.
“The Assad regime is responsible for innumerable atrocities, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Mr Pompeo told a news conference in New York, where he has been attending the UN General Assembly.
“Today I am announcing that the United States has concluded that the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon on May 19th,” Mr Pompeo said.
The US said in May it had received numerous reports that appeared consistent with chemical exposure after an attack by Syrian government forces in northwest Syria, but it had made no definitive conclusion as to whether the regime forces had used chemical weapons.
US president Donald Trump’s administration has twice bombed Syria over Mr Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018.
The US, the UK and France launched air strikes in April 2018 against what they described as three Syrian chemical weapons targets in retaliation for a suspected gas attack that killed scores of people in a Damascus suburb earlier that month.
Mr Assad launched an offensive at the end of April this year on rebel-held Idlib and parts of adjacent provinces, saying insurgents had broken a truce.
“This is different in some sense because it was chlorine . . . but know that president Trump has been pretty vigorous in protecting the world from the use of chemical weapons,” Mr Pompeo said, declining to say what the US response could be.
Mr Pompeo said Washington had also added sanctions on two Russian entities for providing fuel to the Syrian government. Russia supports Mr Assad in the more than eight-year-long Syrian war. – Reuters