Syrian town attacked with sarin, killing 70 and affecting thousands

Apr 09, 2018, 09:30 IST | Agencies

Medics and rescuers allege Syrian town was attacked with sarin on Saturday, killing at least 70 and affecting a thousand; Syrian government denies claims

This image, made from video released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows medical workers treating toddlers following the alleged poison gas attack in Douma. Pic/AFP
This image, made from video released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows medical workers treating toddlers following the alleged poison gas attack in Douma. Pic/AFP

At least 70 people were killed in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria's Eastern Ghouta in a suspected chemical attack, medics and rescuers said on Sunday. Volunteer rescue force the White Helmets tweeted graphic images showing several bodies in basements following the attack on Saturday. It said the death toll was likely to rise.

Several medical, monitoring and activist groups reported details of a chemical attack, but figures vary and what happened was still being determined. The pro-opposition Ghouta Media Centre said over 75 people had "suffocated" while a further thousand people had suffered.

It blamed a barrel bomb allegedly dropped by a helicopter which it said contained sarin, a toxic nerve agent. The White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas of Syria, alleged that regime forces had used "poisonous chlorine gas" in the attacks. Footage posted by the group online, which was not possible to verify, showed victims including children foaming at the mouth.

There were conflicting reports on the number of dead in the alleged gas attack, with the White Helmets reporting between 40 and 70 killed. The Union of Medical Relief Organisations, a US-based charity that works with Syrian hospitals, told the BBC that the Damascus Rural Specialty Hospital had confirmed 70 deaths. The Syrian government has denied the allegations. State news agency SANA cited an "official source" saying the reports were a "blatant attempt to hinder the army's advance" into the "collapsing terrorist" stronghold.

Trump calls out Animal Assad
President Donald Trump is condemning what he calls a "mindless CHEMICAL attack" in Syria that has killed women and children. Trump tweeted yesterday that the "area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world." He says Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran, influential Syrian backers, "are responsible for backing Animal Assad."

Moscow firmly denies claims
Moscow yesterday rejected claims the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on an opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta, after the US said Russia bore responsibility for any attack. "We firmly deny this information," said General Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Sides in Syria. "We are ready, once Douma is freed from militants, to immediately send Russian specialists to collect data that will confirm these claims are fabricated," he added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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