Middle East

US investigating possible sarin gas attacks in Syria: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

The United States is investigating whether the Syrian government recently used sarin gas in attacks on the opposition, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Friday.

“We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used,” Mattis said, adding the US currently had no proof to back the claims.

“We’re looking for evidence of it, since clearly we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions,” he said.

The US launched airstrikes against a Syrian government military base last April after more than 80 people were killed in a sarin gas attack against a town held by the Syrian opposition.

“You all have seen how we reacted to that, so the Syrian government would be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention,” Mattis said.

Chlorine gas used

Mattis told reporters the Syrian government had committed multiple attacks using chlorine gas. Unlike sarin, chlorine gas is relatively easy to produce and is not banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

On Thursday, the US State Department said it was “extremely concerned” about reports of an imminent chlorine gas attack against an opposition-held suburb outside of Damascus.

AFP news agency also reported senior officials as saying the US was not ruling out military force in response to future chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government.

Syria had agreed in 2013 to give up its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

But the UN and the OPCW have said the Syrian government has used sarin and chlorine gas weaponsin the past two years, an accusation Syria has repeatedly denied.

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