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Analytical Chemistry

How The United Nations Confirmed Sarin Use In Syria

Chemical Weapons: Independent experts say sample analysis leaves ‘little doubt’ of deadly nerve agent

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
September 18, 2013

A chemical weapons attack on the morning of Aug. 21 in the Damascus region of Syria, which killed an estimated 1,400 civilians, was delivered by bombs containing the nerve gas sarin, the United Nations announced this week.

After almost four weeks of inspections and tests, the UN issued its report, saying 79 to 100% of some samples of urine and blood taken from victims in various neighborhoods after the attack tested positive for sarin in rigorous laboratory analyses. The report also examined warheads with liquid capacities of approximately 56 L and found evidence of sarin in the environment near the impact sites, the report says.

The UN’s thorough analysis leaves “little doubt” that widespread suspicions about the attack are correct, says James C. Lewis, communications director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation.

The UN report “offers clear and convincing proof from both solid forensic evidence and victims’ accounts that sarin nerve agent was used on a massive scale,” adds Paul Walker, director of the Security & Sustainability Program at Global Green USA.

The U.S. government had already announced that early analyses of fluid samples from victims showed evidence that sarin gas was used in an ongoing civil war between rebels and the Syrian government. The UN was not tasked with assigning blame for the attack, although evidence cited in its report points to Syria’s ruler, President Bashar al-Assad.


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