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UN to Probe 5 Serious Cases of Alleged Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

  • Ken Schwartz

FILE - This video image from an anti-Bashar Assad activist group shows a Syrian man being treated with an inhaler in Kfar Zeita, north of Damascus, after what witnesses said was a chlorine gas attack, April 18, 2014.

FILE - This video image from an anti-Bashar Assad activist group shows a Syrian man being treated with an inhaler in Kfar Zeita, north of Damascus, after what witnesses said was a chlorine gas attack, April 18, 2014.

A United Nations team says it has zeroed in on five serious cases of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria for further investigation, including chlorine gas and mustard gas.

The U.N. chemical weapons agency and the Security Council set up the Joint Investigative Mechanism — JIM — last year after reports of as many as 116 incidents of chemical attacks in Syria against civilians since 2014.

The JIM mission is not to blame one side or the other, but to turn over the results of its investigation and any evidence to the Security Council.

But JIM leaders say "all individuals, groups, entities or governments that have any role in enabling the use of chemicals as weapons, for whatever reason and under any circumstances, must understand that they will be identified and made accountable for these abhorrent acts."

The Syrian government and rebels blame each other for using chemicals against civilians. But U.S. officials have said some of the attacks involved barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, and pointed out that the rebels do not have helicopters.

The five cases to be thoroughly investigated involve the suspected use of chemical weapons on villages in Hama and Idlib in 2014 and 2015, and on a town near the Turkish border where Islamic State is active.

Meanwhile, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, said IS has used such weapons in Syria.

Brennan told CBS television's 60 Minutes, to be broadcast Sunday, that there are a number of instances where the terrorists used "chemical munitions on the battlefield."

He said Islamic State has the capacity to make small quantities of chlorine and mustard gas and may be looking to sell the chemicals.

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