Syrian opposition says it smuggled attack samples out of Syria

Children, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, breathe through oxygen masks in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, August 21, 2013. Credit: Reuters
Children, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, breathe through oxygen masks in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, August 21, 2013. Credit: Reuters

A senior member of Syria’s opposition coalition said on Friday opponents of President Bashar al-Assad had smuggled samples from victims of an alleged chemical weapons attack out of Syria for testing by experts.

“We took them and sent them outside Syria,” Syrian National Coalition Secretary General Badr Jamous told Reuters in Istanbul, but declined to say where the samples had been sent.

President Bashar al-Assad is under increasing international pressure to allow U.N. inspectors access to the rebel-held site of Wednesday’s reported mass poisoning, which if confirmed would be the world’s deadliest chemical attack in decades.

The opposition coalition said it would ensure the safety of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in areas of Syria it controls.

“We will ensure the safety of the U.N. team … It is critical that those inspectors get there within 48 hours,” coalition spokesman Khaled Saleh told a news conference.

Saleh’s comments were an apparent rebuttal of suggestions from Moscow earlier that the opposition was preventing an objective investigation into allegations that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack.

“Much needed signals from the opposition, including its readiness to guarantee the safety and effective work of U.N. experts on territory controlled by militants, unfortunately are not forthcoming,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It is directly preventing an objective investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

Syrian activists have said they are trying to get body tissue samples from victims of the attack near Damascus to the team of U.N. inspectors staying in a hotel a few miles away.

The U.N. experts have been in Syria since Sunday to investigate three previous alleged chemical attacks in the country dating from months ago.

In what it said was a preliminary report into Wednesday’s attack based on multiple sources, including a source within Assad’s forces and testimony from opposition activists, the opposition coalition said 16 missiles were launched in an initial assault shortly after 2:30 a.m. (2330 GMT).

Local residents reported missiles falling in the Zamalka neighborhood on the eastern outskirts of the capital, far from the front lines, and hundreds of people died in their homes as exposure to the gas spread, the report said, noting that not all of the missiles were carrying chemical warheads.

It said a second district came under missile attack around ten minutes later and that shortly after 4:00 a.m. another 18 missiles were launched towards a southern suburb. Citing activists, it said four of the missiles to hit that neighborhood were loaded with chemical weapons.

“Medical reports show the victims exhibited symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin gas,” the report said.

“However, we cannot definitively ascertain the exact nature of the materials and the deployment method used to target civilians in the Damascus suburbs,” it said, and urged an immediate visit by the U.N. inspectors.

(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."