The United States and Syria appeared to offer conflicting accounts on Tuesday of whether global chemical weapons inspectors had reached the Syrian town of Douma where a suspected poison gas attack took place and sparked a U.S.-led retaliatory strike.
Syrian state television reported that the experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had entered Douma. Western countries say scores of civilians sheltering from bombs were gassed to death there on April 7.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday she was aware of reports from Syria that inspectors from the OPCW had been able to see the town but “our understanding is that the team has not entered Douma.” A diplomatic source in The Hague said the experts did not enter Douma.
France said it was very likely that evidence of the poison gas attack was disappearing before the inspectors could reach the town. Syria and its ally Russia deny that any chemical attack took place.
Douma is now in the hands of government forces after the last rebels withdrew just hours after U.S., French and British forces fired more than 100 missiles to hit three suspected chemical weapons development or storage sites.
Saturday’s air strikes were the first coordinated Western strikes against Assad’s government in a seven-year war that has killed more than 500,000 people and drawn in global powers and neighboring states.
The intervention threatened to escalate confrontation between the West and Russia but has had no significant impact on the ground, where President Bashar al-Assad is now in his strongest position since the war’s early days and shows no sign of slowing down his campaign to crush the rebellion.
US, Syria give conflicting accounts on global chemical weapons experts