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Syria blamed for 3rd chemical attack

United Nations — An international team has determined that the Syrian government carried out a third chemical attack in the conflict-wracked nation, according to a report released late Friday.

In August, the team from the United Nations and the chemical weapons watchdog blamed President Bashar Assad’s government for using chlorine gas in two attacks and Islamic State fighters for using mustard gas in one attack.

Map photo courtesy of uartutravel.eu

Map photo courtesy of uartutravel.eu

The team said at that time that three other attacks indicated possible government involvement.

In a report sent to the UN Security Council late Friday and seen by The Associated Press, the team said there was “sufficient evidence” to conclude that Syrian forces were responsible for one of the attacks in Qmenas in Idlib governorate on March 16, 2015.

It said a device, dropped from a high altitude, “hit the ground and released the toxic substance that affected the population.” Witnesses and hospital staff identified the smell and symptoms of chlorine gas.

The team concluded, however, that there wasn’t enough evidence to determine responsibility for the two other attacks.

The panel said “it is crucial to hold those who use or intend to use chemicals as weapons accountable for their acts, as it is fundamental to deter all those who continue to believe that there is something to be gained in the use of toxic chemicals as weapons.”

The United States, Britain and France want the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on the Assad regime for using chemical weapons. But Russia, Syria’s closest ally, said the evidence presented in the August report was not conclusive, and Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin indicated that Moscow will oppose any sanctions.

The Security Council is expected to discuss the report on Thursday.