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OPCW begins investigation into suspected chemical attack in Duma

SYRIA (OBSERVATORY) –┬áThe Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is to start its work in the Syrian city of Douma on Sunday, a senior Syrian official told AFP, in preparation for an investigation into a suspected chemical attack on Damascus.

“The fact-finding committee arrived in Damascus on Saturday and is due to go to Duma on Sunday,” Syrian Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan told AFP.

“The team of the fact-finding mission arrived in Damascus in preparation for its start,” the organization said on its Twitter account at night.

Sousan stressed his country’s support for the mission. “We will make it work professionally, objectively, impartially and without any pressure,” he said. He added that “what will be released will lie to the allegations” against his country.

The city of Duma, the largest city of the eastern Ghouta near Damascus on the seventh of this month, before the fighters of the Army of Islam, including an attack that caused the deaths of forty people by inhaling poisonous gases, according to medics and local doctors.

Damascus was accused of using a chemical weapon in the bombing, which it categorically denied with its allies Moscow and Tehran.

Three days later, the Syrian government on Tuesday called on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to send a mission to Douma and investigate reports of the alleged chemical attack.

The mission was due to arrive in two batches on Thursday and Friday, but it was delayed until Saturday.

Syria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari, told the UN Security Council on Sunday night that “the mission’s delegation from Beirut to Damascus is delayed for unknown reasons for a whole day until the aggression took place as if there were those who instructed this group not to go to Damascus yesterday.”

The United States, France and Britain launched a series of strikes on research centers and facilities near Damascus and west of the city of Homs in response to the alleged chemical attack.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) pledged in a statement on Saturday that its team would continue “its mission in the Syrian Arab Republic to establish facts about allegations of chemical weapons in Duma” despite Western strikes.

She said she was “working closely” with UN security experts to “assess the situation and ensure the safety of her team” in Syria.

Syria and its main ally, Russia, have vowed to ensure the safety and security of the mission.

On Saturday, the Syrian army announced full control of the eastern Ghouta after the last opposition fighters were evacuated from the city of Douma, about two months after it launched an offensive in the region.