First-hand accounts that Assad forces used chemical weapons published
Free Syrian army's young fighters pose on April 2 (Guillaume Briquet/ AFP)
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Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-assad have repeatedly used chemical weapons in attacks on rebels, according to first-hand accounts published on Monday in French newspaper Le Modne.
The report cited reports from one of its photographers, who's been working undercover alongside rebel groups inside Syria. He sufferred blurred vision and had problems breathing after one such attack on April 13 on the Jobar front, central Damascus.
Both sides have accused the other of using chemical weapons during the conflict, although conclusive evidence has been impossible to find. A UN team has been ready to investigate claims of chemical weapons being used inside Syria but they've not been allowed to enter the country.
The reports in Le Monde are the first claims of chemical weapons use from a western journalist.
“Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate,” Le Monde wrote.
“Reporters from Le Monde witnessed this on several days in a row in this district, on the outskirts of Damascus, which the rebels entered in January,” it said.
“In two months spent reporting on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, we encountered similar cases across a much larger region. Their gravity, their increasing frequency and the tactic of using such arms shows that what is being released is not just tear gas, which is used on all fronts, but products of a different class that are far more toxic,” Le Monde wrote.
The UN's Carla del Ponte stated in early May that she had seen evidence that the rebels had used the banned nerve-agent sarin, although Western leaders denied they had seen any such evidence. The UK and France have both written to the UN, stating they have credible evidence that Assad's forces have used chemical wepoans during the conflict.
The report appered as EU foreign ministers are meeting to discuss whether to life an arms embargo on Syria. The existing embargo is due to expire on Friday.