Russian military to U.S.: Rebels were behind chemical attack in Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria, Aug. 3 (UPI) — The Russian military said Wednesday it has informed the United States that rebel forces were responsible for a chemical attack near their stronghold of Aleppo, in northern Syria, a day earlier.

Russia’s Interfax News Agency reported Wednesday that Russian military officials notified their U.S. counterparts of their conclusion that rebels launched the deadly attack Tuesday — which killed seven and wounded about 20 others.

The claims that rebels launched Tuesday’s “toxic” attack come as President Bashar Assad’s regime and rebel forces accuse one another of being behind multiple chemical strikes in Aleppo and Sarageb in recent days.

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The Syrian National Coalition, an umbrella organization of rebel groups, said earlier Wednesday that a different chemical attack in the town of Saraqeb was launched by government troops with bombs containing chlorine gas, an industrial chemical outlawed for warfare.

The SNC said 30 people were affected with breathing problems, noting the attack occurred near the site where a Russian helicopter was shot down by rebel ground fire Monday, killing five Russian soldiers.

Like Interfax, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency also reported that rebels were behind the attack in Aleppo. SANA’s report added that Mohamad Hazouri, Aleppo’s health director, put the death toll at eight and said victims reported breathing problems from the chlorine shells.

Russian foreign ministry official Mikhail Ulyanov said he’s appealed the chemical strikes to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but has heard nothing back.

“We have accurate information that [rebels have] the relevant knowledge and even industrial capacity to produce chemical warfare agents,” Ulyanov said.

The five-year civil war in Syria has seen occasional use of chemical weapons — notably in 2013, when rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were fired into several opposition-controlled areas in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus. That attack killed about 1,400 people, with both sides in the conflict trading accusations of responsibility.

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