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'There was no chemical attack in Douma': OPCW mission member speaks out at UN

RUSSIA and the US were at loggerheads today over the credibility of a chemical-weapons watchdog after an inspector gave testimony at the UN that no attack had taken place in Douma, Syria.

Engineer Ian Henderson was part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team investigating the alleged chlorine attack in April 2018, which was used as a pretext for US, British and French strikes on the Syrian capital.

In a Russian-sponsored UN security-council session on Monday Mr Henderson said that the scientific evidence suggested that there was no chemical attack as claimed.

Mr Henderson explained that he had led investigations at the OPCW for 12 years in his capacity as an engineer. 

He told the hearing that he and others involved in the fact-finding mission (FFM) to Douma were surprised by the final OPCW report which was a “complete turnaround with what the team had understood collectively, during and after the Douma deployments.”

As reported in the Morning Star last year, a whistleblower said that the report had been “deliberately manipulated” in order to favour the “pre-ordained conclusion” that a chemical attack had been carried out by the Syrian government.

In December leaked emails revealed that OPCW chief of cabinet Sebastien Braha had issued instructions for an engineering report by Mr Henderson to be removed from the organisation’s secure registry.

The dossier, which was inexplicably left out of the OPCW final report, found that gas cylinders discovered at the scene of the alleged attack had been placed there manually rather than dropped from a government helicopter, as claimed.

Further leaked messages revealed that eight of the nine FFM inspectors  who were following up their findings and analysis were dismissed and banned from further discussions.

The sackings came after an interim report of July 2018 said there was no evidence of chemical use in Douma.

Mr Henderson explained that the group “had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred” and claimed the final FFM report “does not reflect the views of the team members who deployed to Douma.”

“In my case, I had followed up with a further six months of engineering and ballistic studies into these cylinders, the result of which had provided further support for the view that there had not been a chemical attack,” he said.

The revelation blows a further hole in the case for missile strikes launched against Damascus by Britain, France and the US shortly after the alleged chemical attack .

The US accused Russia of “a brazen disinformation campaign” and said it must defend the credibility of the OPCW.

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