Syria Chemical Attack: Forensics Report

August 27, 2013 2:07 pm

Syria Chemical Attack Forensics Report

Damascus 27th August 2013 : There are claims the Government of Syria has attacked its own people with chemical weapons in eastern Damascus and as many as 1300 people are killed. The US and other different countries called Syria for a swift investigation.

The evidence that the attack has taken place is based on video footage of the people affected. Dozens of video reports are now available online to the world about the alleged attack. It helps provide a fuller picture of what may have happened on the outskirts of Damascus. There is no guarantee that the inspectors who are given permission to investigate the site will be able to establish conclusively what has happened.

“There seem to be increasing amounts of footage of very realistic-appearing injuries commensurate with a chemical attack, but still leaving lots of questions. It would appear that patients have been injured by what might be a rapid attempt to inject atropine, a potentially poisonous compound that’s sometimes used as an antidote to sarin exposure,” says Stephen Johnson, a visiting fellow at Cranfield University’s Forensics Institute in Great Britain.

He also noted that videos had moved to the Internet quickly early Wednesday. More typically, footage from the rebel side is posted gradually over the course of a day or longer. It can be difficult to access the Web in the area amid regular power outages and ongoing fighting.

However, most experts agree that the videos indicate something more sinister. According to Howard Hu of the University of Toronto, Canada “They provide individual visual evidence of people who are clearly affected by something.” Howard Hu is a medical advisor for the non-profit group Physicians for Human Rights.

“The victims’ rigid muscles and spasmodic movements suggest a neurological organophosphate toxin, such as sarin.” But only good close-up images would allow for a more definitive assessment of the symptoms of sarin poisoning, he added

“Many of the victims have individual signs suggestive of exposure to an organophosphate agent. Pinpoint pupils are certainly one of the signs but should not be used to rule out exposure: when people are afraid their pupils dilate and this may be the initial appearance,” says Alastair Hay at the University of Leeds, UK.

UN inspectors could gather more decisive evidence if they can get to the scene. But the Syrian government has so far been reluctant to grant full access to the site. The amount of time that any evidence will remain there for will depend on what the agent is. Sarin evaporates at a similar rate to water in a temperate climate, says Jean-Pascal Zanders, formerly of the European Institute of Security Studies in Paris.

“Some things can be traced many months after the incident,” he added.

About the Author

Ahmad Diyari Kaashif is a Senior Journalist and Head of the International Bureau at Qatar Chronicle.After studying Russian at the University of Central Florida.He researched political movements in the former Soviet Union for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, while studying for a master’s degree in international relations at George Washington University.

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