Syrians Allege Chemical Attack: 'Suffocating Smell'
BBC thinks evidence begins to add up
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2013 7:40 AM CDT
In this frame grab from amateur video taken Nov. 1, 2012, an alleged rebel gunman steps on a captured soldier lying on the ground in Saraqeb, northern Syria.   (AP Photo/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights via AP video)

(Newser) – Government helicopters dropped chemical weapons last month on the Syrian town of Saraqeb, eyewitness testimony strongly suggests. A BBC correspondent visited the town, and was regaled with accounts and videos of box-like devices being dropped out of helicopters and emitting deadly gas. "It was a horrible, suffocating smell," said the son of a woman killed in the attack. "You couldn't breathe at all. You'd feel like you were dead." Doctors at nearby hospitals attested to having treated eight people suffering from symptoms consistent with organophosphate poisoning.

The accounts of the Saraqeb attack appear to be "virtually identical" to those in three other cities in recent weeks, a former commanding officer at the UK military's chemical warfare division. "When you put them all together you start to see a picture that is very much more conclusive," he said, and after listening to the witnesses and doctors, "I gauge that they're not making it up." The alleged use of helicopters in the attacks would appear to implicate the Assad regime as the culprits, but the UN thinks Syrian rebels have also used chemical weapons.