Syrians Describe 'Sleeping Dead' After Alleged Gas Attack
UN to hold emergency meeting this afternoon
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2013 1:07 PM CDT
In this citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen, a man and woman mourn over the bodies of victims in an alleged poisonous gas attack.   (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen)
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(Newser) – The UN Security Council will meet in an emergency session at 3pm Eastern today to discuss the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army, reports the AP. The latest developments:

  • The US says it's "deeply concerned" at the reports, UN chief Ban Ki-moon says he's "shocked," and the EU is demanding an immediate investigation. Meanwhile, Syria continues to deny it used chemical weapons and calls the allegations "fabricated."
  • Main opposition group Syrian National Coalition says 1,100 people, including women and children, were killed in their sleep, reports al-Jazeera. (Other groups have lower death tolls.)
  • The victims bear the telltale signs of a gas attack, one rescuer in the suburb of Erbin tells Reuters. "We would go into a house and everything was in its place, every person was in their place. They were lying where they had been. They looked like they were asleep. But they were dead."

  • Russia also wants a UN investigation, but its foreign ministry suggests that rebels staged the assault, reports Reuters.
  • The bizarre thing is that this took place as a UN team arrived in the country to investigate other alleged gas attacks. "Why would the Assad government, which has recently been retaking ground from the rebels, carry out a chemical attack while UN weapons inspectors are in the country?" asks Frank Gardner at the BBC. But he also recalls a senior Syrian defector telling him last year that Bashar al-Assad would not hesitate to use chemical weapons. Could it have been staged? Given the scale of reported casualties, that would be near impossible, he adds.