Sarin was found on clothing samples from Syria taken from the scene of a reported chemical weapons attack on August 21. The sarin traces were discovered by British military scientists.
The clothing was taken from a patient treated near the scene of the alleged attack. Soil samples taken from the site also showed traces of the chemical agent.
The findings are the most concrete statement by British officials about the incident, reports CNN. The British Parliament already voted down a measure that would have retaliated for the alleged chemical weapons use.
The office hasn’t said who it believes to be responsible. However, the United States has blamed the Syrian government for the chemical weapons attack, which they say killed 1,400 people.
It also isn’t the first time a nation has claimed sarin gas was found on samples from Syria. France’s foreign minister stated in June that samples it received showed sarin was used several times in the embattled nation.
The Guardian notes that it is rare to find sarin gas on samples, as it breaks down quickly once it is exposed to moisture. Instead, the scientists likely found a compound called isopropyl methylphosphonic acid (IMPA), which is the most convincing smoking gun for the nerve gas.
Chemical weapons experts consider IMPA proof of sarin gas use. Tests done more than a week after sarin was used don’t usually pick up IMPA, because it also breaks down quickly. The compound breaks down into other substances, including methylphosphonic acid (MPA), which VX, soman, and cyclosarin also degrade into.
The reliability of the samples is also somewhat questionable, because they were not collected first-hand, like the UN inspectors’ samples. However, the analysis was done two days after the reported attack happened.
It will take two more weeks for UN inspectors to release their results, because the team collected far more than British scientists were able to find. The process is also much longer, as at least two labs will test each sample. There is no set date for the UN to announce if it found sarin on any clothing or other samples taken from Syria.
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