The Guardian reports: Khan Sheikhun is a ghost town, its streets deserted and silent as though mourning the victims of the atrocity that occurred here two days earlier.
The only reminder of what happened is a small, blackened, crater near the northern part of town, where a rocket laced with a nerve agent fell, killing more than 70 people in one of the worst mass casualty chemical attacks in the six-year war in Syria.
All that remains of the attack on the town in rebel-held Idlib province is a faint stench that tingles the nostrils and a small green fragment from the rocket. The houses nearby are emptied of the living.
The victims’ symptoms are consistent with sarin, the nerve agent that was dropped on an opposition-held area near Damascus in 2013, killing more than 1,000 people. After that attack the regime supposedly gave up its chemical weapons arsenal.
Moscow, Bashar al-Assad’s principal backer in the war, said the Syrian government had bombed a rebel-run toxic gas manufacturing plant in Khan Sheikhun, and that the gas had subsequently leaked out.
The Guardian, the first western media organisation to visit the site of the attack, examined a warehouse and silos directly next to where the missile had landed, and found nothing but an abandoned space covered in dust and half-destroyed silos reeking of leftover grain and animal manure.
Residents said the silos had been damaged in air raids six months ago, and had stood unused since then.
“You can look at it ; there’s nothing there except maybe some grain and animal dung, and there’s even a dead goat there that suffocated in the attack,” one person said. Residents responded in disbelief to the Russian allegation.
There was no evidence of any building being hit in recent days or weeks near where so many people were killed and wounded by a nerve agent. The homes across the street appeared undamaged from the outside. There was no contamination zone near any building. Instead, the contamination area radiated from a hole in a road. [Continue reading…]