LONDON — The BBC has been shown evidence apparently corroborating reports of a chemical attack in Syria last month.
A BBC correspondent who visited the northern town of Saraqeb was told by eyewitnesses that government helicopters had dropped at least two devices containing poisonous gas.
The government has vehemently denied claims it has used chemical agents.
The US has warned that such a development would be a “red line” for possible intervention.
However, President Barack Obama has said the current intelligence on possible chemical weapon usage did not constitute sufficient proof.
On April 29, Saraqeb, a town south-west of Aleppo, came under artillery bombardment from government positions.
Doctors at the local hospital told the BBC’s Ian Pannell they had admitted eight people suffering from breathing problems. Some were vomiting and others had constricted pupils, they said. One woman, Maryam Khatib, later died.
A number of videos passed to the BBC appear to support these claims, but it is impossible to independently verify them. Mrs Khatib’s son Mohammed had rushed to the scene to help his mother and was also injured in the attack.
“It was a horrible, suffocating smell. You couldn’t breathe at all. You’d feel like you were dead. You couldn’t even see. I couldn’t see anything for three or four days,” Khatib told the BBC.
A doctor who treated Khatib said her symptoms corresponded to organophosphate poisoning and that samples had been sent for testing.
One device was said to have landed on the outskirts of Saraqeb, with eyewitnesses describing a box-like container, with a hollow concrete casing inside.
In another video, a rebel fighter holds a canister said to be hidden inside the devices. Witnesses claim there were two in each container.
Another video shows parts of a canister on the ground, surrounded by white powder.
The BBC has been told that samples from the scene and from the alleged victims have been sent to Britain, France, Turkey and America for testing. (BBC)