'Were Children Dead at All?': Assad, Kremlin Claim Syrian Gas Attack Was Staged
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government did not carry out a chemical attack that killed 87 civilians, calling it a "100 percent fabrication."
In an interview with France's AFP news agency, Assad said there was no order for a chemical attack and maintained his regime does not have such weapons.
"Those dead children ... were they dead at all?" Assad asked, suggesting the videos were staged by the United States in some way.
He argued that the town where the attack occurred, Khan Sheikhoun, is under control of the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra group.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary James Mattis said "there is no doubt" that Assad’s regime is responsible for the chemical attack.
"I have personally reviewed the intelligence and there is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself," he said.
In response to the attack, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles targeting the air base from which the chemical attack was launched.
Assad's claim is being echoed by his Kremlin backers, who claim the U.S. orchestrated the event as pretext for the military action.
"There’s growing evidence that this was staged,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier today after meeting in Moscow with his Syrian and Iranian counterparts.
Gillian Turner, who served on the National Security Council under George W. Bush, said the claims that the dying children were actors is "infuriating."
She added that these "worthless" claims are being presented with no accompanying evidence whatsoever.
"The evidence is in and it doesn't look good for [Assad]," said Turner, pointing out that the regime was charged in 2013 and 2015 at the U.N. by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for its past uses of poison gas against civilians.
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