US announces new sanctions in response to Syria chemical attack

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The US Treasury has responded to this month’s gas attack in Syria by launching one of its biggest one-off rounds of sanctions, as it targets employees of a Syrian agency it accuses of developing non-conventional weapons.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced on Monday that 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center were being sanctioned, more than doubling the number of individuals and entities targeted by Syria-related orders issued by the US.

The centre is the Syrian agency responsible for producing non-conventional weapons, the Treasury said, adding that the affected employees either have expertise in chemistry and related disciplines or have worked in support of the state’s chemical weapons programme since 2012.

The moves add to the Trump administration’s response to the suspected gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed more than 80 people. US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “These sweeping sanctions target the scientific support center for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical weapons attack on innocent civilian men, women, and children.

“The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will hold the entire Assad regime accountable for these blatant human-rights violations in order to deter the spread of these types of barbaric chemical weapons.”

The move follows the first major military action of Mr Trump’s presidency — the launch of dozens of Tomahawk missile at the airfield from which the US says the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun was launched.

It follows sanctions announced in January against 18 senior regime officials and five branches of the Syrian military. Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal that was brokered by Moscow and Washington.

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