US sanctions 271 employees of Syrian agency over gas attack

Steve Mnuchin says the US "will hold the entire Assad regime accountable"

US sanctions 271 employees of Syrian agency over gas attack

Steve Mnuchin. Picture by: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Press Association Images

The US has announced it is sanctioning 271 employees of a Syrian government agency over the suspected gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month.

US officials have blamed Bashar al-Assad's regime for the apparent sarin gas attack in north-western Syria on April 4th.

The attack left dozens dead and hundreds injured, and prompted a US strike on a Syrian airbase.

The newly-announced sanctions affects employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a Syrian government organisation which US officials say is responsible for "developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them".

The 271 employees are said to have expertise in fields such as chemistry, or have supported the country's chemical weapons programme.

In a statement, US Treasury Secretary Steve 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."

He added: “We take Syria’s disregard for innocent human life very seriously, and will relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities.”

The SSRC has previously been the subject of significant US sanctions.

It was blacklisted by George W Bush's administration in 2005 after being accused of creating weapons of mass destruction.

In July 2016, people and companies were sanctioned for supporting the centre, while another six of its officials were sanctioned in January of this year.

Additional reporting by IRN