'Were the children dead at all?' Assad says Syria chemical attack '100 per cent fabrication'

Josie Ensor

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has accused the US of fabricating last week’s chemical attack to justify a military strike, claiming the regime could not be responsible as it longer has chemical weapons.

"Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists,” Mr Assad said in his first since the bombing. “They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack.

"We don't know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun. Were they dead at all?," he told AFP news agency,

He said the opposition-held town had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Croatian newspaper Vecernji List in Damascus Credit: Reuters

The attack prompted US President Donald Trump to order the first major military action of his presidency, launching dozens of cruise missiles at the airfield from where the chemical attack was believed to have been launched.  

The Syrian president insisted once again that the regime gave up its entire stockpile to the UN’s OPCW in 2013 after the last major chemical attack.

"There was no order to make any attack... We gave up our arsenal a few years ago. Even if we have them, we wouldn't use them," Mr Assad said.

However, an American official said yesterday that US intelligence had intercepted communications from members of the Assad regime and chemical experts talking about preparations for the bombing in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib last week which left 86 dead and hundreds injured. 

The intercepts were part of an immediate review of all intelligence in the hours after the attack to confirm responsibility.

Nothing from the intercepts can confirm that Russian officials had any knowledge ahead of the attack.

The president’s comments also came as a British delegation at the world's chemical weapons watchdog finished testing on samples from victims of the attack. 

They reported on Thursday that they tested positive for nerve agent sarin.

Theresa May also said it was “most likely” the Syrian regime carried out the chemical attack. 

“The United Kingdom shares the US assessment that it is highly likely that the regime was responsible for a sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April,” Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council on Wednesday night.

Russia vetoed a draft resolution brought by the UK, US and France to condemn the killings and to call for an independent investigation.

It was the eighth Russian veto of a resolution on Syria throughout the course of its civil war.

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