Warning for Assad after latest attack

Defense Secretary James Mattis attends a news conference Thursday Aug. 17 2017 at the State Department in Washington

Defense Secretary James Mattis attends a news conference Thursday Aug. 17 2017 at the State Department in Washington

The US has expressed serious concerns the Syrian regime led by its embattled leader, President Bashar al-Assad, could have come up with a new type of sophisticated chemical weapon to tackle its opponents in the long-running civil war.

The official warned that Syria's chemical weapons could soon spread to other parts of the world, possible even the U.S., unless the worldwide community steps up its pressure on Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad.

Chemical attacks aren't uncommon in parts of Syria.

Last April, the US military fired a barrage of missiles into Syria's Shayrat Airfield in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed about 100 civilians.

The U.S. has no evidence that the Syrian government recently has used deadly sarin nerve gas on its citizens but is looking into reports of its alleged use from people on the ground, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Friday.

He accused Russia of violating its own commitments under a 2013 US-Russia agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles and an worldwide treaty that bars their use.

The group claimed that volunteer Bilal Bayram was among the victims who was "suffocated by the chlorine gas attack".

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Barrel bombs used earlier in the war to disperse chemicals indiscriminately, for example, have been replaced by ground-launched munitions, the officials said, according to AP.

Mattis, speaking with reporters, said the Syrian government had repeatedly used chlorine as a weapon. In April of 2017, Trump ordered an attack on a Syrian airbase after a chemical attack blamed on the Syrian regime in Khan Sheikhun.

Assad's forces have instead "evolved" their chemical weapons and made continued occasional use of them in smaller amounts since a deadly attack last April that drew a USA missile strike on a Syrian air base, the officials told reporters in a briefing.

"We're certainly seeing the evolution of allegations into new kinds of weapons that suggests an ongoing production capability" related to sarin and chlorine weapons, one official said.

Rescue workers and medical groups working in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, near to Damascus, have accused government forces of using chlorine gas three times over the last month, including on Thursday morning.

American officials emphasized on Thursday that the United States was seeking a new way to hold chemical weapons-users accountable and wanted cooperation from Russia, Assad's patron, in pressuring him to end the attacks.

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