Media are reporting that global chemical-weapons inspectors will take the unprecedented step of exhuming some bodies of victims in the Syrian town of Douma as they work to verify an alleged chemical attack last month.
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons chief Ahmet Uzumcu told the Financial Times on May 3 that the organization's fact-finding mission had already gathered over 100 "environmental samples" since getting access to the site northeast of Damascus on April 21.
AFP said it verified the Times' account.
The group's mission to Douma was launched by the UN Security Council after footage of people writhing in the wake of the April 7 attack horrified the world. The incident prompted air strikes on alleged Syrian chemical-weapons installations by the United States, Britain, and France on April 13.
Medics and rescuers said more than 40 people were killed by what appeared to be a combination of chlorine gas and sarin nerve gas. Uzumcu said his group was seeking to verify those claims by taking "biomedical samples" from exhumed bodies.
"It is a very sensitive process. That's why they are very cautious. Although our experts have been able to attend some autopsies in the past, this is going to be the first time we have exhumed bodies," he told the Times.
Uzumcu said it could be a month before the mission publishes its report on Douma.
The mission was delayed several times in gaining access to Douma, which came under the control of the Syrian government and its ally Russia shortly after the attack. But its experts have said chemical traces -- if they exist -- could still be found in the environment and in victims' bodies.
Damascus and Moscow have accused the Syrian White Helmets rescue group of staging the video footage at the behest of the United States and its allies.