The United States on Monday blacklisted 271 Syrian chemists and employees of a government research centre as punishment for the country’s alleged role in the recent chemical attack that killed nearly 100 civilians in Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province. Inclusion in the financial blacklist will mean that the assets belonging to these individuals in the US will be frozen and people and businesses in the country will be barred from dealing with them, AFP reported.
The US Treasury Department blamed the government-run Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre for developing the sarin gas weapon believed to have been used in the chemical attack. According to Washington-based think tank Nuclear Threat Initiative, SSRC has direct links to the Syrian military. These 271 individuals either have scientific expertise for the programme or have been involved in it since 2012.
“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,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
This is one of the largest such penalties imposed at one go in US history, according to AP. However, this is not the first time that the US has issued sanctions against SSRC. In 2005 and 2007, the research centre faced sanctions for its alleged role in developing weapons of mass destruction.
The sanctions are the latest action taken by the Donald Trump administration in response to the April 4 chemical attack. On April 7, the US military had carried out targeted missile strikes on a Syrian base. The Syrian Army had said the strike had killed six troops and caused “big material losses”. Hours before launching the missile strike, US President Donald Trump had said that the poison gas attack had “crossed a lot of lines” for him.