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France arrests man suspected of helping Syria produce chemical weapons

Unidentified detainee, who lives abroad, suspected of aiding crimes against humanity committed by Assad regime during civil war

A rescue worker carrying a child following an alleged chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria, on April 8, 2018. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP, File)
A rescue worker carrying a child following an alleged chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria, on April 8, 2018. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP, File)

PARIS, France — A French-Syrian man has been detained by French police on suspicion of supplying components for the manufacture of chemical weapons in Syria through his shipping company, sources briefed on the case told AFP Sunday.

The man, who was born in 1962 and lives abroad, was arrested Saturday in the south of France, according to one of the sources.

He has been held on suspicion of “conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity, accessory to crimes against humanity and accessory to war crimes,” a judicial source told AFP.

The war in Syria has killed close to half a million people, and spurred the largest conflict-induced displacement since World War II.

Syria denies the use of chemical weapons. It insists it handed over its weapons stockpiles under a 2013 agreement with the US and Russia, prompted by a suspected sarin gas attack that killed 1,400 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

But Syria was stripped of its Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voting rights in April after a probe blamed it for further poison gas attacks.

It will remain suspended until it has fully declared its chemical weapons and weapons-making facilities.

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