US suspects chem weapons 'activity' at Syria base used in attack


Washington (AFP)

The US warning that Syria may be preparing another chemical weapons attack was based on suspect activity at the launch site of the regime's apparent chemical strike in April, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

"We have seen activity at Shayrat airfield... that indicated preparations for possible use of chemical weapons," said Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis.

"This involved a specific aircraft, a specific hangar -- both of which we know to be associated with chemical weapon use."

The White House late Monday said the preparations were similar to those undertaken by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ahead of an apparent chemical attack on a rebel-held town in April.

Days after that strike, Washington launched a cruise missile strike on the airfield in retaliation -- the first direct US attack on the Syrian regime and President Donald Trump's most dramatic military action since he took power in January.

The White House warned Assad that he would pay a "heavy price" if his regime went ahead with another chemical weapons attack, which "would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children."

Russia, which has supported the Syrian regime since 2015 with air strikes against what it says are Islamist extremists, voiced anger at the tough rhetoric.

"We consider such threats against the Syrian leadership to be unacceptable," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Moscow has consistently rejected accusations that Damascus was behind the April attack.