The Trump administration said on Monday that it would be imposing a new round of sanctions targeting 271 employees of a Syrian government agency believed to be involved in the production of chemical weapons.
The new sanctions, aimed at President Bashar al-Assad’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, represent continued backlash against an April 4 chemical attack which occurred in the village of Khan Sheikhoun.
The attack claimed the lives of more than 80 people, many of them children.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that the SSRC is “responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them.”
The Syrian government says the SSRC is a civilian research center, but U.S. officials claim its focus is primarily “on the development of biological and chemical weapons.”
“These 271 SSRC employees have expertise in chemistry and related disciplines and/or have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012,” the department alleges.
U.S. intelligence officials accused Assad of ordering the attack.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States intends “to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behavior.”
“The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor,” Mnuchin said.
“We take Syria’s disregard for innocent human life very seriously, and will relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities,” the secretary added.
According to NPR, the individuals belonging to the SSRC might not have any business dealings with U.S. companies or persons. Also, any assets they possess in the U.S. will be frozen.
The sanctions followed action earlier this month by the Trump administration, which launched dozens of missiles against the Sharyat air base — the airfield believed to have been used for carrying out the chemical strike.
The Syrian government denied accusations it was behind the attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.