Trump: 'Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad'

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U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a briefing on hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Dallas, Texas, U.S, October 25, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a briefing on hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Dallas, Texas, U.S, October 25, 2017. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to condemn a "mindless chemical attack" in Syria and expressed rare criticism of Russian leader Vladimir Putin "for backing" Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syrian activist groups said on Saturday that barrel bombs containing toxic gas were dropped from helicopters, killing and injuring civilians.

In his tweet, the US leader said that many, including children and women, died in what he called a mindless chemical attack. “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad- Big price to pay,” Trump continued. He added that  it was “another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever.”

Trump's tweet mentioning Putin is perceived as the first time he has publicly attacked his Russian counterpart by name. The US president also cited former US President Barack Obama's Syria policies in one of his tweets, saying that if his predecessor “had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand,” the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago.

US Vice President Mike Pence also reacted to the news on Syria on Sunday morning, saying he and Trump are closely monitoring the incident and that they condemn in the strongest possible terms the assault on innocent lives. He also wrote that the Assad regime, as well as its backers, must end their behaviour.

Syrian activist groups have said that toxic gas inside barrel bombs had been dropped over a rebel-held city. An “official source” denied the allegations, according to Syrian state news.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the reported chemical attack a "hoax" on a statement issued on Sunday."Information attacks about the use of chlorine or other poisonous substances by the Syrian government troops are continuing- another such hoax about the chemical attack that supposedly took place in Douma emerged yesterday." The White Helmets has reported on Twitter that over 40 people suffocated to death after exposure to an unknown chemical agent.

CNN reports two administration officials as saying that National Security Council principals will hold a "small group" meeting on Monday for a discussion about Syria. A White House readout indicates that the POTUS has spoken to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to discuss the "situation in Syria and the alarming reports of possible chemical attacks near Damascus” and the countries' continued fight against terrorist group ISIS.