Postmortems confirm Syria chemical attack, Turkey says

Further evidence pf chemical weapons use emerges amid growing frustration at UN’s failure to agree how to respond

Syrians dig a grave to bury the bodies of victims of a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun, in Idlib. Photograph: Fadi Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images

Postmortem results have confirmed that chemical weapons were used in an attack that killed at least 72 people, including 27 children, in Syria’s Idlib province, amid mounting international frustration at the UN security council’s failure to agree on how to respond.

Three Syrians who were injured in Tuesday’s attack on Khan Sheikhun died in Turkey after being brought to the southern province of Adana for treatment. “The results of the autopsy confirm that chemical weapons were used,” the justice minister, Bekir Bozdağ, told the state-run Anadolu news agency.

“This scientific investigation also confirms that Assad used chemical weapons,” Bozdag added. Later Turkey’s health ministry said 31 people injured in the attack who had been taken across the border showed signs of being exposed to the nerve agent sarin.

“Evidence was detected in patients which leads one to think they were exposed to a chemical substance [sarin],” the ministry said in a statement.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said it was “scandal” that the UN’s security council did not pass a resolution on the attack. France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said Paris was trying to persuade the security council to pass resolution but it was “difficult”. He said: “France is still seeking to talk with its partners on the security council, especially the permanent members, and Russia in particular.”

Donald Trump warned that the strike had changed his view of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

The medical results from Turkey came as the Syrian foreign minister denied that his government used chemical weapons in the attack.

Speaking to reporters in Damascus, Walid al-Muallem said: “The Syrian Arab Army has never used chemical weapons and will not use chemical weapons against Syrians and even against terrorists.”

Muallem also cast doubt on the prospect of a fact-finding mission into the attack, claiming Damascus would need assurances that it would be impartial.

The postmortems were conducted by officials from the World Health Organization in Adana, along with officials from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Bozdağ said.

The wounded had been brought from Idlib through Turkey’s Cilvegözü border gate for treatment in the Reyhanlı district of Hatay province.

The attacked killed 72 people, including 27 children, and injured 546 others, according to Unicef, making it one of the worst atrocities of the six-year war.

The postmortem results add to mounting evidence that the attack involved deliberate use of chemical weapons by a Syrian warplane. Aid agencies, including Médecins Sans Frontières and medics in Turkey, said patients showed clear symptoms of exposure to the nerve agent sarin.

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Source By https://www.theguardian.com

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