By Agence France-Presse
Turkey said Thursday the autopsies of three Syrians killed in an attack in rebel-held northwestern Syria confirmed that chemical weapons had been used by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, state media reported.
“Autopsies were carried out on three of the bodies after they were brought from Idlib. The results of the autopsy confirms that chemical weapons were used,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said, quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency.
“This scientific investigation also confirms that Assad used chemical weapons,” Bozdag added, without giving further details.
Some 60 injured Syrians were brought to southern Turkey for medical treatment, Dogan news agency said on Thursday, but three of them died in hospital.
At least 86 people were killed early Tuesday in Khan Sheikhun and dozens more were being treated after they were found convulsing and foaming at the mouth.
Bozdag said autopsies were conducted with the “participation” of officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the southern province of Adana together with officials from Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
But WHO immediately countered Bozdag’s claims that it was involved in the postmortem, saying the organisation did not conduct autopsies, adding: “It is not our mandate.”
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told AFP in Geneva that “a WHO person was there at the time of the autopsy but had no role in the autopsy or investigation”.
He also stressed that no samples or swabs had been taken by WHO despite claims by the Adana prosecutor that “examples” had been sent to the organisation and the OPCW.
In a statement, the prosecutor, quoted by Anadolu said: “For analysis, examples were taken and sent to (medical institutions). Separately, following requests from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, examples were given (to them).”
The wounded had been brought from Idlib through Turkey’s Cilvegozu border gate for the treatment in the Reyhanli district of Hatay province.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal critic of Assad, called the Syrian president a “murderer” on Wednesday after denouncing the world’s “silence” on the deaths.
Russia, Assad’s main ally, has said a Syrian air strike had hit a “terrorist warehouse” but Erdogan has yet to make any reference to the Russian claim.
Moscow has been one of the regime’s biggest supporters together with Iran while Turkey has given support to Syrian opposition fighters.
Ankara last month said it “successfully completed” its military operation supporting Syrian rebels against the Islamic State group launched last August in northern Syria.