ISTANBUL: An initial analysis of victims of the suspected chemical attack in Syria brought to Turkey for treatment suggests they were exposed to the deadly nerve agent sarin, the Turkish health ministry said today.
"According to the results of the initial analysis, the findings suggest the injured were exposed to a chemical substance (sarin)," the health ministry said in a statement. It confirmed that 31 people were being treated in southern Turkey and three had died in hospital.
The statement said according to the initial findings victims has suffered "pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluid), an increase in the lung weight and blood in the lungs". "These findings suggest there was a link between these injuries and the use of chemical weapons."
It said that the autopsies in the southern city of Adana were conducted in the presence of officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It said further investigations were underway at a laboratory in Ankara on samples taken from the victims.
Meanwhile, the OPCW was also taking samples for examination at its headquarters in The Hague, it added. The WHO and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had previously said victims showed symptoms consistent with the possible use of a nerve agent, such as sarin. But the statement from the health ministry was the first time the Turkish government had indicated it believed sarin was to blame.
The statement was also slightly more cautious than earlier comments by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag who said the use of chemical weapons had been confirmed and President Bashar al-Assad's regime was to blame.