The Dallas Morning News

Turkey denies using chemical weapons in attack

White House official cannot confirm reports, says it’s ‘unlikely’

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BEIRUT — At least six civilians suffered breathing difficulti­es and other symptoms suggesting poison gas inhalation after an attack launched by Turkey on the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, doctors and Syria’s state-run news agency reported Saturday.

Jiwan Mohammed, a doctor at Afrin’s main hospital, said the facility was treating six people who arrived Friday night from the village of Arandi after it was attacked by Turkish troops. Another doctor, Nouri Qenber, said the victims suffered shortness of breath, vomiting and skin rashes. One of the victims had dilated pupils, he said by a messaging service.

Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, and the Syrian Observator­y for Human Rights monitoring group also quoted local doctors in their reports.

The claims could not be independen­tly verified, and videos released from the hospital showed people being fitted with oxygen masks who did not otherwise show symptoms of poison gas inhalation such as twitching, foaming at the mouth or vomiting.

A White House official said the United States is aware of the reports but cannot confirm them and thinks it is “extremely unlikely” Turkey used chemical weapons against the Kurds. SANA on Saturday said that Turkey had fired several shells containing “toxic substances” on a village in Afrin on Friday night, causing six civilians to suffer suffocatio­n symptoms.

The Turkish military said in a weekly statement published Saturday that it does not use internatio­nally “banned ammunition” in its Afrin operation and added, “The Turkish Armed Forces does not keep such ammunition in its inventory.”

The Turkish military launched an aerial and ground offensive on Afrin, in northweste­rn Syria, on Jan. 20. It says the aim of the operation is to push out the Kurdish militia known as the U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units, or YPG, from the enclave. Turkey considers the group to be a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdish insurgents it fights inside Turkey.

The United States considers the militia a key ally in the fight against Islamic State militants.

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