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Turkey says autopsies prove "chemical weapon" attack in Syria

Apparent chemical attack in Syria
Turkey says autopsies prove chemical attack in Syria 02:46

HATAY, Turkey -- The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has warned that the Trump Administration would consider acting unilaterally or with partners if the Security Council doesn’t respond to the apparent chemical weapons attack in northern Syria.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Thursday that autopsy results on victims of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, confirmed that a “chemical weapon was used.” A statement later Thursday by Turkey’s health ministry said the autopsy results pointed to an attack with the deadly nerve agent Sarin. Chemical weapons experts who spoke to CBS News after seeing video of the victims also said it appeared to be a likely Sarin gas attack.

CBS News’ Holly Williams reports at least 72 people died in the attack, many of them children. It began around 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday.

In this picture taken on Tuesday April 4, 2017, Abdul-Hamid Alyousef, 29, carries his twin babies who were killed in the apparent chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in the northern province of Idlib, Syria. Alyousef also lost his wife, two brothers, nephews and many other family members in the attack. AP

Abdul-Hamid Alyousef lost his 9-month-old twins, Aya and Ahmed, in the attack. A photo of the bereaved father clutching his dead children in the aftermath is among the images that have drawn condemnation from around the globe.

U.S. left with no good options in Syria 01:25

Alyousef buried his children on Wednesday, along with their mother.

Even in the hell of Syria’s six-year civil war, Williams says this attack was notable for its barbarism. Men, women and children left gasping for air and foaming at the mouth, slaughtered by a suspected toxic nerve agent.
Autopsies on three of those who lost their lives were carried out at a Turkish forensics institute in Adana, according to local media. The victims died after being ferried across the border for treatment with around thirty others.

The survivors in Turkey can now be tested for exposure to a chemical agent, but across Turkey’s southern border, inside the warzone, gathering evidence will be more difficult and much more dangerous.

In Khan Sheikhoun the streets are now unnaturally quiet, two days after the atrocity, many of its residents have fled. Some have taken samples from the scene of the attack with them -- determined to prove what killed their loved ones.

Mohammed Abu Joseph says he watched his mother, father and nephew die. People were screaming, “it’s a chemical attack,” he says, but he didn’t run away. He says he stayed and tried to help carry victims away from the scene.

U.N. holds emergency meeting on Syria after chemical weapons attack 07:18

Syrian President Bashar Assad has flatly denied carrying out the attack, rejecting an accusation from President Trump and strong implications by Britain and France. Those three nations together presented a resolution condemning the attack to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

“Yesterday’s attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime,” U.S. envoy to the U.N., Nikki Haley said. “Russia cannot escape responsibility.” Haley said, adding that if the U.N. does not act, member nations could be forced to pursue their own policies.

Russia and the Syrian regime it backs have thus far blamed the Khan Sheikhoun deaths on a leak from a rebel chemical storehouse hit by an army jet. That strike was said to have take place later on Tuesday, however, at about noon local time.

Russia’s ambassador at the U.N. dismissed the U.S.-British-French resolution as “hasty.” On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would be “premature” to accuse the Assad regime of using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun.

Later on Thursday Dimtry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian presidency, said “any data that the American side or our colleagues in other countries could have cannot be based on objective materials or evidence.” He referred to the attack as a “monstrous crime.”

A U.S. defense official tells CBS News’ David Martin that a Syrian aircraft was tracked in the area at the time of the attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

Negotiations are again underway for a Security Council resolution that can elude a veto vote by any permanent member state. Russia and China have blocked many similar resolutions on Syria in recent years.

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