Syrian Kurdish groups claim Turkish army hit village in Afrin with suspected gas

A Syrian Kurdish group and a pro-Kurdish monitoring group have claimed that the Turkish military carried out a suspected gas attack that wounded six people in Syria’s Afrin region on Friday, reported Reuters.

Pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) has also claimed that Turkish army used chlorine gas, a chemical weapon, against civilians in Shiye district of Afrin which is targeted by intensified attacks of the Turkish army and Islamist/Jihadist rebel groups since January 20.

According to the claims, 6 civilians from Erende village in Shiye were rushed to Avrin Hospital in Afrin at 22:00 Friday evening. After examining the civilians, doctors in the hospital reportedly observed effects of chlorine gas guessed to have been used by the Turkish army.

While the civilians in question had difficulty in breathing and speaking, hospital staff are also reported to have been affected by the gas pervaded on the civilians.

Birusk Hasaka, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG group in Afrin, told Reuters that Turkish bombardment hit a village in the northwest of the region, near the Turkish border. He said it caused six people to suffer breathing problems and other symptoms indicative of a gas attack.

Turkey launched an air and ground offensive last month on the Afrin region, opening a new front in the multi-sided Syrian war to target Kurdish groups in northern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Turkish forces and their Syrian insurgent allies hit the village on Friday with shells. The Britain-based war monitoring group said medical sources in Afrin reported that six people in the attack suffered breathing difficulties and dilated pupils, indicating a suspected gas attack.

Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a doctor in a Afrin hospital, has also claimed that Turkish shelling of the village caused choking in six people.

Turkish government officials on Saturday denied the use of chemical weapons as reported by the Kurds and an independent watchdog during Turkish army’s ongoing offensive on the Afrin region in Syria. “What a reliable source you have? Stop lying [sic],” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in a tweet quoting a story by Russian state-funded Russia Today TV on Turkey’s targeting the Kurds with toxic gas.

An unnamed Turkish diplomatic source, speaking to Reuters, has also denied any use of chemical weapons in operations in Syria. “These are baseless accusations. Turkey never used chemical weapons. We take utmost care of civilians in Operation Olive Branch,” the source said.

The US thinks it is “extremely unlikely” that Turkey used chemical weapons in Afrin, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday citing a White House official. “We are aware of the reports but we cannot confirm them,” said the White House official, who wished to remain anonymous, referring to recent claims of the use of chemical weapons by the Turkish military. “We continue to call for restraint and the protection of civilians in Afrin,” the official added.

There was no comment by the Turkish Army General Staff.

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