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Turkey vigilant for chemicals with wounded Syrians

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SUZAN FRASER | April 30, 2013 07:18 AM EST | AP

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish border authorities decontaminated a group of wounded Syrians as they entered Turkey and hospital staff wore protective equipment to treat them because some claimed they may have come under a chemical attack in Syria, an official said Tuesday.

However, there was no indication that chemical weapons were used against them and the hospital near the border with Syria soon returned to normal operations, an aide to the governor of Hatay province told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity citing government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without authorization.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration said last week that U.S. intelligence had concluded that Syrian government forces likely used chemical agents against rebels in two attacks, but said there were "varying degrees of confidence" about how large an attack it may have been.

An official for Reyhanli State Hospital, which treated the wounded, said it was the second time the hospital was put on alert for possible victims of chemical attacks since reports of chemical weapons use in Syria. The Syrians treated on Monday were mostly hurt in aerial attacks in Syria's northern Idlib province.

Activists in the town of Saraqeb in Idlib said on Monday night that helicopters had shelled the town using unspecified chemical agents, causing respiratory problems and other symptoms among a few residents which they claimed were consistent with a chemical attack. The reports could not be independently verified and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said it was unable to confirm the report.