- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2013

Some of the emergency responders who first arrived at the scene of a purported chemical weapons attack outside Damascus have died, lending further credence to claims that President Bashar Assad used poisonous gases to fight rebel forces.

“Some of them came down with similar symptoms and passed away,” said Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, according to USA Today.

The United States is giving the medical aid and other non-lethal assistance.

Mr. Saleh said at least six doctors have died while treating the alleged chemical attack victims, but there may be more.

“We don’t have the [total] number of dead first responders yet,” he said.

The Syrian government continues to deny use of chemical weapons, even as Russia, one of its greatest allies, calls for Mr. Assad to cooperate with U.N. inspections officials.

The Russian Foreign Minister on Friday said the United Nations should independently investigate whether chemical weapons were used, the Associated Press reported. Minister Sergey Lavrov said he discussed the situation in a Thursday telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and both agreed they had a “mutual interest” in the global body’s investigation.

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