Syria Chemical Weapons Inspectors Attacked, But Not Injured

Image: Syria Chemical Weapons Inspectors Attacked, But Not Injured United Nations (U.N.) vehicles are parked in front of the Four Seasons hotel, where a team of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are staying.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 01:11 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Chemical weapons inspectors in Syria were attacked Tuesday while en route to a site where a suspected chlorine gas attack occurred last month and killed two people.

None of the staff members in the convoy led by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were harmed in the attack and have since returned to their base.

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The Syrian government accused rebel fighters of abducting the members of the joint OPCW/U.N. fact-finding team, who had traveled to the central province of Hama to investigate allegations of illegal chlorine attacks by government forces, Reuters reported.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been working with the United Nations to oversee the destruction of the Syrian government's stockpiles since September 2013, when President Bashar Assad's administration acknowledged it has chemical weapons and agreed to give them up to avoid the threat of U.S. military strikes, The Associated Press reported.

To date, the war-torn country has reportedly destroyed more than 90 percent of its declared toxic chemical weapons while the remaining declared stockpile is scheduled to be destroyed by June 30.

Tuesday's attack was initially wrongly reported as an abduction by Syria's Foreign Ministry, which originally told reporters that the 11-person convoy, which consisted of six members of a U.N. fact-finding mission and their Syrian drivers, had been abducted by rebels.

The opposition Hama Media Centre said the attack on the convoy was carried out by Assad's forces. It did not mention the reported abduction, Reuters noted.

The story was subsequently corrected Tuesday when the OPCW said the incident was not an abduction, but rather an assault which resulted in no casualties.

This isn't the first time chemical weapons inspectors had been attacked in Syria, having reportedly in the past experienced small arms and rocket fire at their hotel. Also in August, a separate U.N. team came under fire while attempting to reach a Damascus suburb following a chemical weapons attack in the area, the AP noted. No one was hurt in that attack either.

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