Beirut: International inspectors have so far visited three sites linked to Syria`s chemical weapons program, a spokesman said on Thursday, as the team races to destroy the country`s stockpile and delivery systems amid a raging civil war.
Underscoring the complexity of the mission, a regime warplane bombed the rebel-held town of Safira, an activist group said. A regime-controlled military complex believed to include chemical weapons facilities is located near the town.
The inspectors are to visit more than 20 sites around the country as part of the disarmament mission. The facilities they inspected in the past 10 days have been in government-held areas, making them fairly easy to reach, said Michael Luhan, spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Operating on rare consensus, the UN has mandated the OPCW to rid Syria of its stockpile by mid-2014 the tightest deadline ever given to the OPCW. It`s also the first conducted amid ongoing fighting. Syria`s conflict, which erupted in March 2011, pits disorganised armed rebels against forces loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad.
At some point, the 27-member team may have to cross rebel-held territory to reach other locations linked to Syria`s chemical weapons program. The UN hopes to organise ceasefires between rebels and government forces to ensure safe passage.
Shifting front lines crisscross the country, divided into a patchwork of rebel- and regime-held areas.
On Thursday, a regime warplane struck the town of Safira, killing at least 16 people, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which obtains its information through a network of activists on the ground. The group did not know what was hit.
Amateur video said to show the aftermath of the Safira airstrike was posted online later today. The video showed men and boys hauling a blanket filled with body parts onto a jeep where another two charred bodies already lay.
"Who is this?" one man can be heard asking. "By God, we don`t know brother," another responded. The video also showed twisted metal, blood splattered on the floor and smashed concrete in the area of the strike.