UN completes first day of probe in Syria
New York: A team of UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria carried out their first day of investigation despite a sniper attack on their convoy, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said.
"What I am told at this time is that their vehicle was attacked by unknown snipers, but despite such very difficult circumstances, our team returned to Damascus and replaced their car and proceeded to a suburb of Damascus to carry on their investigation," Xinhua quoted Ban as saying on Monday.
Earlier on Monday, the UN convoy came under sniper fire on their way to a suspected chemical weapons attack site. The first vehicle of the UN investigators was "deliberately shot at multiple times" by unidentified snipers, the UN said.
The inspectors "visited two hospitals", "interviewed witnesses, survivors and doctors" and also "collected some samples" at the site of the latest alleged use of chemical weapons on August 21.
"It was a very productive day," said Farhan Haq, the UN spokesman, adding that the team, led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, was "already gathering valuable evidence".
The UN team was in a buffer zone between government and opposition-held areas when it came under attack.
Ban said the UN had made a "strong complaint" to the Syrian government and opposition forces. The rebels and Assad`s government traded blame for the sniper assault just as they did over the chemical attack.
On August 21, the Syrian opposition claimed that 1,300 people were killed in chemical weapon attacks carried out by the government army on militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus. The Syrian government strongly denied the accusation.
The UN investigation team was originally scheduled to spend up to 14 days, with a possible extension, probing the alleged use of chemical weapons in the northern Khan al-Assal town and two other undisclosed locations.
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