UN chemical weapons inspectors survive sniper fire

The inspectors took samples from victims of an apparent poison gas attack in rebel-held region in Syria

Topics: Syria, UN, Civil War, Bashar al-Assad, Chemical weapons, sniper fire, Middle East,

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Snipers opened fire Monday at a U.N. vehicle belonging to a team investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Damascus, a U.N. spokesman said. The Syrian government accused the rebels of firing at the team.

Activists said later that the team had arrived in Moadamiyeh, a western suburb of the capital and one of the areas where the alleged attack occurred. They said the team was meeting with doctors and victims at a makeshift hospital.

Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the vehicle was “deliberately shot at multiple times” in the buffer zone area between rebel- and government-controlled territory, adding that the team was safe.

News of the sniper attack came only a few hours after an Associated Press photographer saw the team members wearing body armor leaving their hotel in Damascus in seven SUVs, headed to the site of the alleged attack.

The photographer said U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane saw them off as they left but did not go with them.

Nearly an hour before the team left, several mortar shells fell about 700 meters (yards) from their hotel, wounding three people. One of the shells struck a mosque and damaged its minaret, according to an AP reporter on the scene.

You Might Also Like

World leaders have suggested that an international response to the attack was likely.

The United States has said that there is little doubt that Assad’s regime was responsible for the attack on Aug. 21 in the capital’s eastern suburbs. The group Doctors Without Borders said 355 people were killed in the artillery barrage by regime forces that included the use of toxic gas.

Nesirky said one of the cars used by the team was “no longer serviceable.”

“It has to be stressed again that all sides need to extend their cooperation so that the Team can safely carry out their important work,” he said in emailed comments to The Associated Press.

The Syrian government said the U.N. team was subjected to fire by “terrorist gangs” while entering the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh west of Damascus, one of the areas that the opposition says were targeted by toxic gas in last week’s attack.

The government also says Syrian forces provided safety for the team until they reached a position controlled by the rebels, where it claimed the sniper attack occurred.

“The Syrian government holds the terrorist gangs responsible for the safety of the United Nations team,” said the government statement broadcast on Syrian TV.

President Bashar Assad denied in remarks published Monday that his troops used chemical weapons during the fighting in the rebel-held suburbs.

Wassim al-Ahmad, a member of the Moadamiyeh local council, said five U.N. investigators eventually arrived at a makeshift hospital in the suburb, where doctors and about 100 people still with symptoms from the alleged chemical attack were brought in to meet with the U.N. team.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the eastern suburbs have witnessed a wide army offensive over the last week, but have been relatively quiet since Sunday night.

Mohammed Abdullah, an activist in the eastern suburb of Saqba, said the U.N. is expected to visit the rebel-held area on Monday and will be under the protection of the Islam Brigade, which has thousands of fighters in the area.

Syrian activists and opposition leaders have said that between 322 and 1,300 people were killed in the alleged chemical attack.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...