UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- A team of UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria carried out their first day of investigation despite a sniper attack against their convoy, UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.
"What I am told at this time is that their vehicle was attacked by an unknown sniper, 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," the secretary-general said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, the UN convoy came under sniper fire on their way to a suspected chemical-weapons attack. The first vehicle of the UN investigators was "deliberately shot at multiple times" by unidentified snipers, the United Nations said.
The government and opposition traded accusations of responsibility for the incident.
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 Aug. 21.
"It was a very productive day," said Farhan Haq, the UN spokesman, adding that the team, led by Swedish scientist Dr. 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 United Nations 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 Aug. 21, the Syrian opposition claimed that some 1,300 people were killed in a chemical weapon attack 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.
The Syrian government and rebels blamed each other for a purported chemical-weapons attack in the northern town of Khan al-Assal on March 19 that killed at least 25 people and wounded 130 others.
DAMASCUS, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian government on Monday denied and slammed the allegations of chemical weapon use as the United States along with its Western allies move closer to a military intervention in the Middle East country.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the West's claims that his government used chemical weapons were "an insult to common sense," noting the United States would face "failure" if it decided to intervene militarily in Syria. Full story
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Unknown snipers shot at United Nations inspectors on Monday as they were heading for the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian capital, to investigate the latest alleged use of chemical weapons.
The incident highlighted the great importance to ensure a safe environment for the UN experts to do their job in the war-torn Syria. Full story