UN investigators shot at in Syria
Aug 26, 2013 / 9:03 am
Snipers opened fire Monday at a U.N. vehicle carrying 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, while a rebel representative said a pro-government militia was behind the attack.
Activists said the team later arrived in Moadamiyeh, a western suburb of the capital and one of the areas where last week's attack allegedly occurred. They said the team was meeting with doctors and victims at a makeshift hospital.
The United States has said that there is little doubt that President Bashar Assad's regime was responsible for the attack on Aug. 21 in the capital's suburbs. Activists say the action killed hundreds; the group Doctors Without Borders put the death toll at 355 people.
Monday's shooting came as support for an international military response was mounting if it is confirmed that Assad's troops used chemical weapons.
Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the U.N. 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 armour leaving their hotel in Damascus in seven SUVs and heading 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 metres (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.
U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking with reporters after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, said Monday the Obama administration was studying intelligence on Syria's purported use of chemical weapons and "will get the facts" before acting.
Hagel said Obama "is considering all different options" and that "if there is any action taken it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of a legal justification."
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