THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Members of an international fact-finding mission into alleged chlorine attacks in Syria were ambushed and briefly held by gunmen in rebel-held territory, the global chemical weapons watchdog said Wednesday.
Releasing details of the chilling attack on its inspectors a day earlier, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said a joint OPCW-United Nations convoy was first hit by a roadside bomb and then sprayed by automatic gunfire as it headed toward Kfar Zeita, a rebel-held village in Hama province some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus.
After the lead vehicle in the convoy was severely damaged in the roadside bomb blast, the remaining vehicles turned around and headed for safer territory only to come under attack in a built-up area by gunmen who sprayed the lead vehicle with automatic gunfire from close range, the OPCW said in a statement.
Occupants of two remaining vehicles "were briefly detained by some gunmen" but were released after the intervention by Syria's main opposition group, according to the OPCW. One driver sustained minor injuries.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad visited members of the international fact-finding mission at their headquarters in Damascus on Wednesday, calling the ambush "a brutal attack." He said terrorists were behind it, a term the government uses for rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad from power.