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STR/AP/Press Association Images

UN chemical inspectors shot at in Syria

A UN spokesperson confirmed the attack.

A UNITED NATIONS spokesperson has confirmed that snipers have shot at its chemical inspectors.

The gunmen have not been identified.

The attack has forced the experts to suspend their attempts to investigate claims that chemical weapons had been used in a suburb of the capital city of Damascus last week.

“The first vehicle of the chemical weapons investigation team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

“As the car was no longer serviceable, the team returned safely back to the government checkpoint.”

The vehicles were headed for Ghouta, east of Damascus. No injuries were reported and the team are due to return to the site once the car is replaced.

Nesirky “stressed again that all sides need to extend their cooperation so that the team can safely carry out their important work”.

Earlier today, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon had said that “every hour counts” to ensure a sufficient investigation into the alleged chemical attack. He told reporters in Seoul that the team could not afford any more delays.

Bashar Assad’s administration had been slow to give the necessary permissions to the UN to allow the inspectors into the area. Persistent shelling at the site also led to US complaints that the scene had been corrupted.

According to the Opposition in Syria, 1,300 people – including many children – were killed in the rebel-held towns east and south-east of Damascus.

Workers with Doctors Without Borders said 355 people had died of “neurotoxic” symptoms. The Assad regime has denied responsibility.

State television in Syria has accused rebels of firing the shots at the inspectors.

“Members of the United Nations team… came under fire from armed terrorist groups as they entered the Moadamiyet al-Sham area,” reported SANA.

Additional reporting by AFP

Earlier: ‘Every hour counts’ for UN chemical arms probe

Profile: Irish soldiers ‘trained, ready, focussed and looking forward’ to Syria mission

Explainer: What is going on in Syria?

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