UN chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Syria

UN chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Syria

UN chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Syria

The UN chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus on August 18, 2013. AFP photo

A team of United Nations chemical weapons experts arrived in Damascus yesterday to investigate the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war.

The U.N. team, including weapons experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, will try to establish only whether chemical weapons including sarin and other toxic nerve agents were used, not who used them.

The 20-member team declined to comment to reporters as they checked into a hotel in central Damascus.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda loyalists attacked a mainly Kurdish town in northeastern Syria sparking fighting in which 17 people were killed, two of them ambulance crew, a watchdog said a day before.

The assault on the strategic border town of Ras al-Ain, from which the jihadists were expelled by Kurdish militia last month, sparked an exodus of civilians into neighboring Turkey, an activist said.

The attack on the town was part of a wider offensive by Al-Qaeda against several Kurdish majority areas of northern and northeastern Syria that began on Aug. 16 and was continuing on Aug. 14, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Four Kurdish militiamen and 11 jihadists made up the rest of the dead, the watchdog said.

Syrian Kurd activist Havidar said civilians had fled “in waves into villages in Turkey.” “Intermittent clashes are continuing to take place till now, in the Asfar Najjar area and the outskirts of Tal Halaf,” Havidar told Agence France-Presse via the Internet.

Government troops pulled out of majority Kurdish areas of Syria last year, leaving Kurdish militia to fend for themselves.

Elsewhere in Syria, rebels attacked a pro-regime militia checkpoint in a majority Christian area of Homs province, killing six civilians and five militiamen, the Observatory said.

State news agency SANA said all those killed were civilians, and described the attackers as “terrorists.”