UN aims to collect monitors from Syrian town
BEIRUT, May 16 — The United Nations aims to collect a monitoring team from the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun today, the head of the monitoring mission said, after they spent the night in the hands of rebels following an attack near their convoy.
The Free Syrian Army said yesterday the monitors, whose cars were damaged in an attack which killed at least 21 people in Khan Sheikhoun, were under FSA protection.
“We have spoken to them on the phone. They are telling us that they are happy where they are and they are safe,” the head of the monitoring mission, Major-General Robert Mood, told reporters in Damascus.
“We are going to pick them up this morning.”
An FSA rebel in Khan Sheikhoun contacted by Reuters said the monitors were attending a funeral today for people killed in yesterday’s violence.
“They slept well and now they went with people taking part in the funeral to bury the martyrs,” he said. “We provided a phone for them and they spoke to Mood and he promised them cars from Damascus to pick them up.”
An internal UN document obtained by Reuters at the United Nations said that a total of six monitors were under rebel “protection” in a “friendly environment”.
Ahmad Fawzi, international mediator Kofi Annan’s spokesman, said the UN convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Khan Sheikhoun yesterday.
“Three UN vehicles were damaged but no UN personnel were hurt in this explosion. The mission has sent a patrol team to the area to help to extract those UN military observers,” he said in a statement.
Around 200 observers are in Syria to monitor implementation of an April 12 ceasefire agreement intended to stem the bloodshed in a 14-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebels and government forces alike have violated the ceasefire deal and activsts say hundreds of people have been killed since the middle of last month. — Reuters