A U.N. security team came under fire in Syria while doing reconnaissance for inspectors to visit sites of a suspected chemical weapons attack, and officials said it was no longer clear when the inspectors would be able to go in.
The inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are in Syria to investigate an April 7 incident in which Western countries and rescue workers say scores of civilians were gassed to death by government forces.
OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) had decided to carry out reconnaissance at two sites in the town of Douma before the inspectors would visit them.
“On arrival at site one, a large crowd gathered and the advice provided by the UNDSS was that the reconnaissance team should withdraw,” he told a meeting at the watchdog’s headquarters in remarks it later released. “At site two, the team came under small arms fire and an explosive was detonated. The reconnaissance team returned to Damascus.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis blamed the Syrian government for delays in inspectors reaching the sites and said it has a history of trying to “clean up the evidence before the investigation team gets in.”
“We are very much aware of the delay that the regime imposed on that delegation but we are also very much aware of how they have operated in the past and seal what they have done using chemical weapons,” Mattis said before the start of a…