MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti) – An 11-member team dispatched to Syria by the UN chemical weapons watchdog has been kidnapped, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday citing Syrian authorities.
"Eleven people – five Syrian drivers and six other members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons team who were on board two vehicles – have been kidnapped," the agency said, citing an official statement.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday that 11 people, including six members of a UN fact-finding mission, had been abducted by armed groups in central Syria, the Associated Press reported.
The reports indicated that the kidnapping took place in the countryside around Hama in central Syria on Tuesday. The ministry blamed the abduction on rebels struggling to oust President Bashar Assad, accusing them of committing "terrorist crimes" against US staff and the OPCW.
OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan refused to comment on the report.
Earlier this month, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) deployed a mission of experts to investigate claims of a chemical weapons attack in the militant-held village of Kafr Zeita in Syria’s Hama province in April.
The Syrian government agreed to aid the mission and provide security in areas under its control.
Media reports at the time claimed that at least two people were killed and about 100 injured in a chlorine gas attack on Kafr Zeita.
The Syrian government implicated an al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group, al-Nusra Front, in the attack. Opposition groups claimed, however, that government planes had bombed the town with explosive barrels that produced thick smoke, causing suffocation and poisoning.