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Syria Chlorine Investigators Unharmed From Attack

A Syrian rebel fighter keeps watch over an Aleppo neighborhood on Sunday. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said an inspection crew was safe after coming under attack in Syria. A Syrian rebel fighter keeps watch over an Aleppo neighborhood on Sunday. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said an inspection crew was safe after coming under attack in Syria. (Zein al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images)

The world's chemical-arms watchdog said its investigators were unharmed after facing an assault in war-divided Syria, the Associated Press reports.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons affirmed the crew's status on Tuesday, shortly after President Bashar Assad's government said opposition forces had abducted part of the group. The inspectors were looking into reports of recent attacks involving chlorine, a toxic industrial substance not included in the chemical arsenal Damascus agreed last year to relinquish.

"All team members are safe and well and heading back to their operating base," OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told Agence France-Presse.

The agency did not explain the regime's assertion that opposition forces had kidnapped part of the team, according to AP. The group reportedly had 11 members and included OPCW and U.N. personnel, as well as vehicle operators from inside the country.

The state-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency said the team came under attack after leaving behind a government escort to reach the town of Kfar Zeita, the site of several alleged chlorine-gas attacks. The Syrian foreign ministry said a bomb destroyed one of the team's four vehicles and assailants seized two others, after local rebels had agreed to a 10-hour cease-fire to facilitate the OPCW investigation.

Just one of the vehicles reached Kfar Zeita, according to the government in Damascus.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said international authorities likely would continue operations in Syria "for a finite period" following an end-of-June deadline for destroying the Assad regime's chemical arsenal, RIA Novosti reported.

The additional time would enable officials "to put in place appropriate successor arrangements for OPCW to continue any residual in-country verification activities beyond this period," Ban said in a Friday statement to the U.N. Security Council.

Syria's government agreed to surrender its chemical weapons last year, after an August nerve-agent attack in rebel territory provoked military threats from abroad.

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