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Syrian Regime, Opponents Trade Blame for Attack on Chlorine Investigators

A Syrian living in Jordan demonstrates against Syria's presidential election at a Wednesday protest in Amman. The Syrian government and its opposition traded blame for an attack on a team investigating alleged chlorine strikes in the nation's civil war. A Syrian living in Jordan demonstrates against Syria's presidential election at a Wednesday protest in Amman. The Syrian government and its opposition traded blame for an attack on a team investigating alleged chlorine strikes in the nation's civil war. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's regime exchanged accusations with opponents for ambushing a team looking into alleged chlorine attacks in the country, the New York Times reports.

The world's chemical-arms watchdog said a driver received wounds during the Tuesday strike, in which a roadside bomb hit one of three vehicles transporting inspectors through rebel-occupied territory. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Wednesday said the group had been traveling toward Kfar Zeita, the site of several chlorine-gas attacks reported in Syria's civil war.

The bombed car's passengers moved into the remaining two vehicles, and the team then attempted a retreat. They came under gunfire, though, and armed men took them into custody until the area's "main opposition group" secured their release, according to the organization.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü condemned the attack as a bid to prevent investigators from establishing facts about the alleged use of chlorine gas as a weapon in Syria, his agency said in a press release. The toxic industrial substance is not among the warfare chemicals that President Bashar Assad's government is giving up under a plan devised last year.

The chemical-watchdog agency said its team returned to Damascus with regime guards after the incident. "While the situation is assessed, the OPCW fact-finding mission will continue its work by closely monitoring the situation and using all possible means to gather information and data" on alleged chlorine strikes, the organization stated.

An opposition military officer, though, said part of the inspection team completed its trip to Kfar Zeita on Tuesday, the Daily Star reported. Regime opponents released footage that appeared to show two U.N. vehicles in the village, and an international official conferring with rebels, according to the newspaper.

A local medical expert said the international crew was expected to meet with victims of alleged chlorine attacks, and to receive related written records.

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