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U.N. team attacked by gunfire at Syria chemical site

By Susan McFarland
U.N. team attacked by gunfire at Syria chemical site
U.N. vehicles carrying a Fact-Finding Mission team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrive in Damascus, Syria, Saturday. The team was met with gunfire Tuesday when they tried to enter Douma, delaying efforts to investigate the site of a suspected chemical attack. Photo by Youssef Badawi/EPA-EFE

April 18 (UPI) -- A United Nations reconnaissance team was met with gunfire when they tried to enter the site of a suspected chemical attack in Syria -- delaying the arrival of independent inspectors.

After they were fired upon, the team members retreated to Damascus. No one was injured in the Tuesday attack, one U.N. official said.

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"As a result, we are continuing to evaluate conditions on the ground," the official told United Press International Wednesday.

A report from state-run Syrian news organization SANA said investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had entered Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, on Tuesday.

RELATED Russia: Chemical inspectors allowed access to Syria attack site

The OPCW, however, said its team has not yet reached Douma. The organization said inspectors will enter the site once it's been cleared by the U.N. Department of Safety and Security.

A statement said the U.N. recon team "came under small arms fire and an explosive was detonated."

RELATED Russia: Chemical inspectors allowed access to Syria attack site

The OPCW said the team will continue to work with Syria's National Authority, local councils in Douma and Russian Military Police to review the security situation.

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"At present, we do not know when [our fact-finding] team can be deployed to Douma," the OPCW said. "This incident again highlights the highly volatile environment in which the [team] is having to work and the security risks our staff are facing."

Tuesday, Russian defense commander Igor Kirillov said investigators could access the site.

More than 70 people died in the April 7 attack -- which ultimately drew a military response from the United States, Britain and France. Russia and Iran, both allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have condemned the strikes and Moscow has suggested the strike was "staged."

RELATED Assad calls Syria air strikes act of 'American aggression'

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