UN mission to Syria comes under attack in Idlib (+video)
An IED went off yesterday in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, damaging a UN observer convoy and killing at least 20 locals, but no UN observers. The government and opposition blame each other.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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Several observers were traveling through the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a vehicle convoy yesterday when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off. At least 20 people were killed in the explosion and the UN vehicles were damaged, but none of the observers were killed, the BBC reports. The government and the opposition are blaming the attack, which happened while the convoy was surrounded by anti-government protesters, on each other.
The monitors were unable to be removed from the city immediately, so they spent the night under the protection of the Free Syrian Army, an armed faction of the opposition.
"They are now with the Free Army, which is protecting them. If they leave, the regime will terminate them because they have witnessed one of its crimes and it does not want them to tell the truth," rebel Maj. Sami al-Kurdi told Reuters.
The New York Times reports that eyewitnesses reached via Skype said a large crowd was gathered for a funeral for a man killed by government forces two days earlier when the UN convoy passed through, headed toward a part of the town where government forces are concentrated to survey checkpoints there.
Emboldened by the presence of the monitors, some residents started demonstrating nearer to the checkpoints and the government area than they normally would. When they were at close range, the soldiers opened fire, the eyewitnesses said, and somewhere in the fracas the distinctive white United Nations vehicles were heavily damaged. An amateur video posted online showed the lead vehicle lurching and then listing, its front hood blown open, after a loud bang sent up a cloud of dust.