THE HAGUE — The world’s chemical watchdog on Tuesday denied a report by the Syrian government that investigators and their drivers on a fact-finding mission were kidnapped, saying the group was “safe” and returning to base after an attack.
“All team members are safe and well and heading back to their operating base,” Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons spokesman Michael Luhan told AFP.
The Syrian foreign ministry reported earlier Tuesday that six investigators were kidnapped with their Syrian drivers while on a fact-finding mission in the central province of Hama.
Luhan said the team came under attack, but declined to give further details for security reasons.
The team had been investigating allegations that Syrian government forces unleashed a chlorine attack on a rebel-held village in Hama province last month.
The watchdog said late last month that it would deploy a fact-finding mission to probe the allegation that Damascus had used chlorine as a weapon in breach of its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Syrian government signed the convention last year as part of a Russian- and US-brokered deal under which it pledged to destroy all of its chemical arsenal.
Syria was not required to declare its stockpile of chlorine — a toxic but weak agent — as it is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes.
But its use for military purposes would still be a breach of Damascus’s undertakings under the convention.