Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Syria attack kills at least 21; rebels say protect U.N. monitors

In this image made from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network and accessed Tuesday, May 15, 2012, purports to show a wounded Syrian man at a makeshift clinic in Idlib, Khan Sheikhoun, Syria. A team of international observers were evacuated Wednesday from a tense town in northern Syria a day after their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb, a U.N. spokesman said. The team's vehicles were struck by the blast Tuesday during a mission in the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun. (AP Photo)
BEIRUT (Reuters) - At least 21 people were killed on Tuesday in an attack in northern Syria, activists said, and members of a team of U.N. monitors caught in the incident said they were in rebel hands "for their own protection."

When Reuters asked one of the four monitors by phone if they were being held prisoner, he said: "We are safe with the (rebel) Free Army."

A spokesman for the rebel military council said the rebels were working on a safe exit for the monitors. An internal U.N. document obtained by Reuters said that a total of six monitors were under rebel "protection" in a "friendly environment."

"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 Major Sami al-Kurdi told Reuters.

"We will get them out tomorrow," he said later. The internal U.N. document confirmed the U.N. team in Syria "will conduct a patrol to pick up the mentioned UNMOs (observers)" on Wednesday.

Each side blamed the other for the attack in Khan Sheikhoun in northern Idlib province.

Some rebel and opposition sources put the death toll from the attack as high as 66.