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UN observers return to base in Syria following bomb blast which damaged vehicles

BEIRUT |, with agencies - May 17, 2012, 11h03
A group of UN military observers who stayed overnight in the Syrian town of Khan Cheikhoun, following a bomb blast which damaged some of their vehicles, have returned to their team site, a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“None of the observers were injured or hurt, they stayed in the area overnight and they were able, this morning, to leave and go back to their headquarters in Hama,” a spokesperson for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Hassan Siklawi, said in an interview.

The three damaged vehicles were part of a four-vehicle UNSMIS convoy which was in Khan Cheikhoun, near Hama, when an improvised explosive device was detonated nearby around mid-afternoon local time on Tuesday. Mr. Siklawi added that the damaged vehicles would be recovered.

UNSMIS, authorized by the Security Council last month, is mandated to have up to 300 unarmed military observers and deployed for an initial period of 90 days. It has two set tasks: to monitor the cessation of armed of armed violence in all its forms and to monitor and support the implementation of a six-point peace plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan.

The crisis in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 9,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.

Mr. Siklawi also noted that the number of observers on the ground has reached 263, with 71 civilian staff, bringing the total number of UNSMIS personnel to 334.

“We're deployed in many places, such as Homs, Hama, Idlib, Deraa, Aleppo and Deir el Zour. There's also a team working in Rif Dimashq,” Mr. Siklawi said. “The military observers and the civilian staff belong to 53 countries.”

Mr. Annan’s plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
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