Six international chemical weapons watchdog investigators along with their Syrian drivers have been kidnapped while on a fact-finding mission in the central province of Hama, the Syrian foreign ministry said Tuesday, AFP reported.
The ministry said terrorist groups had kidnapped five Syrian drivers and six members of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team investigating the use of chlorine gas.
The team had been investigating allegations that Syrian government forces had attacked a rebel-held village in Hama province last month with chemical weapons.
According to the ministry, the team went missing while travelling in two vehicles from government-held Teebet al-Imam to rebel-held Kafr Zita, the scene of the alleged attack.
The OPCW said late last month that it would send a fact-finding mission to probe the allegation that the regime in Damascus had used chlorine as a weapon in breach of its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The convention had been signed by the Syrian government last year, as part of a Russian and US brokered deal under which it pledged to destroy its chemical arsenal in entirety.
Syria was not required to declare its stockpile of chlorine a toxic but weak agent as the gas is widely used in commercial and domestic purposes.
Syria has meanwhile, accused rebel fighters of abducting the members of the joint OPCW / UN fact-finding team, which was traveling in the central province of Hama.
According to the OPCW "a convoy of OPCW inspectors and United Nations staff that was travelling to a site of an alleged chlorine gas attack" when it came it came under attack.
"All team members are safe and well and are traveling back to the operating base," it said in a statement. The organisation offered no further details.