Gunfire in Syrian town during U.N. visit

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2012 9:33 AM
Gunfire in Syrian town during U.N. visit

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Shooting broke out on Wednesday in a Syrian town during a visit by United Nations monitors, Syrian state media and activists said.

Ikhbariya television channel also said a "terrorist group" had planted a bomb at a checkpoint, wounding a member of the Syrian security forces.

It was not clear whether the shooting or bombing, in Erbin in Damascus province, occurred in the presence of the monitors.

An Internet video which activists said was filmed in Erbin showed a crowd of people running away down a street and the sound of automatic weapons fire could be heard.

There are as yet only half a dozen U.N. monitors in Syria, led by Moroccan Colonel Ahmet Himmiche. On Tuesday they made a trip south to the city of Deraa apparently without incident.

On Wednesday they went to Erbin, on the outskirts of Damascus, in two white Land Cruisers with U.N. markings, escorted by Syrian police cars and were mobbed by flag-waving demonstrators protesting against President Bashar al-Assad.

A banner was plastered on the rear of one U.N. cars that read: "The butcher continues killings, the observers continue observing, and the people continue with their revolution. We only bow to God."

Himmiche walked through the tight throng wearing a U.N. blue beret and flak-jacket and got into his vehicle where he spoke on a loud-hailer, apparently asking the crowd to move back and let the cars move out.

It was not clear where the shooting incident occurred in relation to the U.N. visitors.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)