Roadside bombing illustrates danger faced by Syria monitors

BEIRUT -- A roadside bomb struck a military checkpoint in Syria on Wednesday morning just moments after a United Nations convoy had passed through, underscoring the danger faced by the international monitoring mission in a country where a cease-fire is not being observed.

A military truck following the convoy was struck and 10 soldiers were injured.

The convoy, which was not hit, was carrying the chief of the monitoring mission, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, and was headed to the town of Dara in southern Syria, where antigovernment protests first began more than a year ago.

“We have no evidence to believe that the explosion was intended to target the UNSMIS convoy,” said Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “However, this incident demonstrates the difficult and challenging conditions under which our United Nations observers are operating.”

The attack and similar incidents, Nesirky said in a statement, call into question the commitment of the government and opposition to the cease-fire agreement. As in previous bombings, it is not clear who was behind Wednesday’s blast.

“This was a graphic example of what the Syrian people are suffering on a daily basis and underlines the imperative for all forms of violence to stop,” Mood said. “We remain focused on the tasks mandated to our mission.”

By Friday,  Mood said, more than 100 military observers will be stationed in Syria as the mission continues to expand its presence across the country.

Though violence has not abated in the more than three weeks since monitors first arrived in Syria, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said this week that the observers have had a “calming effect.”

The attack came a day after Annan briefed the Security Council on the situation in Syria and warned that it could descend into a civil war. A peace plan, which he proposed and both sides had agreed to, remains the final opportunity to stabilize the country, Annan said.

He said that violations of the cease-fire and peace plan continue, including a worrisome spate of bombings.

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--Times Staff

 
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