UN observer team's car damaged in Syrian explosion

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A car belonging to UN monitors was damaged by an explosion in the central Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun yesterday.

No monitors were hurt, one of the observer team said. "We went to observe and after a while shooting occurred," he said, adding that the shooting was followed by the blast that damaged the car.

The seven-strong team had lost its vehicles and was trying to organise a safe return to its base, he said. without giving details. Another monitor said the team was with Free Syrian Army rebels.

Internet footage that activists said was filmed in Khan Sheikhoun showed a white car of the type used by UN monitors, with damage to its front which could have been caused by a blast or collision. "We are safe with the Free Army and we are waiting for a [UN] group to pick us up," the second monitor said.

The damage to the UN vehicle came as the splintered opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) re-elected the liberal Burhan Ghalioun as its president yesterday. Mr Ghalioun, a secular academic, has led the opposition in exile since the SNC's creation last year to oppose the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Some fellow activists have accused him of being out of touch with dissidents inside Syria and of failing to unify the movement.

The SNC's infighting and a lack of political coherence have made it struggle to win formal international recognition as the sole legitimate representative of the anti-Assad movement. But Mr Ghalioun, 67, enjoys the backing of the Gulf states and France, and is seen as a consensus figure in a group where Islamists, divided into factions, hold sway.