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UN opens probe into Syria aid convoy attack

Omar Haj Kadour, AFP | Aid debris in the town of Orum al-Kubra on the western outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, on September 20, 2016, the morning after an aid convoy was hit by a deadly air strike

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday announced he is setting up a board of inquiry to investigate the bombing of an aid convoy in Syria last week that killed 18 people.

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US officials have said that Russian planes carried out the air strikes on September 19 that hit the 31-truck convoy bringing aid to a town west of the besieged city of Aleppo.

Moscow has denied the accusation and the Russian military is carrying out its own investigation of the bombing that destroyed 18 trucks and damaged a warehouse.

The internal UN panel "will ascertain the facts of the incident" and report to Ban, who will "decide what further steps to take," said a UN statement.

Ban urged all sides to fully cooperate with the probe.

The United Nations has warned that the attack on the aid convoy could amount to a war crime.

UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council on Thursday that the area around the convoy that was "clearly marked UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent" became a "killing zone" during two hours of heavy bombing.

The strikes on the convoy in Urum al-Kubra claimed the life of the local head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Omar Barakat, as well as 12 volunteers and five drivers.

Another 15 drivers were wounded, many civilians were killed and wounded, and the warehouse as well as a nearby medical clinic severely damaged, O'Brien said.

The aid chief stressed that all actors on the ground were informed of the convoy's movement in line with UN procedures for all deliveries of humanitarian assistance.

"We do not yet have all the details," O'Brien said. "However, it is not too early to make clear the consequences of this shameful attack."

"If the attackers knew of the humanitarian convoy and intentionally directed an attack against it, they committed a war crime."

The bombing of the aid convoy took place just hours after the Syrian military announced the end of a week-long ceasefire negotiated by Russia and the United States.

That decision came in response to a US coalition air strike on a Syrian army base that killed dozens of soldiers and which Washington said was unintentional.

(AFP)

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