Syrian forces capture town near chemical weapons site - group

Syrian forces capture town near chemical weapons site - group
A Fighter from Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra poses at a checkpoint in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr, October 26, 2013.

BEIRUT - Syrian government forces have captured a northern town located near a site linked to the country's chemical weapons programme after days of heavy fighting, a monitoring group said.

The town, Safira, is also located on a strategic road that could be used to relieve government-controlled areas of Aleppo, a major nearby city. It had been controlled by rebels including some from units linked to al Qaeda.

"Government forces took control of the strategic Safira city after days of clashes and heavy shelling," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Observatory, which has a network of sources across Syria, did not give further details and there was no immediate comment on the reports in Syrian state media.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has teams in Syria to eliminate the country's chemical weapons, has said its teams were unable to reach two sites for inspection because they were too dangerous.

The OPCW has not said which locations it had been unable to inspect, but a source briefed on their operations said one was at Safira, which is southeast of Aleppo.

The chemical weapons site itself has been under government control but emptied of equipment because of fighting nearby, the OPCW said.

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