French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier has been killed in the Syrian city of Homs, the first Western journalist to die in the country’s current unrest.
He was on a government-authorised trip to the city, the France 2 channel said.
Syrian TV said Jacquier was among eight killed. A colleague said that minutes earlier they had interviewed some people at a pro-government gathering.
Opposition groups say 15 people died around the country on Wednesday, including three in Homs.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has called for full clarification of what happened.
“We vigorously condemn this odious act,” he said in a statement.
The Syrian authorities have severely restricted access to foreign journalists since the unrest began last March.
Observers arrived in Syria in December to monitor an Arab League peace plan, but the killing has continued. Several.Arab League monitors have quit, and one, Anwar Malek, gave an interview revealing his anger at the Syrian regime, saying he can no longer remain silent about what he’s witnessed, and at least one more is threatening to quit.
The league said on Wednesday it was delaying sending more monitors after an attack on an observer team earlier in the week, Reuters news agency reported.
Eleven observers were slightly injured in the attack, in the port city of Latakia.
At the scene
We were following civilian Syrian people who wanted to show us victims of the terror, of shootings. At a certain time a grenade got at a building – you could see the smoke.
And so most of us and also the Syrian people ran to an apartment building. The moment I got in, my French colleague was around 20m or 30m behind me. I got into the building, I was running up the stairs and other grenades were hitting, and it was very close so the glass got shattered…
I got into one of the apartments and tried to shelter there for a couple of minutes… Then I was running down and I saw the body of Gilles laying there. In the next couple of minutes you could see some other bodies. We just tried to get in a car and out of there because it was really dangerous. I’m quite sure I heard some shooting as well.
Jacquier, 43, was part of a group of 15 foreign journalists being shown around a part of Homs and speaking to locals.
One of his colleagues said they were escorted by soldiers and police, and were in a part of the flashpoint city where street life was relatively normal with some shops open.
A grenade fell close to them minutes after they had spoken to some young people and they fled into a nearby building, he told the BBC. More grenades hit the building causing casualties.
“There was smoke everywhere, people started screaming and yelling. There was complete chaos,” he said.
Jacquier was behind him when he went into the building, but he saw him lying dead a few minutes later, he added.
At least one other European journalist was wounded, reports say. Dutch officials and media said a Dutch journalist was hurt.
The area of the attack is inhabited by members of the Alawite sect and therefore considered to be mainly pro-government. No opposition supporters have given an account of the incident.
Jacquier is described as a veteran award-winning journalist who covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, and between Israel and the Palestinians.
His mission in Syria was to make a documentary film on the protests.
- Ex-Arab League monitor slams Syria mission – CNN (edition.cnn.com)
- Syria unrest: French journalist Gilles Jacquier killed (BBC)
- Syria mission a ‘farce,’ says ex-Arab League monitor (cbc.ca)
- Arab League monitor quits Syria in disgust (telegraph.co.uk)
- Exclusive: Second Arab monitor may quit Syria – Reuters (reuters.com)