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March 5, 2021

French journalist killed in Syria unrest

Opposition wants independent probe of the death, denies any connection.

DAMASCUS – 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, the BBC said. 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.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has called for full clarification of what happened. “We vigorously condemn this odious act,” he said in a statement. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said an investigation was needed. “The Syrian authorities have a responsibility to guarantee the safety of journalists in their country,” she said.

A major Syrian opposition group meanwhile said the killing illustrates the efforts of the Bashar al-Assad regime to intimidate media and called for an independent probe into the death, CNN reported. “The killing is indicative of the transition of the Syrian regime from preventing press from freely working and covering the events in Syria to killing journalists and media personnel, in an attempt to silence neutral and independent media sources,” the Syrian National Council said Thursday.

It also called for “the initiation of an independent investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the killing of Jacquier, in preparation for prosecuting those who committed the crimes and those who ordered commission of the crimes.”

The SNC is referring to the Arab League’s fact-finding mission, designed to see if the Syrian government is adhering to an agreement to end the violence. Arab League monitors are investigating the Jacquier incident. France’s ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, has also been to Homs to see the body and the site of the death.

Another opposition group, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, said security forces fired two shells from an infantry fighting vehicle at a crowd of journalists. “The journalists were attacked in a heavily militarized regime stronghold – it would be hugely difficult for any armed opposition to penetrate the area and launch such a deadly attack,” said Wissam Tarif, an Arab world campaigner with the activist group Avaaz.

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