Colvin 'deliberately targeted' for reporting on Syrian killings

Feb 23, 2012

Syrian forces may have 'locked on' to western journalists' satellite phone signals

AS THE FOREIGN OFFICE demanded Syria's co-operation in repatriating the bodies of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and the French photographer Remi Ochlik who died alongside her in Homs yesterday, reports suggest the two died as a result of direct orders to murder Western journalists.

"President Bashar al-Assad's army was so determined to silence reporters who were telling the world about the relentless killing of civilians in the besieged city of Homs that they pledged to kill any journalist who set foot on Syrian soil," The Daily Telegraph reports.

Colvin and Ochlik died instantly when they were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. They were just leaving the building they and others were using as a makeshift press centre in Homs after it had been shelled. Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister, said they had been "pursued as they tried to flee the bombardment".

"It appears that the building was targeted deliberately," The Times reports. "Syrian activists said that it was hit by more than ten shells, and last week its top floor was destroyed by rockets."

Colvin died only hours after appearing on British television on Tuesday night when she described the bloodshed in Homs as "absolutely sickening" and accused Assad's forces of "murder". It was, she said, "a complete and utter lie that they are only targeting terrorists… the Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians".

Sources in Damascus told the Telegraph that President Assad would have been able to see Colvin's broadcasts – which might have sealed her fate.

Other journalists working in Homs had become concerned that the Syrian army had "locked on" to their satellite phone signals. A Parisian journalist, Jean-Pierre Perrin, said the Syrians were "fully aware" that the press centre was broadcasting direct evidence of crimes against humanity, including the murdering of women and children. The other journalists were advised to leave the city immediately because "if they [the Syrian army] find you they will kill you".

He and Colvin took the advice and left - "but she wanted to go back when she saw that the major offensive had not yet taken place".

The Sunday Times reporter's mother, Rosemary Colvin, said her daughter had been due to leave Syria the day she died after her paper ordered her to leave because the situation had become too dangerous. "She had to stay," said her mother. "She wanted to finish one more story."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a multinational Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis tomorrow to discuss, among other proposals, a French plan for a humanitarian air corridor and tougher sanctions against Assad's regime. Most nations remain opposed to military intervention.

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