Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Syria attacks: 'If the regime wanted to prove Homs was safe, it failed ...'

French journalist among dead after convoy is attacked on official trip to war-hit city

Ian Black in Homs, Wednesday 11 January 2012

"It was a trip Syria's ministry of information had gone to some lengths to arrange: taking foreign journalists to Homs, where government forces are fighting an opposition they call armed terrorists. But if the regime minders had been hoping to portray a city under government control yesterday, then they most certainly failed. The death of an acclaimed French television correspondent was a stark reminder of what are routine dangers for ordinary people in the war in Syria.

Gilles Jacquier of France 2 was killed along with eight Syrians when mortar bombs or grenades impacted near them. Jacquier was the first western journalist to die in what is currently the bloodiest chapter of the Arab spring as President Bashar al-Assad continues his brutal crackdown.....

The Guardian was also in Homs on Wednesday, but in a separate group from Jacquier, and until a few minutes before the attack had been at the place where he died, near the al-Ahali hospital in the Ikrameh quarter. Film of the incident shot by the pro-regime Addounia TV showed chaotic scenes as the injured were carried into cars and taxis. One of Jacquier's companions said a grenade fell close to the journalists after they had spoken to some young people and fled into a building. A Dutch journalist was among more than 25 people who were injured....

Earlier, the journalists had been given a selective tour of Homs, skirting areas deemed dangerous, such as Baba Amr and Khalidiyeh. The itinerary seemed designed to deliver a uniformly pro-government account of life in Syria's third largest city. Many people in the centre of the town were members of the Alawite community, backbone of the Assad regime......

Wednesday's attack came two days after Arab League monitors were attacked in the Syrian port city of Latakia, with 11 monitors sustaining injuries. An league official said it would delay sending more monitors to the country. A second monitor was also reported to be considering quitting the mission.

If the monitoring mission fails, pressure seems certain to mount to refer Syria to the UN security council, where it has so far been protected from punitive action by its ally Russia, still angry over the Nato-led intervention in Libya."

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