October 26, 2020

2 wounded Western journalists escape from Syria

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BEIRUT (AP) — Two wounded Western journalists escaped from Syria Tuesday after being trapped for days in the besieged central city of Homs, activist groups said. Thirteen Syrian activists who were helping smuggle out at least one of the reporters were killed in the operation, one of the groups said.

The global activist group Avaaz said it helped smuggle British photographer Paul Conroy across the border into neighboring Lebanon. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said French journalist Edith Bouvier had also been evacuated, but it was not immediately clear how she got out and where she was taken.

“I’m glad that this nightmare is over,” Sarkozy said.

The two were injured last week in a government rocket attack on the rebel-controlled neighborhood of Baba Amr in central Homs. Two other Western journalists — American Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the same attack. Their bodies and two other uninjured foreign reporters — Frenchman William Daniels and Spaniard Javier Espinosa — may still be in Homs.

Their harrowing ordeal shined a light on the horrors of life under siege in Homs, a stronghold for government opponents waging an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian rule. Hundreds have been killed in more than three weeks of relentless shelling of the city, many of them dying when they ventured out to forage for food as a humanitarian crisis grew more dire by the day.

A top U.N. official released a new death toll for the 11-month-old uprising, saying well over 7,500 people have been killed and the conflict looked increasingly like civil war. Activist groups said Monday that the death toll had surpassed 8,000.

Just days after Western and Arab nations met in Tunisia to forge a strategy on how to push Assad from power, Tunisia’s president said Tuesday he was ready to offer asylum to the Syrian leader as part of a negotiated solution to the conflict.

However the chances of Assad accepting such an offer are close to nil.

The U.N. human rights chief said the situation in Syria has deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

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