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French journalist, civilians killed in gunmen attack in Syria's Homs


08:29, January 12, 2012

DAMASCUS, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- A total of nine people, including a French journalist, were killed on Wednesday afternoon and dozens of others wounded after a group of unidentified gunmen fired against a crowd in Syria's central province of Homs.

Earlier reports put the number of fatal victims at eight.

According to the official SANA news agency, on Wednesday afternoon, the terrorists fired mortars on a group of foreign journalists who were inspecting in the Ekrima neighborhood in the city of Homs, the capital of Homs province, a hotspot in the months-old Syrian crisis.

Among the dead is Gilles Jacquier, a journalist from the French television channel France 2. Meanwhile, a Belgian reporter, who was severely wounded, was taken to a local hospital together with the other injured. Local media has yet to give details on the other killed and wounded, but said a number of civilians were attacked as well.

Ghassan Abdul-Al, the governor of Homs, told Xinhua by phone that the attack took place as a crowd of local people "were giving their testimonies on the events in Homs to foreign journalists."

Abul-Al called it "an appalling crime that targeted civilians and journalists." But he also made it clear that the group of foreign journalists went independently to Homs and requested to be alone and move freely without protection from the government.

The Syrian Information Ministry expressed on late Wednesday its deep grief and regret over the deadly attack. It condemned the incident, saying that the attack came in the context of the terrorist attempts to cover the true picture of what is happening in Syria, according to SANA.

In Paris, French Foreign Minster Alain Juppe immediately condemned in strong words the killing of Jacquier, who is the first Western journalist that was killed in Syria since the unrest began in March last year.

"We vigorously condemned this odious act," Juppe said in a statement, adding that "we demand an investigation so that the circumstances of this tragedy be clarified."

Juppe urged the Syrian authorities to conduct its duty to protect foreign journalists in the country, and noted that the French ambassador in Damascus would arrive at the scene immediately.

Homs, Syria's third largest city and home to about 800,000 people, has witnessed fierce clashes between troops loyal to Syria 's President Bashar al-Assad and militia groups, allegedly comprising of Syrian army defectors.

The daily grind of violence stocked fears that Homs, one of Syria's most volatile areas, has slid toward a civil war.

The government says that the turmoil in Syria is plotted by terrorists and foreign-backed armed gangs.


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