Syria: Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin killed in ‘targeted attack’ by Syrian forces
Marie Colvin, the veteran Sunday Times war correspondent, has been killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, triggering suspicions that a makeshift media centre was deliberately targeted by regime forces.
Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times Photo: GETTY
Colvin, an American reporter for the British newspaper, and photographer Remi Ochlik both died in the attack, the French government said.
Eyewitnesses claimed the two journalists were killed by a rocket as they fled from a building that had been shelled by Syrian government forces.
Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister, said the journalists had been "pursued as they tried to flee the bombardment".
Reporters working in Homs, which was been under siege since Feb 4, have become increasingly concerned in recent days that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have “locked on” to their satellite phone signals and targeted the buildings they are coming from.
Abu Abdu al-Homsi, an opposition activist, said the Syrian Army had cut phone lines into the city and were bombing any buildings where they detected mobile phone signals.
A video posted on YouTube by opposition fighters purported to show the aftermath of the attack on the house, with two unidentified bodies lying in the rubble.
At least two other Western journalists – including the British photographer Paul Conroy who was on an assignment with Colvin – were reportedly wounded after more than 10 rockets hit the house.
Colvin, who had worn a black eye patch since losing an eye to a shrapnel wound while working in Sri Lanka in 2001, was the only journalist from a British newspaper in Homs.
She accused Assad’s forces of “murder” and said it was “a complete and utter lie that they are only targeting terrorists…the Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.”
Colvin was reportedly staying next to a hospital in a house that was widely known to have been set up as a makeshift press centre by opposition supporters.
Yesterday she visited the hospital and described seeing a baby die there after he had been struck in the chest by shrapnel.
In a report published in the Sunday Times over the weekend, Colvin spoke of the citizens of Homs "waiting for a massacre".
"The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one," she wrote.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, was among the first to pay tribute to her.
He said: "“I am deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news that Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik have been killed while reporting, with great bravery, from Homs in Syria. I offer my heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and colleagues as they face this devastating loss.
“Marie Colvin embodied the highest values of journalism throughout her long and distinguished career as a foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times. For years she shined a light on stories that others could not and placed herself in the most dangerous environments to do so, including suffering injuries while reporting in Sri Lanka. She was utterly dedicated to her work, admired by all of us who encountered her, and respected and revered by her peers. Her tragic death is a terrible reminder of the risks that journalists take to report the truth.
“It is also a terrible reminder of the suffering of the Syrian people – scores of whom are dying every day. Marie and Remi died bringing us the truth about what is happening to the people of Homs. Governments around the world have the responsibility to act upon that truth – and to redouble our efforts to stop the Assad regime’s despicable campaign of terror in Syria.”
Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, also paid tribute to the “extraordinary” journalist.
He said: “Just yesterday, after she filed her news story, one of the first things Marie Colvin did was get in touch to tell me just how horrible the situation was in Homs. It was vintage Marie Colvin–I could just imagine her happily chatting away with me as the shells fell around her building, and being totally in her element. She was one of the most fearless and dedicated… reporters I have ever met, and someone I looked up to as a hero and an inspiration.
“For Marie, covering war wasn’t about doing a few quick interviews and writing up a quick story: she experienced war alongside those who suffered in war, and her writings had a particular vividness because of what she had dared to see and experience.”
In 2010, Colvin spoke about the dangers of reporting on war zones at a Fleet Street ceremony honouring fallen journalists, at which she was introduced to the Duchess of Cornwall.
She said: "Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers, children.
"Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice.
"We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado?
"Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price."
On Tuesday night Colvin, who was in her fifties, also appeared on Channel 4 and ITV news bulletins, reporting on the bombardment of the opposition stronghold.
Ochlik was born in France in 1983 and first covered conflict in Haiti at the age of 20. Most recently he photographed the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Earlier this month, he won first prize in the general news stories category of the World Press Photo contest for images taken during the Libyan conflict.
Omar Shaker, an opposition activist, told the Reuters news agency that Colvin and Ochlik were killed in the Baba Amr district of Homs.
He said that as well as Mr Conroy being injured, a female American journalist was in a very serious condition.
"Up to this point we have two dead. They are still under the rubble because the shelling hasn’t stopped. No one can get close to the house.
"There is another American female journalist who is in a really serious condition, she really needs urgent care."
Pro-opposition areas of Homs have been under a sustained bombardment from government forces since February 3, leaving several hundred people dead.
Colvin, who was married three times, won the British press award for Best Foreign Correspondent on two occasions, as well as awards from the International Women’s Media Foundation.
The journalist from Oyster Bay, New York, specialised in the Arab and Persian world but also worked in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka.
Last week New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died of an asthma attack while trying to reach an opposition zone.