A French cameraman was killed today in Syria during a government-authorized trip to the restive city of Homs, the first Western journalist to be slain since the country's uprising began 10 months ago, officials said.
Gilles Jacquier, 43, worked for France-2 TV Television. According to a
reporter who was on the media trip, the group was hit by several
grenades. Up to six Syrian civilians also were killed, but the figure
could not be confirmed, activists said.
"France 2 Television has just learned with great pain about the death of reporter Gilles Jacquier in Homs, Syria, in circumstances that must still be clarified," the network said.
A Dutch freelance journalist also was wounded in Homs, a Dutch Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. She said the man was treated in a local hospital and released.
The circumstances of Wednesday's violence were unclear, but reporter Jens Franssen said he was among about 15 journalists who were taken on a tour of the city. "At some point, three or four (grenade) shells hit, very close to us," he told the Belgian VRT network.
French foreign minister Alain Juppe said Jacquier had been killed "in an attack" in Homs.
"It's up to Syrian authorities to ensure the security of international journalists on their territory, and to protect this fundamental liberty which is the freedom of information," he said in a statement.
Jacquier had reported over the years from violence-wracked places like Afghanistan, Gaza, Congo, Iraq and Yemen — most recently for the investigative program Special Envoy.
Thierry Thuillier, news director of France Televisions, the parent station of France-2, said Jacquier appeared to have been killed by a mortar or rocket as part of a series of attacks. Thuillier was speaking to French TV BFM.
Several Syrian journalists have been killed or tortured as they tried to cover the uprising, which has proven the most severe challenge to President Bashar Assad's 40-year family dynasty.
The revolt has become increasingly violent in recent months, with the regime and the opposition blaming each other for several mysterious attacks. After three blasts in the capital, Damascus, since 23 December, the government has blamed "terrorists" and said the bloodshed backed up its claim that the uprising was the work of terrorists and conspirators.
The opposition denied that and demands independent investigations. They say the regime itself is likely behind the violence, as a way to tarnish the uprising.