Marie Colvin's body en route to Damascus

 

The body of a British journalist killed in Syria was being taken to Damascus tonight after being handed over by the Syrian authorities, a charity said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the bodies of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, who were killed in a rocket attack in the besieged Baba Amr area of the city of Homs last week, were en route to the Syrian capital.

Earlier today, Prime Minister David Cameron vowed that Syrians involved in "butchering" their own people would face a "day of reckoning", adding that supporters of President Bashar Assad's "criminal regime" have blood on their hands.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: "We have been in touch with the Sunday Times and they are making arrangements for repatriation with the relevant authorities."

Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels at which Syria was high on the agenda, Mr Cameron described the situation in Homs as "a scene of medieval barbarity".

The Prime Minister urged China and Russia to end their support for the Syrian government, calling on them to "look hard at the suffering" in the city, where rebels have faced a bloody crackdown from Assad's forces.

"The Assad regime is butchering its own people. The history of Homs is being written in the blood of its citizens," said Mr Cameron.

"We will make sure, as we did in Serbia, that there is a day of reckoning for those responsible.

"So I have a clear message for those in authority in Syria: make a choice, turn your back on this criminal regime or face justice for the blood that is on your hands."

Immediate humanitarian access to the city - as demanded last night by the United Nations Security Council - was "the very least that must happen to bring immediate relief to those who are wounded or dying".

The International Committee of the Red Cross today said it was "unacceptable" that an aid convoy it has sent to Homs is being denied access to the Baba Amr district, which has borne the brunt of the 26-day siege.

ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger said: "It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help. We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amr in the very near future."

Russia and China, which vetoed an Arab-backed peace plan last month, are continuing to resist pressure to join global condemnation of human rights violations by the Assad regime.

However, they have backed a UN statement criticising the regime's refusal to allow UN humanitarian chief Baroness Amos access to Syria to inspect the aftermath of 11 months of violent repression.

"I say to the Russians and the Chinese: look hard at the suffering of Syria and think again about supporting this criminal regime," said Mr Cameron.

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin denied that Moscow had any special relationship with Damascus and said the Syrians must choose who governs them.

"When Bashar al-Assad came to power he visited London and other European capitals first," he told The Times. "We don't have a special relationship with Syria.

"It is up to the Syrians to decide who should run their country. We need to make sure they stop killing each other."

Efforts to document the atrocities by Assad loyalists were backed by the European Council in its summit communique.

More than 7,500 civilians have been killed so far in the crackdown, the UN estimates, and its top human rights body voted to condemn Syria for "widespread and systematic violations" though without Russian or Chinese support.

Rebel forces last night made what they described as a "tactical retreat" from the Baba Amr area, which has become emblematic of the bitter struggle.

In a statement issued through the Syrian Embassy in London today, Assad's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed "sadness and sorrow at the tragedy that befell the American journalist Marie Colvin".

The statement said that the Syrian authorities had "exerted immense efforts to find out the circumstances under which Miss Colvin was killed and to take out the bodies in order to deliver them to the relevant authorities in their countries".

And it blamed insurgents for delaying the removal of the bodies and wounded journalists from Homs, and said that some of the reporters had themselves refused the offer of evacuation to Damascus by the Syrian Red Crescent and ICRC.

"Syria reiterates that it will deliver on all its commitments in relation to this humanitarian issue as long as the sovereignty of Syria and its territorial integrity are ensured," said the statement.

France has announced it is closing its embassy in Syria.

PA

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit