PARIS: The body of a French journalist killed in Syria returned to France on Friday amid reports authorities here suspect President Bashar al-Assad's regime may have been behind his killing.
Gilles Jacquier, a 43-year-old reporter with France 2 public television, was killed Wednesday during a government-organized trip to Homs, a flashpoint for anti-regime protests that have rocked Syria for the last 10 months.
A plane carrying his body arrived at Bourget airport near Paris and was met by Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand, according to footage from French public television.
Damascus said on Thursday that it will investigate his death, which the Syrian opposition said was the result of an orchestrated attack aimed at preventing journalists from covering the protests.
French daily Le Figaro on Friday quoted a source close to President Nicolas Sarkozy implicating the Syrian regime in his death.
"We are inclined to believe this was an underhanded maneuver," the source said, adding however that there was no proof Jacquier's death was intentional.
"The Syrian authorities were the only ones who knew that a group of Western journalists were visiting Homs that day and in which neighborhood they could be found," the source said.
"We can believe this was an unfortunate accident. But it certainly works out well for a regime that is seeking to discourage foreign journalists and demonize the rebellion," the source said.
Jacquier was the first Western reporter to die in Syria since the anti-regime protests erupted.
An AFP photographer said he was killed when a shell exploded among some 15 journalists covering demonstrations in Homs. Eight Syrians were killed, said Syrian news agency SANA, and several other people were wounded.