Middle East

Syrian opposition forces killed French journalist: report

PARIS, Jan 20, 2012: French journalist Gilles Jacquier was killed in Syria due to a "blunder" by the main opposition army group, Le Figaro newspaper said on Friday, but a Syrian opposition spokesman denied the charge.

"It's a great stain on the opponents," an unidentified Syrian opposition figure told the daily, speaking of the killing of 43-year-old France 2 television reporter Gilles Jacquier during a government-organised trip to Homs, a flashpoint for anti-regime protests.

"We know it was a blunder by the Free Syrian Army," said an Arab League official, which has sent a fact-finding team to Syria, speaking on condition of anonymity.

France has opened a murder probe into the January 11 killing, amid suspicions of regime collusion in the first death of a Western journalist since protests began 10 months ago.

But an official from the Free Syrian Army formally denied the allegations and blamed the death of President Bashar al-Assad's troops.

"Assad's regular army is well and truly behind the crime as only they have shells," he said.

"The only arms the Free Syrian Army has to protect civilians are small-calibre weapons like Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades."

French daily Le Figaro had earlier quoted a source close to President Nicolas Sarkozy implicating the Syrian regime in his death.

"We are inclined to believe this was an underhanded manoeuvre," the source said, adding however that there was no proof Jacquier's killing death was intentional.

An AFP photographer said Jacquier 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.





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