BEIRUT

Middle East

13 French officers being held in Syria

  • Free Syrian Army fighters gather near a building hit by a Syrian Army tank in Idlib, north Syria, Sunday, March 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

BEIRUT: Around 13 French officers are being held by Syrian authorities in Syria, sources have confirmed to The Daily Star, a claim that the French Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm.

Sources said the group is being held in a field hospital in the city.

It was not clear why the officers were in Syria, when they had arrived or whether they were part of a larger contingent in the city.

Strategic Homs was targeted in a 26-day shelling bombardment by the Syrian Army, which overran the city where anti-Assad protests and Free Syrian Army operations have been focused.

French journalist Remi Ochlick and American Marie Colvin were killed in one shelling turn to page 10from page 1attack on a makeshift media center on Feb 22. French reporters Edith Bouvier, who was wounded in the attack, and William Daniels were among four journalists subsequently holed-up in the neighborhood for one week, before being smuggled to Lebanon.

French Ambassador Eric Chevallier returned to Damascus last week to try to get Bouvier and Daniels out of Syria, after being recalled to Paris two weeks earlier over the Syrian conflict.

As assaults on Homs continued Friday, France said it was shutting its embassy.

A French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said there was “no confirmation” of French armed forces being held in Syria.

Damascus has not commented on the presence of French troops on their soil.

Sources said Paris and Damascus were working to reach an agreement on what to do with the officers. – L.W.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 05, 2012, on page 1.
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