French journalist killed as Moscow sees a ‘Libyan scenario’ in the making
A France 2 reporter is killed in a grenade attack in an Alawite neighbourhood in Homs. He was interviewing pro-Assad demonstrators. Head of Russian Security Council says a no-fly zone is being prepared for the rebels.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A TV reporter for the France 2 channel, Gilles Jacquier, was killed yesterday in Syria during a visit to an Alawite (pro-Assad) neighbourhood in Homs that came under a grenade attack. His colleague, Dutch cameraman Christophe Kenck, was also wounded. Meanwhile, the Arab League observer mission is facing divisions and obstacles. Two of its 165 monitors said they plan to quit. The League has delayed sending more observers after one of its teams was attacked in Latakia by anti-regime protesters.
Syrian authorities have blamed “terrorist gangs” for Gilles Jacquier’s death. “We regret the killing of the French reporter and we vow to cut the hands of terrorist gangs who carried out the attack,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Similarly, the Syrian Information Ministry expressed “deep regret and sorrow” over Gilles Jacquier’s death. The French reporter won the Ilaria Alpi Award for his coverage of the Tunisian revolution.
According to eyewitness accounts, yesterday’s attack killed eight and wounded 25. A group of foreign journalists was visiting the city on the invitation of Syrian authorities when rocket-propelled grenades were fired.
Jacquier, who had covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Algeria and Haiti, is the first Western journalist to be killed in Syria since the start of unrest in March. The incident occurred in the al-Karrama neighbourhood where Jacquier was interviewing people at a pro-Assad rally.
Meanwhile, the situation in the country appears very confused. A monitor, Anwar Malek from Algeria, quit the Arab League delegation, calling the mission a “farce”. Speaking to the Al Jazeera TV network, which is highly critical of the Assad regime, he said, “Bloodshed in Syria hasn't stopped”, lamenting the fact that “we are unable to do anything for the victims”.
A second monitor who declined to give his name said on Wednesday that he too was ready to walk out. In his view, “the mission is unclear [. . .]. It does not serve the citizens. It does not serve anything. [. . .] The Syrian authorities have exploited the weakness in the performance of the delegation to not respond. There is no real response on the ground."
The Arab League mission began on 26 December.
Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian Security Council, said that Turkey and some Gulf states might be preparing a military intervention.
“We are receiving information that NATO members and some Persian Gulf states, working under the ‘Libyan scenario’, intend to move from indirect intervention in Syria to direct military intervention,” Patrushev told Interfax.
He added that the US and Turkey may be planning a no-fly zone in Syria to secure a base where Syrian rebels can gather and train.