Injured photographer evacuated to Lebanon


BRITISH PHOTOGRAPHER Paul Conroy’s evacuation from the Syrian city of Homs was a 26-hour ordeal that began on Sunday night.

The London Sunday Times photographer, who had been injured in the shell blast that killed his colleague Marie Colvin and the French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik, was carried on a stretcher in relays out of the besieged and shell-smashed suburb of Baba Amr and to safety over the Lebanese border more than 30km away, crossing the border in the early hours.

In a day of confusion yesterday, news of Conroy’s evacuation leaked out despite efforts to keep a media blackout.

News of his escape was followed by confused reports – at first confirmed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and later retracted by his office – that French journalist Édith Bouvier, who suffered a double fracture of her femur in the same attack last week, had also escaped.

However, by the end of the day it was increasingly clear that Bouvier, French photographer William Daniels and an El Mundo correspondent, Javier Espinosa, were still trapped.

According to the sketchy information available, the journalists appear to have been split up during the heavy shelling of Homs, with only Conroy able to escape.

The rescue followed several days of failed negotiations involving the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent to evacuate the wounded from Homs.

The nature of Conroy’s evacuation underlines the high risks faced by those who have been trying to run medical, food and other supplies into the besieged suburbs of the city and evacuate the injured, including foreign journalists. Activists believe a drone that has been flying over the city for some time, described by Espinosa, may have been used to direct artillery or mortar fire towards the rescuers.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has recently moved the elite 4th division commanded by his brother Maher into the assault on Homs, has been using a foreign-supplied drone to target its artillery and mortar fire into the city. Conroy had twice refused to leave Baba Amr without the body of Colvin. The reporters had been holed up there since, as negotiations to get them out failed.Meanwhile, a UN official said Syrian forces had killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt against Assad began.

The military again bombarded opposition strongholds yesterday, killing at least 25 people, Syrian activists said. “There are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs Lynn Pascoe told the UN Security Council. “The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500 people.” – (Guardian service, Reuters)