(AP) Syria hands over bodies of 2 foreign journalists
By ALBERT AJI
The bodies of two foreign journalists who were killed in shelling while trapped inside a besieged district in the central Syrian city of Homs have left Syria late Saturday on board a French plane to Paris, the Polish Foreign Ministry said.
Earlier Saturday, Syrian Red Crescent officials handed over the bodies to embassy officials. French Ambassador Eric Chevallier received the body of French photographer Remi Ochlik, and a Polish diplomat received the remains of American Marie Colvin. U.S. interests in Syria are represented by Poland after the U.S. closed its embassy in Damascus last month.
The bodies, in brown coffins placed on stretchers, were transferred outside the Assad hospital in Damascus and driven away in an ambulance. The journalists’ belongings were placed in black plastic bags.
The Polish Foreign Ministry in Warsaw said the bodies left Syria late Saturday on a French plane headed to Paris. No other details were given.
Colvin, 56, a veteran correspondent for Britain’s Sunday Times, and Ochlik, 28, a photojournalist, had sneaked into Syria illegally to get an eyewitness view of the government crackdown in the country, where thousands have been killed since a popular uprising began a year ago.
But they were trapped inside the besieged Baba Amr district of Homs, a target of heavy Syrian military shelling, and died on Feb. 22. The attack also wounded Edith Bouvier of the daily Le Figaro and British photographer Paul Conroy.
Bouvier and French photographer William Daniels, who was not injured but also had been trapped in Homs, arrived in France on Friday after being smuggled through tunnels and snow from Syria into Lebanon.
On Thursday, videos released by activists in Syria said Colvin and Ochlik were buried in Baba Amr. But the Syrian government said the bodies had been disinterred and the government would repatriate them.
On Friday evening, Red Cross spokesman Bijan Farnoudi said the organization had been given the remains of Ochlik and Colvin and would take them to Damascus.
Later, Polish Ambassador Michal Murkocinski and Chevallier identified their bodies at a Damascus morgue, according to Poland’s Foreign Ministry. Polish diplomats, in consultation with the U.S., are trying to transport Colvin’s body to the U.S. as soon as possible, the ministry said.