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Photographer Paul Conroy escapes to Lebanon from Homs

BEIRUT | AFP - February 28, 2012, 13h44
An image extract from a video pĂ´sted on Youtube by the Sunday Times.
A Lebanese activist on Tuesday confirmed that British photographer Paul Conroy was smuggled at night from the battered Syrian city of Homs to Lebanon through an illegal crossing.
"Conroy and people accompanying him entered the Wadi Khaled region through the Hnayder border village after midnight on motorbikes," said the activist in northern Lebanon who helps smuggle wounded out of Syria.

Watch a video posted by The Sunday Times on Youtube showing Paul Conroy beeing treated in Homs:



The northern region of Wadi Khaled borders Syria and is close to the flashpoint province of Homs where Conroy was wounded in the bombardment of the city of Homs last week.

Conroy's father earlier told British media that his son had escaped to Lebanon. "We've just had word from Beirut," Les Conroy said.

But the whereabouts of French journalist Edith Bouvier, who was also wounded in last Wednesday's bombardment of the city Homs where two other Western journalists were killed, remained unclear. The French embassy in Beirut said it could not confirm the numerous media reports and tweets that Bouvier, too, had been evacuated to Lebanon. "The embassy... cannot confirm the report concerning the evacuation of Edith Bouvier," a spokesman said.

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch who is involved in the rescue efforts, flatly denied the reports. "Reports that Edith Bouvier has made it out of Homs and is in Lebanon are
FALSE," he tweeted.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian chapter of the Red Crescent have tried since Friday to rescue Conroy and Bouvier from the battered Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr. But their efforts to evacuate them along with the bodies of veteran US reporter Marie Colvin, and French photographer Remi Ochlik killed in bombardment of Bab Amr on February 22 have so far failed.

Attempts by the Red Crescent and Red Cross to reach the pair on Monday failed, Red Crescent chief Abdel Rahman Attar said. He said his team was told by an intermediary in Baba Amr that Bouvier refused to leave if the conditions she insisted on were not met.

Activists of the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page said that Baba Amr was "bombarded for the 25th straight day by regime forces" on Tuesday.

"The shells are falling and the world watches," said an activist in a video showing columns of black smoke rising from bombed buildings.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least five civilians had died on Tuesday in Baba Amr, while also reporting that five Syrian soldiers were killed in fighting against deserters in the restive southern province of Daraa.

The Britain-based monitoring group had reported more than 100 people killed Monday across Syria, including 11 members of the security forces, and 68 civilians in what it called a "massacre" in Homs province.

UN rights chief Pillay urged a ceasefire at the opening of an urgently-arranged debate on Syria at a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Tuesday.

"There must be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to end the fighting and bombardments," said Pillay, adding that since mid-February she had received reports of a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and serious rights abuses, including a massive campaign of arrests by military and security forces.

The Syrian delegation attending the debate walked out of the meeting, criticising what it said was a "sterile discussion."

Western powers have said the violence called into question the veracity of a referendum held at the weekend, which Damascus said resulted in almost 90 percent of voters approving a new constitution.

The charter brought in by President Bashar al-Assad after 11 months of anti-regime protests won 89.4 percent of votes cast in Sunday's referendum, with a turnout of 57.4 percent, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar announced.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland asked how a democratic process such as Sunday's referendum could take place in the country while Syrian government guns and tanks were still firing.

"We dismiss it as absolutely cynical," Nuland told reporters."Even the referendum that they put forward is ridiculous in the sense that it requires that the state approve any of these patriotic opposition groups," Nuland said.

The draft text of the constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by voters ends the legal basis for the five-decade stranglehold on power of Assad's ruling Baath party but still leaves huge powers in his hands.

The Syrian opposition says the changes are cosmetic after nearly a year of repression by Assad's security forces that human rights groups say has left more than 7,600 people dead.
Tags
#Homs, #Syria, #Paul_Conroy
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