Journalists die amid Syrian clashes
By Joe Sterling, (CNN) — Two journalists covering the war in Syria have died in two regions long engulfed in battle.
A longtime globe-trotting war reporter and “battlefield junkie” who once had been a mercenary fighter in Africa has been killed in the conflict-ravaged city of Aleppo, the French presidential palace confirmed Friday.
Yves Debay worked for Assaut (“Assault,” in English), a French magazine based in the Paris area.
Al Jazeera Arabic television said reporter Mohamed al-Horani was killed by a sniper while covering clashes in the Syrian town of Basr al Harrir in Daraa province, according to the network’s urgent breaking news banner.
Daraa, near Jordan, is where the Syrian uprising unfolded in March 2011.
Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city located in the north, has been devastated by fighting between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel fighters.
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France mourned Debay on Friday.
“The President of the Republic, speaking on behalf of France, expresses his deep emotion at the death of Yves Debay, French journalist killed in Aleppo, Syria while he was reporting,” the palace said.
“France condemns this heinous act and expresses its condolences, sympathy and solidarity to the family and friends of Yves Debay. France pays tribute to Yves Debay and other journalists in Syria, who are paying with their lives for their commitment to freedom of information.”
He is the latest journalist to die in the Syrian warfare, a conflict that morphed into a civil war after the government cracked down on peaceful protesters. More than 60,000 people have died in the fighting, including several dozen professional and citizen journalists.
LeMonde, the French daily, called Debay a “battlefield junkie.” Born in the Belgian Congo in 1954, Debay was originally Belgian but acquired French nationality in 1987, a Belgian official told CNN.
He was in the Belgian army and had been a mercenary for the army of Rhodesia, the white-ruled precursor to Zimbabwe, and fought Marxist guerrillas, the newspaper said. He covered conflicts across the world, in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and, most recently, Syria.
The paper said Debay thrived on the life of fighters.
“He adopted their lifestyle, dressed like them, ate like them, shared the same risks, and could not conceive of covering a war otherwise,” the paper said.
CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman knew him in Libya during the warfare there between rebels and the Gadhafi regime.
“My impression when with him on the front lines in eastern Libya was that he understood warfare far better than the young Libyan rebels, of whose skill he was dismissive,” Wedeman said. “He often laughed heartily at their tendency to run at the first sign of danger.”
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A Syrian opposition group posted a video on its Facebook page saying Debay was killed by government troops.
Another activist reads a brief statement, saying: “This is the body of the French journalist Yves who was killed by Assad gangs while covering the war in Aleppo.” The LeMonde report said he was killed by a sniper Thursday.
At least 134 people wer killed Friday in Syria, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. Of those, 39 deaths occurred in Aleppo, most in aerial shelling on the Mohafaza neighborhood.
Published Date: Friday, January 18th, 2013 | 12:33 PM