France probes journo's death in Syria

2012-01-13 21:01

Paris - French prosecutors have launched a preliminary murder investigation into the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier in Syria earlier this week, AFP news agency reported.

Jacquier, a 43-year-old reporter for France 2 television, was killed when reporting in the flashpoint city of Homs.

He was part of a group of foreign journalists that was invited by the Syrian regime to report on the 10-month uprising over President Bashar Assad's rule.

His body was brought back to France Thursday.

Seven Syrians were also killed when the neighbourhood where the the journalists were reporting on Wednesday - a neighbourhood loyal to Assad - came under mortar attack.

Damascus blamed the attack on the opposition, but the French government which demanded Syrian authorities investigate Jacquier's death, suspect foul play by the regime.

France Televisions, the company that owns France 2, said Friday it had requested a French investigation into the reporter's death.

The Paris prosecutor's office confirmed it had begun a preliminary murder investigation.

France 2's head of news, Thierry Thuillier, told AFP the station found several "troubling" elements about the circumstances of the attack.

"For example, why, when this convoy of journalists were being militarily escorted, did the soldiers suddenly disappear when the firing began," Thuillier said.

Le Figaro newspaper reported Friday the government also suspected foul play by the regime.

"We're leaning towards a manipulation", an unnamed source in President Nicolas Sarkozy's inner circle as saying.

While Paris had no proof the regime - and not the opposition - was behind the attack, Jacquier's death "suits a regime that attempts to discourage foreign reporters and demonise the rebellion", the source pointed out.

Jacquier was the first foreign journalist to be killed in the Syrian conflict.

The governor of Homs has promised a commission of enquiry into what he called a "terrorist attack."