Reporter dies as US puts Syria on notice

2012-08-21 07:38

Aleppo - US President Barack Obama warned Syria of "enormous consequences" if it resorts to chemical weapons, as a female Japanese reporter was killed while covering clashes in the northern city of Aleppo.

Obama put President Bashar Assad's regime on notice on Monday that, while he had not ordered intervention "at this point", Washington was "monitoring the situation very carefully" and had put together a range of contingency plans.

The president said the United States would regard any recourse by Damascus to its deadly arsenal as crossing a "red line".

"There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons... That would change my calculations significantly," he told reporters at a White House briefing.

Syria's admission in July that it has chemical weapons and could use them in case of any "external aggression" added a dangerous new dimension to a 17-month conflict which the new UN peace envoy already describes as civil war.

More than 130 people were killed on Monday, including two children in shelling in Daraa, the birthplace of the revolution, a watchdog said, as the United Nations brought an end to its troubled observer mission.

3 journalists missing

In Syria's commercial capital Aleppo, nine civilians were reported killed late on Monday, including two women, a 9-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl.

The female Japanese journalist was killed after being caught in gunfire in Aleppo, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said on Tuesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three other journalists - a Lebanese woman, an Arab male working for a US media outlet and a Turkish national - were missing while covering the Syria uprising.

The dead reporter was 45-year-old Mika Yamamoto, said an official in charge of Japanese nationals' safety abroad. A colleague travelling with her identified the body, the official said.

Yamamoto worked for the small Japan Press news agency and had also covered the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq conflict, according to the company's website.

She had been reporting on clashes between troops and rebel fighters in Suleiman al-Halabi, a district of Aleppo, the Observatory said.

'Ending a civil war'

Yamamoto was the fourth foreign reporter killed in Syria since March 2011.

French reporter Gilles Jacquier was killed on 11 January in the central city of Homs, where American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik both perished on 22 February.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who has replaced former UN chief Kofi Annan as the international point man for Syria, warned on Sunday that it was now a matter of ending civil war rather than avoiding it.

But Syria - which insists it is fighting an insurgency by "armed terrorist groups" backed by the West, Gulf states and Turkey - reacted angrily.

"To speak of civil war in Syria contradicts reality and is found only in the heads of conspirators," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, French President Francois Hollande bluntly told Brahimi at a meeting in Paris that there "cannot be a political solution without the departure of Bashar [Assad]".

Heavy fighting

The Syrian Observatory, meanwhile, reported fierce fighting across the country on Monday's second day of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The Observatory said troops backed by helicopters pounded several areas of Aleppo, including the local Baath party headquarters and a military tribunal in the northern city.

An AFP correspondent said warplanes and helicopters circled Aleppo all day, and reported heavy fighting in southwestern districts, where the regime's military operation against rebels is focused.

Aleppo has become the epicentre of the conflict since rebels seized large swathes of the city in a July offensive. Government officials have said its recapture will be the "mother of all battles".

The opposition Syrian National Council complained that government forces using combat helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery had carried out "savage" attacks on Herak, south of Damascus, warning that food and medicines were running out.

Fighting also flared in southern parts of Damascus as the army battled pockets of resistance despite claiming it retook most of the capital last month. In other parts of the country, 29 people were killed, half of them civilians.

A total of 23 000 people have now been killed since March last year, according to the Observatory, while the UN puts the death toll at around 17 000.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-21 08:00

    It are the brave reporters and camaramen, like this Japanese, who show us the truth on the ground, so we don't have to rely on assad'd 'own' TV station or silly ones like RT!!

      nhamo.dzenyika - 2012-08-21 09:22

      True we also won't rely on the stupid CNN or other Western propaganda machines!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-21 10:35

      Nhamo, Are you not fortunate, to live in a country, where we have a free media, and are able to access any media, via TV and internet, from anywhere in the world!! The Syrians are sick and tired of being treated like children, where a bunch of criminal thugs , tell them what they can and cannot access !!!! THEIR country and freedom was stolen from them , at gun point !! , NOW they want back, what belongs to them !!!

  • imtiaz.osman.5 - 2012-08-21 08:09

    Anthony from africa you are 100% correct in saying that we must listen to the media of the west who said IRAQ had WMD they always speak the truth unlike ANEW news agencies

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-21 08:16

      What you say, has no relevance on this article , nor on my comment. You just want to spew out some anti Western feelings. Well done, and now grow up !!

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-08-21 12:05

      It is impossible to defend Saddam Hussein.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-08-22 05:25

      Everyone except Imtiaz knows Saddam Hussein had WMD's. He used them against Iraqi Kurds and Iranians by the tens of thousands. Wake up. You're still blinding yourself with stupidities.

  • imam.madi.129 - 2012-08-21 12:25

    Every life taken is grieved by the loved ones. The journalists must stop being biased and enter Syria legally. If they are embedded in THE FSA and that makes them complicit to terrorism. Independence should be the key for journalists. There is no freedom of views in the west as all channels push their government lines. So the crap about freedoms is just that, crap. People love underdogs in a war as long as those underdogs are not palestinians or shias. In Syria the FSA is the dear of the west because it is seen as an underdog and the shias are permanent enemies of the west because they continue to provide the biggest tangible support to palestinians whereas the kings of the arabia have to take orders from the whitehouse. King of jordan cannot go to the toilet without asking obama for permission and obama needs the zionist approval before he can cough.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-21 13:29

      ""the journalists must stop being biased and enter Syria legally"" HALLLLO, journalists are not welcome n Syria. NO dictatorship can survive without a very tight control of the media. (unless you call these comedians from RT, journalists....!!!)

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-08-21 13:30

      You can live in your islamic prison with sharia.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-08-22 05:21

      Imam is as blind as a bat.

  • imam.madi.129 - 2012-08-21 14:48

    Journalists are supposed to be professionals not rebel cheerleaders and fanatics. She is also quite pretty to consort with terrorists when dr assad can do with another wife. As for the rubbish about journalists being denied entry in syria, only those who repeat it after cnn/bbc will believe it. Even so, that will not explain the presence of bbc journalists in Damascus. Simple solution, let the west stayout of other people's affairs until they are invited. so far no invitations are coming so just relax while the eye doc is dealing with the terrorists. The FSA will just keep waiting for help that will never come, they were given a wrong number, let them dial 911 or sos again, but the subscriber is not available at the moment :). They will just lose their wasted lives instead of negotiating a peace deal. Their supporters here can just keep dreaming of the end of assad while syrians are dreaming of the end of the wahabi /salafist invasion. Allepo was at peace until invaded by foreigners and now its destroyed, so much for liberation of Allepo, its like curing headache but losing the patient.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-08-22 05:22

      Blind, delusional and plain wrong. You're complicit in the murder of Syrians and their families.

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