Foreign Journalist Killed, Two Others Missing in Syria

Posted August 21st, 2012 at 3:25 pm (UTC-5)
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A Japanese journalist who was traveling with Syrian rebels has died after being caught in gunfire, while two Alhurra TV journalists who may have been with her are missing.

Japan's Foreign Ministry says Mika Yamamoto was shot Monday while traveling with the Free Syrian Army in the northern city of Aleppo. She worked for the Tokyo-based Japan Press.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government-funded Alhurra television station says two of its journalists reporting in Aleppo may have been seized Monday by Syrian forces.

The station's parent organization – which also oversees the Voice of America – urged Syria's government to ensure the safety of the two journalists, correspondent Bashar Fahmi and his cameraman Cuneyt Unal.

In an interview Tuesday with VOA , Reporters Without Borders spokeswoman Soazig Dollet said five foreign journalists have been killed since the start of the Syrian uprising.

“Syria is now the most dangerous place for war reporter in the world.”

Intense fighting continues across Syria in regions including Aleppo and Damascus, where President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched raids to oust rebels from their positions.

Activists say Syrian troops stormed a neighborhood near the capital on Tuesday, and torched shops and homes. Opposition activists say more than 20 people were killed in violence across the country.

VOA reporter Scott Bobb Tuesday visited three towns in northern Syria — Tal Rifat, Aziz and Marea — all of which have been hit by Syrian aerial attacks.

More than 40 people died in an attack last week in the border town of Azaz. Bobb said people there fear Syrian warplanes may carry out more air raids.

“Everyone keeps looking to the sky because what they greatly fear are the MIGs, which drop these 250-, some say 500-kilogram bombs that are mostly aimed at places where the government thinks the Free Syrian Army troops might be stationed or based, such as schools, hospitals or buildings they think could be headquarters. But often they miss and these hit residential areas, and this is what's causing so much of the human tragedy in these towns.”

Bobb also stopped in Tal Rifat near the city of Aleppo, and in Marea between Aleppo and the Turkish border. He said about 40,000 people once lived in Tal Rifat, but only 2,000 are there now. He noted that many of them have fled to Azaz or Turkey.

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said talks about an Assad resignation are possible, but only after the start of dialogue among Syrians. He questioned whether making any proposal for Mr. Assad's resignation a condition for talks would be beneficial.

He commented Tuesday after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

Mr. Jamil also dismissed a warning from U.S. President Barack Obama that a move by the Syrian government to use chemical weapons against rebels would be a “red line” that would change the scope of the situation. He said Mr. Obama's “threats” were propaganda linked to his re-election bid.

Mr. Obama made the comment Monday to reporters at the White House.