Two Western journalists among 57 killed in Syria
Two Western journalists were among 57 people killed by government forces across Syria on Wednesday, said opposition activists, dpa reported.
The journalists - Marie Colvin, a veteran war correspondent who worked for the Sunday Times in London, and French freelance photojournalist, Remi Ochlik - were among 30 people who died in heavy shelling in Baba Amr in the central province of Homs, the activists said.
Omar Homsi, an activist in Homs, told dpa by satellite phone that at last 30 people were also wounded in the bombardment, including two British and French journalists.
"The British man was hit by shrapnel across his body, while the French lady has suffered serious wounds in her legs and needs an immediate operation," Homsi said.
Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said his government had no idea that Colvin, Ochlik or other Western journalists were in the country.
The official SANA news agency quoted Mahmoud as saying that the authorities had been instructed to look for all journalists reported to be in Homs.
British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to Colvin, lauding her as a "talented and respected" journalist. He told parliament that her death was a reminder of the risks journalists were taking to report the "dreadful events" in Syria.
Sunday Times editor John Witherow called her an "extraordinary figure" who was "driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered."
France summoned the Syrian ambassador in Paris to demand an explanation for the assault on Baba Amr, reported broadcaster Al Arabiya.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe asked the French embassy in Syria to contact the Syrian authorities to secure medical assistance for the wounded journalists, the report said.
According to Homsi, the activist, the group of Western journalists was smuggled into Baba Amr two days ago, by Syrian opposition activists, so they could do some independent reporting.
Baba Amr has been pounded by government troops since February 4, according to the opposition.
The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has barred foreign media from entering the country since a pro-democracy uprising erupted in March.
The authorities have recently allowed in some foreign journalists, but forced them to travel with minders from the Information Ministry.
French television reporter Gilles Jacquier was killed in Homs in January when a shell exploded near him while he was on a visit organized by the Syrian authorities.
Homs, called the "capital of the Syrian revolution," is one of the cities hardest hit in the government crackdown.
Elsewhere, 20 people were killed by government forces in Idlib, a volatile province near the border with Turkey, according to Homsi.
Seven others were killed in the central province of Hama, he told dpa.
The Syrian regime has repeatedly blamed "armed terrorist groups," allegedly financed by Arab and foreign powers, for the violence that has entered its 12th month.