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Syrian Defector: Assad Forces Targeted, Killed Journalist Marie Colvin

New evidence presented in a Washington, D.C., federal court claims that American journalist Marie Colvin was killed in a targeted assassination by the Syrian regime in 2012.

Colvin, who was 56 when she died, was reporting on the Syrian war for The Sunday Times of London. Rémi Ochlik, a 28-year-old French freelance photojournalist, died in the same attack in the western Syrian city of Homs.

The evidence was partly unsealed on Monday as part of a lawsuit Colvin's family brought against Syria in 2016.

Key testimony comes from a Syrian defector, who had been a high-ranking intelligence officer and says he witnessed the orders that led to the death of Colvin.

"Marie Colvin was a dog and now she's dead. Let the Americans help her now," the testimony attributes Maj. Gen. Rafik Shahadah as saying.

The lawsuit alleges that the attack on Colvin and a media center was part of a coordinated Syrian regime campaign to impose an information blackout by neutralizing professional and citizen journalists in the country who were reaching an international audience.

The evidence released this week was based on documents and interviews collected by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, which has relied on Syrian activists and defectors to methodically document war crimes in Syria.

In his testimony, the defector code-named "Ulysses" alleged that regime operatives tracked journalists via their satellite phones and urged informants to give the coordinates for the makeshift media center where international journalists worked.

Ulysses alleged that Maher al-Assad, the military commander brother of President Bashar al-Assad, rewarded officers involved in targeting Colvin and the media center. One officer received a black Hyundai Genesis, according to the documents. Shahadah was promoted and named head of the Military Intelligence Department.

The Syrian government has strongly denied the charges and is ignoring the case, but president Assad spoke publicly about Colvin in an interview with NBC in 2016.

"It's a war and she came illegally to Syria. She worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she's been responsible of everything that befall on her," Assad said, speaking in English.

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Deborah Amos
Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.
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