Western journalists killed in Syria attack

"Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless," wrote Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin yesterday in a closed Facebook page for journalists.

"In Baba Amr. Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now."

Now Colvin is dead, killed with another journalist in a rocket attack in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, which has been under bombardment from the Syrian Army for nearly three weeks.

At least 30 Syrians were killed in the latest round of heavy shelling, in which witnesses say hundreds of shells fell in just two hours.

Colvin's death, along with that of a French journalist, Remi Ochlik, was reported by Reuters and al-Jazeera.The editor of The Sunday Times, John Witherow, confirmed Colvin's death late last night.

"She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice," Witherow said in a statement.

Witnesses and opposition activists said the journalists were working in Homs when shells hit the house in which they had been staying. As they tried to escape the building, Colvin and Ochlik were reportedly hit by a rocket and killed.

Colvin, who was in her 50s, has reported from frontlines across the Middle East and beyond.

She lost an eye in a grenade attack during an assignment in Sri Lanka in 2001 but still famously managed to file a 3,000 word report for her newspaper that weekend. Since then Colvin had worn a black eye patch in public.

Ochlik, 28, had covered the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and had had his work published in Le Monde, Paris Match, Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

A British photographer who was working with Colvin, Paul Conroy, has been seriously injured, along with other media personnel.

Colvin's most recent report, published at the weekend, described what she called a "widows' basement", the cellar of a wood factory in Homs where 300 women and children were hiding from relentless bombardment.

In 2010 Colvin spoke about the dangers of reporting on war zones at a ceremony for journalists killed in combat.

"Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price. It has never been more dangerous to be a war correspondent, because the journalist in the combat zone has become a prime target."

Another French journalist,Gilles Jacquier, was killed in an attack on Homs on January 11,while last week the New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died of an asthma attack as he was attempting to leave Syria on horseback.

"For Marie, covering war wasn't about doing a few quick interviews and writing up a quick story: she experienced war alongside those who suffered in war, and her writings had a particular vividness because of what she had dared to see and experience,’’ said Human Rights Watch director of emergencies Peter Bouckaert.

"But despite everything she had seen and experienced, first and foremost she remained a wonderful human being," he wrote.

"Marie Colvin was extraordinary."

She won the British press award for "Best Foreign Correspondent" twice, for her work in reporting the conflict in Yugoslavia, Iran, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe; the International Women's Media Foundation award for "Courage in Journalism" for her coverage of Kosovo and Chechnya, and the Foreign Press Association's Journalist of the Year award.