American, French journalists killed in Syria

HOMS, SYRIA (CBS) -- Two Western journalists, including veteran American reporter Marie Colvin, were killed in intense shelling by President Bashar Assad's regime in the central town of Homs on Wednesday, according to Syrian activists and the French government.

Activists said both were killed in the shelling of a makeshift media center in the hard-hit neighborhood of Baba Amr early Wednesday morning.

The journalists were identified as veteran American reporter Marie Colvin, who works for The Sunday Times of Britain, and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik. Both had been working on the front lines of uprisings in the Arab world for months. Their identities were confirmed by the French government Wednesday morning, but CBS News has not independently confirmed Colvin's death.

The latest deaths spurred international condemnation and intensified pressure on Assad to step down and end the violence.

"This tragic incident is another example of the shameless brutality of the Assad regime," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"That's enough now, the regime must go," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

Colvin, who lost an eye to a grenade covering Sri Lanka's civil war years ago, had given a harrowing telephone interview to BBC radio from Homs just days before her death. Describing the damage caused by a near-constant barrage of artillery from state security forces, Colvin recounted watching a toddler die after being wounded by shrapnel.

Just Tuesday, Colvin spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper by phone about the child's death, saying "that baby probably will move more people to think, 'What is going on and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happening every day?'"

Colvin was accustomed to covering violent uprisings, and she lent her insight as a first-hand witness to ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's crackdown on opposition protesters to CBS News in an interview almost exactly one year ago (click for video).

John Witherow, editor of The Sunday Times, said in a statement that Colvin "believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice."

Eyewitness reporting live from Baba Amr via Skype said their bodies, along with as many as six others, were still trapped under rubble. The continuous shelling by regime forces was preventing the bodies being removed, according to the activists.

Opposition members said at least two other Western journalists were wounded in the shelling of the makeshift media center - French reporter Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro and British photographer Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times - but that the necessary medical care could not be provided as Homs was under continued attack. At least 13 were reported dead in Wednesday's shelling.

The ferocity of the ongoing bombardment of Baba Amr can be seen in numerous videos posted by opposition activists on Youtube. Click the player below for an example of such video, the authenticity of which cannot be independently verified by CBS News as all independent reporting in Syria has been banned by the Assad regime.

News of the journalists' deaths comes on the heels of reports that a prominent Syrian opposition activist and video blogger, Rami al-Said, whose horrific images of the shelling in the Baba Amr have spread across social networks in recent weeks, was also killed in the shelling.

Activists say at least 45 people were killed by the bombardment in Homs on Tuesday alone.


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