Last updated: 5 December, 2013

Jihadists execute Iraqi cameraman in Syria, says press watchdog

Fighters linked to Al-Qaeda executed an Iraqi freelance cameraman as he was leaving Syria after a 10-day assignment in rebel-held territory, watchdogs said on Thursday.

Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili was shot dead after being stopped at a checkpoint in mainly rebel-held Idlib province in the northwest as he headed for the Turkish border on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

His death at the hands of jihadist fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) underlined the risks of reporting from Syria, which Reporters without Borders (RSF) describes as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.

The 34-year-old father-of-three had been filming in Aleppo province further east, one of the main battlegrounds of the 33-month conflict, the head of RSF’s Middle East and North Africa desk, Soazig Dollet, told AFP.

She said he was the first foreign journalist killed by jihadists in Syria.

The Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) said Turkish officials were not allowing Joumaili’s body to be brought out of Syria.

“The family of Joumaili told JFO that the body of their son was stuck at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey and Turkish authorities were preventing it from passing,” the group said.

It said Joumaili was from the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a key battleground in the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He was on assignment for a Spanish media outlet at the time of his death but had previously worked for Al-Jazeera International and Reuters.

Joumaili was the eighth foreign journalist to have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011, according to RSF.

Twelve Syrian professional journalists and at least 91 citizen journalists have also been killed.

In recent months, ISIL has kidnapped dozens of Syrian activists and news providers, as well as several foreign journalists.

The group, which has its roots in Al-Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate, was accused of assassinating Syrian reporter Mohammad Saeed, who worked for Al-Arabiya news channel, in his native Aleppo province in late October.