French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

Two French journalists evacuated from Syria`s battered city Homs arrived on Saturday at a military airport near Paris.

Paris: Two French journalists evacuated from
Syria`s battered city Homs arrived on Saturday at a military airport
near Paris after escaping the besieged protest hub where two
of their colleagues were killed.

A plane transporting wounded reporter Edith Bouvier, 31,
and photographer William Daniels, 34, arrived at Villacoublay
airport from Beirut where they were met by relatives and
French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy, who announced today that Paris would close its
embassy in Syria to denounce President Bashar al-Assad`s
"scandalous" repression, paid homage to the journalists on
their arrival.

He said that Syrian authorities will "be called to
account for their crimes before international criminal

"The crime that they committed, the crimes that they have
committed, will not go unpunished," Sarkozy said, also
praising a "chivalrous" Daniels for staying with Bouvier in
Homs during days of heavy regime bombardment.

An ambulance parked on the tarmac took Bouvier under
police escort to a military hospital for treatment for a
broken leg suffered during the deadly bombardment of an
improvised media centre in Homs on February 22.

The rocket attack in Homs` Baba Amr district killed
French photographer Remi Ochlik as well as veteran Sunday
Times reporter Marie Colvin, and wounded Bouvier and British
photographer Paul Conroy.

Paris prosecutors on today opened a murder probe into the
attack as the International Committee of the Red Cross said
they were taking the bodies of Ochlik and Colvin to Damascus
after they were exhumed by Syrian forces.

A judicial source said that one of the inquiry`s first
objectives would be to gather data that would allow the formal
identification of Ochlik`s body so that it could be returned
to France.

Colvin`s employer, Britain`s Sunday Times, has said she
and Ochlik were killed when a rocket hit the front of the
building they were in, burying them both in debris.

Syrian authorities have been accused of deliberately
targeting journalists during the uprising against Assad`s
regime, and Sarkozy has slammed the Syrian authorities for
refusing to help extract the French journalists.

Sarkozy said the Syrian government`s response to efforts
to evacuate the two reporters had been "particularly
unacceptable," as he expressed outrage at the continued
violence in the country.