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Bodies of western reporters handed to embassies

The bodies of two western journalists killed in Syria were handed over to the French ambassador and to a Polish diplomat in Damascus on Saturday, an AFP correspondent reported.

world Updated: Mar 03, 2012 19:39 IST

The bodies of two western journalists killed in Syria were handed over to the French ambassador and to a Polish diplomat in Damascus on Saturday, an AFP correspondent reported.

Veteran US reporter Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in a rocket attack in the rebel Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs on February 22.

Their bodies were taken to the French hospital in the Kassah neighbourhood, the AFP correspondent said.

French Ambassador Eric Chevallier boarded an ambulance that carried the body of Ochlik, while the Polish diplomat went in a separate car behind another ambulance that carried Colvin's body

The coffins are due to be kept in the hospital's morgue until plans are finalised to fly them to Paris.

The bodies were formally identified in Damascus on Friday by French and Polish diplomats.

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

French reporter Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro newspaper and British photographer Paul Conroy were wounded in the attack.

Bouvier, 31, and photographer William Daniels, 34, who was not hurt in the rocket attack, were smuggled out of Homs by activists earlier this week to Lebanon and then flown to France.

The pair recounted their harrowing experience from the moment Syrian rockets began hitting their makeshift media centre, and said Syrian forces seemed to be directly targeting journalists in Homs.

"There were at least five successive explosions, very near. We really had the impression that we were directly targeted," the Figaro daily quoted one of them as saying.

"The Syrian activists who were with us, were used to these bombardments and understood the danger immediately. They told us that we must leave right away."

Colvin and Ochlik were the first to leave. A missile struck in front of the press centre.

"The explosion was massive, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were practically at the point of impact. They were killed on the spot," the Figaro reported.

The injured Bouvier couldn't move her leg. "I screamed" and Syrian insurgent fighters took the journalists to a field hospital in a nearby house.

The two French journalists were trapped for days, even after members of the rebel Free Syrian Army managed to get the wounded Conroy and Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa out of the country and into Lebanon.

The United States closed its embassy in Syria in early February and pulled out all its staff after two deadly bomb attacks in Damascus in December and January, and amid an intensification of the regime's crackdown on dissent.

France announced on Friday that it would close its mission.