Last weekend Marie Colvin, the veteran Sunday Times journalist who is reported to have been killed in Syria, was believed to be the only British newspaper reporter inside the beseiged district of Baba Amr, in the Syrian city of Homs.
Her report was typical of a career which has seen her run the gauntlet of conflict zones around the world to shine a light on the plight of often innocent victims.
Her last report revealed how many civilians – including elderly and children – had been killed duing two weeks of ‘relentless bombardment’of Homs.
She chronicled the ordeal of ‘28,000 men, women and children clinging to existence in Baba Amr, a district of low concrete-block homes surrounded on all sides by Syrian forces”.
She wrote: ‘The army is launching Katyusha rockets, mortar shells and tank rounds at random.
‘Snipers on the rooftops of al-Ba’ath University and other high buildings surrounding Baba Amr shoot any civilian who comes into their sights. Residents were felled in droves in the first days of the siege but have now learnt where the snipers are and run across junctions where they know they can be seen.”
She reported: ‘The Syrians have dug a huge trench around most of the district, and let virtually nobody in or out. The army is pursuing a brutal campaign to quell the resistance of Homs, Hama and other cities that have risen up against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, whose family has been in power for 42 years.”
Colvin revealed how she had entered Homs via a smugglers’ route – which she said she had promised not to reveal.
She wrote: ‘Arriving in the darkened city in the early hours, I was met by a welcoming party keen for foreign journalists to reveal the city’s plight to the world. So desperate were they that they bundled me into an open truck and drove at speed with the headlights on, everyone standing in the back shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ – God is the greatest. Inevitably, the Syrian army opened fire.
‘When everyone had calmed down I was driven in a small car, its lights off, along dark empty streets, the danger palpable. As we passed an open stretch of road, a Syrian army unit fired on the car again with machineguns and launched a rocket-propelled grenade. We sped into a row of abandoned buildings for cover…
‘The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one.”