Photographer Paul Conroy 'smuggled out of Syria'

Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy has been smuggled out of the besieged Syrian city of Homs and into Lebanon, according to the Press Association and Reuters.

Conroy’s father Les was quoted by PA saying he had “just had word from Beirut” that his son been rescued from the country, while Reuters quotes Syrian opposition sources and a diplomat following the case. “Conroy is now safe and sound in Lebanon,” the diplomat told Reuters.

The whereabouts of the French Le Figaro journalist Edith Bouvier remain unclear.

The Times reports the campaign group Avaaz saying that Bouvier, Javier Espinosa and William Daniels, both believed to be unhurt, remain unaccounted for.

Paul Conroy’s wife, Kate, was quoted saying: ‘All I can say is we are delighted and overjoyed but I am not going to say any more at this point.”

The Times claims Avaaz is working with 35 Syrian activists in Homs who volunteered to help get the reporters to freedom and that “so far three activists had paid with their lives while taking part in efforts to extract the journalists, and ten more had died trying to fetch much-needed medical supplies into the besieged neighbourhood of Baba Amr”.

Ricken Patel, Executive Director of Avaaz, told the paper: ‘Paul Conroy’s rescue today is a huge relief but this must be tempered with the news that three remain unaccounted for, and with our respects for the incredibly courageous activists who died during the evacuation attempts. The rescue is ongoing and we are deeply disappointed that sections of the media broke this story before all the journalists are safe.’

Earlier this morning it was reported that a third attempt to rescue Conroy had failed. Vehicles from the Syrian Red Crescent had reportedly reached the besieged suburb of Baba Amr in the Syrian city of Homs yesterday but left without Conroy and Bouvier. The BBC reported that Bouvier would not board the vehicle and that other evacuees, including Conroy, ‘stayed in solidarity”.

Bouvier suffered a broken leg and Conroy was hit by shrapnel in the leg and stomach in an attack last Wednesday that resulted in the death of Sunday Times veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

The Sunday Times reported that an earlier rescue attempt over the weekend ran into trouble soon after getting under way because of the distrust between the two sides during a ceasefire, with Syrian officials saying the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) had prevented Syrian Red Crescent ambulances from reaching the journalists.

An evacuation attempt on Friday failed because the journalists had reportedly refused to leave because they feared the evacuation was a trick.

Last year a bullet hit Conroy’s camera and ‘sent it flying from his hands” when he was covering the uprising in Tripoli.

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