Two Syrian journalists killed near Damascus as TV crew goes missing

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (BNO NEWS) -- Two Syrian journalists were killed near the capital Damascus Saturday while covering the ongoing civil war, state-run media and an Arab satellite television station reported on Sunday. A crew of a pro-government television station has also gone missing.

Ali Abbas, the head of the Internal News Department at the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), was killed on late Saturday evening when gunmen attacked his residence in the Jdeidet Artouz area near Damascus. The news agency blamed the attack on an "armed terrorist group", the term it uses to describe all its opponents.

Abbas, who was 37, was buried in the port city of Latakia on Sunday. His brother, identified as Captain Hussam Abbas, condemned the journalist's death as "another desperate attempt to silence the free and resistant voice" of those who reveal the "false and misleading news broadcast by satellite channels."

Also on Sunday, pan-Arab satellite television station Al Arabiya said 24-year-old Yusuf al-Bushi, an army defector who worked as a journalist for the station and several other international news organizations, was killed Saturday while covering a story in Al-Tal, on the outskirts of Damascus. The station said al-Bushi died when he was caught in a bombardment.

The deaths on Saturday came just a day after a crew from the pro-government television station al-Ikhbariya was abducted in Al-Tal. The station said reporter Yarah Saleh, cameraman Abboud Tabarah, assistant Hatem Abu Yehiah, and driver Housam Imad were accompanying an army unit when they were abducted by an "armed terrorist group."

"If it emerges that the journalists have been taken prisoner by an opposition group, the latter will be answerable for their safety," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement on Saturday. "We urge them to identify themselves and to show evidence that their captives are alive and in good health, and to release them immediately."

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 20 local and international journalists have been killed on duty in Syria since November 2011, making it by far the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. The organization believes at least fifteen of the deaths were work-related, but the deaths on Saturday have not yet been investigated by the agency.

The crisis in Syria began in March 2011 as a pro-democracy protest movement, similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa. The Syrian government violently cracked down on the protests, setting off an armed conflict between pro-Assad forces and anti-government forces.

The United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President al-Assad began nearly 1.5 year ago. The opposition believes the number of deaths has already surpassed 20,000.

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