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Marie Colvin: Family sues Syria over targeted killing

Wrongful death legal claim says American reporter deliberately "hunted down" to silence her reporting.

Relatives of Marie Colvin, an American journalist killed in Syria in 2012, have taken legal action against the Syrian government, claiming that she was "hunted down" because of her reporting.

Agents working for the government of President Bashar al-Assad deliberately went after journalists and media activists, according to the "wrongful death" claim filed on Saturday in Washington by the Center for Justice and Accountability.

Colvin, who had been reporting from the besieged city of Homs, worked for The Sunday Times, a British newspaper.

The claim, filed in the US federal court on behalf of Cathleen Colvin, Marie Colvin's sister, and Justine Araya-Colvin, the journalist's niece, said Syrian officials launched a rocket attack on a makeshift broadcast studio in a neighbourhood of Homs.

Colvin, a 56-year-old veteran correspondent and New York native, died in that attack along with French photojournalist Remi Ochlik on February 22, 2012.

Just hours before her death, she filed her final report on the effect a relentless government bombardment of Homs was having on civilians. The attack by the Syrian army also killed several opposition activists.

"The plan was formulated at the highest levels of the Syrian government," the claim said. "There were no lawful military targets in the vicinity of the media centre at the time of the attack ... No armed rebels were present in or around the media centre. The occupants targeted were unarmed civilians."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said at the time that circumstantial evidence and witnesses pointed to the possibility that government forces had taken deliberate action that led to the deaths of Colvin and Ochlik.

More than two dozen journalists were reported killed in Syria in 2012 alone. The government has contended that its attacks targeted what it called "terrorists".

The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, said there were no lawful military targets in the vicinity of the media centre at the time of the attack and no armed rebels were present in or around the centre. 

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