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Washington (AFP) - The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad targeted and killed US reporter Marie Colvin in February 2012 to stop her from covering government atrocities, according to a lawsuit filed in US court on Saturday.
The Syrian military intercepted Colvin's communications and unleashed a barrage of rocket fire on her in the besieged city of Homs, according to documents filed in US district court in Washington.
Colvin, a longtime war correspondent for the British newspaper The Sunday Times, was killed with French photographer Remi Ochlik. British photographer Paul Conroy, French reporter Edith Bouvier, and Syrian media defender Wael al-Omar were wounded in the same attack.
The lawsuit is based on information from captured government documents and defectors. It names several Syrian officials, including Assad's brother Maher.
- 'Targeted' rocket attack -
The suit alleges that Syrian officials, acting "with premeditation... deliberately killed Marie Colvin by launching a targeted rocket attack" against the makeshift broadcast studio in the Baba Amar neighborhood of Homs, where Colvin and other reporters were based.
The night before the attack Colvin made audio broadcasts via satellite dish from Homs to CNN, BBC News, and Britain's Channel 4 News.
"There are rockets, shells, tank shells, antiaircraft being fired in parallel lines into the city," she told CNN, according to the documents. "The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians."
After a female informant confirmed Colvin's presence at the site, Syrian artillery units "deliberately launched salvos of rockets and mortars directly at the improvised media center.
"Using a targeting method called 'bracketing,' multiple rockets were launched to either side of the Media Center, drawing closer with each round," the suit states.
Survivors who fled into the street "were immediately detected by an aerial surveillance aircraft circling overhead. Syrian artillery units quickly adjusted their target away from the Media Center and towards these survivors," the document says.
The journalists "were non-combatant civilians... No armed rebels were present at or near the Media Center at the time of the attack."
- Conspiracy to silence the media -
Senior Assad regime officials conspired "to surveil, target, and ultimately kill civilian journalists in order to silence local and international media as part of its effort to crush political opposition," the suit says.
In late 2011 and early 2012, the regime launched a massive military operation in Homs, Syria’s third largest city, laying siege to defectors and civilians in opposition-held neighborhoods including Baba Amr.
The suit was filed on behalf of Colvin's sister Cathleen Colvin and other surviving family members by the non-profit human rights group Center for Justice and Accountability.
Colvin, who was 56, covered many of the world's bloodiest conflicts from the 1980s onwards. She wore a black eye-patch after losing an eye in a grenade blast reporting on Sri Lanka's civil war in 2001.
Homs is "a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire," Colvin wrote in her final piece for The Sunday Times, the paper where she had worked for 25 years.
"On the lips of everyone was the question: 'Why have we been abandoned by the world?'"