Turkish journalists in Ankara demonstrate against killing of journalists in Syria
Turkish journalists in Ankara demonstrate against killing of journalists in Syria Reuters

Syria's foreign ministry has said that attempts to release the bodies of dead journalists had failed because armed groups refused to hand them over.

Government spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Damascus was not responsible for the delay in repatriating the bodies of journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

The two journalists were killed in Homs on 22 February.

"They failed [the repatriation attempts] because the armed groups refused to hand over the bodies or release the journalists, giving different excuses," he said.

Makdissi cast doubts over the mission of the foreign journalists who had entered Homs, but said the government was committed to facilitating their evacuation.

Earlier this week, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was able to rescue casualties trapped in the Baba Amr district of Homs, but left without the journalists' bodies.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said: "We were not able to evacuate the foreign journalists or the bodies of those journalists killed last week. We do not know the reason why. The situation on the ground is very tense and communications are very difficult."

British photographer Paul Convoy managed to escape Homs and was safely smuggled into Lebanon after Syrian opposition activists staged an operation to evacuate four foreign journalists. His escape came at a heavy price as 13 Syrian activists were killed in the attempt.

The other journalists - Edith Bouvier, of Le Figaro; William Daniels, a Paris-based photographer; and Javier Espinosa, who works for the Spanish daily El Mundo - were forced to turn back.

Bouvier, Daniels and Espinosa are still thought to be trapped in Homs, along with the city's 100,000 residents.

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