There was deep concern last night over the whereabouts of three Western journalists believed to be trapped in the restive Syrian city of Homs after an overnight rescue attempt succeeded in extracting British photographer Paul Conroy, but which had also led to the death of at least 13 opposition activists who had volunteered for the operation.
It is understood that the mission to rescue Mr Conroy (47), whose leg was badly injured in a raid on the Baba Amr district of Homs last week that killed his Sunday Times colleague Marie Colvin and the photographer Remi Ochlik, also included a bid to rescue three other reporters.
Edith Bouvier, of France's Le Figaro, Javier Espinosa, of the Spanish daily El Mundo, and William Daniels, a Paris-based American freelance on assignment with Le Figaro, were all left behind however, when the operation came under heavy fire.
Mr Conroy's rescue was co-ordinated by Avaaz, a group who have spent the past 10 months establishing a network of opposition activists. Alex Renton, a spokesman for the group in Beirut, described the tense operation in which Conroy was rescued.
He said a rescue operation had begun on Sunday following a particularly intense bombardment but, “it went horribly wrong very early on”. The route to the Lebanese border is only 20 miles but involves circuitous smuggling routes past government positions and border patrols.