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Wounded journalists leave Syria

Two wounded Western journalists have escaped from Syria after being trapped for days in the besieged central city of Homs, activist groups said.

Thirteen Syrian activists who were helping smuggle out at least one of the reporters were killed in the operation, one of the groups said.

The global activist group Avaaz said it helped smuggle British photographer Paul Conroy across the border into neighbouring Lebanon.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said French journalist Edith Bouvier had also been evacuated, but it was not immediately clear how she got out and where she was taken. Mr Sarkozy said: "I'm glad that this nightmare is over."

The two were injured last week in a government rocket attack on the rebel-controlled district of Baba Amr in central Homs.

Hundreds have been killed in more than three weeks of relentless shelling of the city, many of them dying when they ventured out to forage for food as a humanitarian crisis grew more dire by the day.

A top UN official released a new death toll for the 11-month-old uprising, saying well over 7,500 people have been killed and the conflict looked increasingly like civil war. Activist groups said yesterday that the death toll had surpassed 8,000.

The UN human rights chief said the situation in Syria had deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks and demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Navi Pillay said her office had received reports that Syrian military and security forces "have launched massive campaigns of arrest" and launched an onslaught against government opponents that has deprived many civilians of food, water and medical supplies.

Ms Pillay told an urgent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council that "hundreds of people have reportedly been killed since the start of this latest assault in the beginning of February 2012". She called on Syria to end all fighting, allow international monitors to enter the country and give unhindered access to aid agencies.

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