'Omar the Syrian': journalist-activist killed in Homs
"Omar the Syrian" was the pseudonym of Mazhar Tayyara, a stringer for Agence France-Presse and activist killed in overnight shelling of the city of Homs, where regime forces stand accused of having carried out a "massacre."
The 24-year engineering student left his home in Inshaat district in the middle of the night and went to the protest stronghold of Khaldiyeh that was bearing the brunt of an onslaught last Friday, activists said.
"He was trying to help some people wounded in the bombardment when a second volley of shells fell and he was hit," a friend told AFP.
"He was hit in the head, the stomach and in a leg and died of his injuries three hours later in hospital," early Saturday, the friend, who lives outside Syria, said requesting anonymity.
Tayyara was stringing for several media including the AFP video service, the British daily The Guardian, and the German newspaper Die Welt. He also appeared on the satellite networks Al-Jazeera and CNN.
"Last April, just after the start of anti-regime protests, he told me that something had to be done, that the revolution would not stop at Syria's borders," his friend said.
"He then started to take part in protests and then to help foreign journalists who had managed to make their way to Homs," in central Syria.
"He found his calling and bought a new camera," he said. "He died doing what he believed was right for his country."
The very first video footage he provided AFP was of a tank entering the city of Homs back in December.
The Syrian army has surrounded Homs for several months, laying siege to the country's third largest city and hotbed of anti-regime dissent.
Opposition groups and activists reported a "massacre" overnight Friday in Homs, saying more than 230 civilians were killed during a heavy tank and mortar bombardment by regime forces.
The Syrian government which has launched a lethal repression on democracy protests since mid-March blamed the violence on "armed terrorist groups."
Tayyara's friends have set up a Facebook page to pay tribute to the young man.
They have posted pictures of Tayyara smiling to the camera and show a lighter side of the young man and his passion for football and basketball.
Tayyara was a keen fervent supporter of the Homs football team, Al-Karama (Dignity).
"Dignity is what he wanted for the Syrians. He wanted their lives to be less bitter," said a childhood friend who has now left Syria and who also did not wish to be identified.
Video footage of his funeral has been posted on the Internet that shows a crowd carrying his body inside Omar bin Khattab mosque in Homs. In the background the crowd is chanting: "The people demand the fall of the regime."
French journalist Gilles Jacquier was killed in bombing of Homs on January 11.
© 2012 AFP