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Two French journalists trapped in Syria escape to Lebanon

March 1, 2012 |  4:35 pm

French photojournalist William Daniels

REPORTING FROM PARIS -- Two French journalists who were trapped in Syria have made it safely to Lebanon, including Edith Bouvier, who was badly injured in the same attack that killed two other journalists in the embattled Syrian neighborhood of Baba Amr last week.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Thursday that Bouvier was being cared for in Lebanon. Bouvier, 31, is “now safe on Lebanese territory and will within moments be under the protection of our embassy in Beirut," Sarkozy said during a news conference in Brussels on Thursday. 

Bouvier’s injury “significantly complicated all the evacuation procedures. She suffered a lot,” Sarkozy added, thanking “all those who contributed to this happy outcome, after a week of evacuation attempts.”

Her family confirmed the news to French television network France 24. Bouvier reportedly spoke to her parents, who said "she's in good shape," according to the French daily Le Figaro.

She was accompanied by photographer William Daniels, who was also evacuated to Lebanon.

Bouvier was injured in the same attack that killed veteran foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Remy Ochlik as they tried to escape Feb. 22  from a house in Bab Amr, a neighborhood in the central city of Homs, that was being shelled.

Soon after, Bouvier appeared on a videotaped message from Homs, where she pleaded for medical assistance. She was seen in the video in bed under a blanket, and bombs were heard exploding in the distance.

"I need an operation as quickly as possible," Bouvier pleaded in the video. "The doctors here have treated us as well as they could, but they can't perform surgery. So I need a cease-fire and an ambulance or car in good enough shape to get us out."

Two other journalists have made it out of Syria in the last week: Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa escaped to Lebanon on Wednesday; British photojournalist Paul Conroy arrived there earlier. Activists said the rescue mission to smuggle out Conroy cost the lives of 10 other people.

Initial reports on Tuesday gave the impression that Bouvier had already been transferred out of Syria, but those reports were later denied. Sarkozy retracted a statement that suggested she had been rescued.

The Baba Amr neighborhood had become known as an epicenter of the uprising against Bashar Assad, and had been bombarded by government forces for weeks.

Rebels retreated from the neighborhood Thursday, saying they were short on weapons and fearful for thousands of local people who had stayed in their homes as food, water and medicine dwindled.

Colvin and Ochlik were buried in the same neighborhood where they died, according to videos posted online by Syrian opposition activists Thursday, although government media said their bodies had been recovered and were being taken to Damascus. Their deaths are part of a mounting toll: The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 people have died since the uprising began nearly a year ago.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles and Devorah Lauter in Paris

Photo: An image grab from a video uploaded on YouTube on Feb. 23 shows French photojournalist William Daniels as he reassures viewers that he was not injured and that his colleague, Edith Bouvier, was "strong and in good morale" despite her wounds. Credit: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

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