On December 12, 2020, two unidentified masked men on a motorcycle fired at least 10 shots at Hussein Khattab, a reporter for the Turkish state-owned broadcaster TRT Arabic who was also known as Kara al-Safrani, according to news reports, a report by his employer, and reports by the press freedom and human rights groups the Syrian Journalists’ Association and the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
Khattab died at the scene, and the killers escaped on the motorcycle, those reports said.
At the time of the attack, Khattab was filming a report about the COVID-19 pandemic near a cemetery in Al-Bab, in Aleppo governorate in northwestern Syria, according to those reports.
Khattab, who has been working for TRT Arabic since November 2019, recently covered sensitive topics including interviews with victims of a chemical attack, according to clips of his reporting he shared on his personal Facebook page.
On that page, where he had about 5,000 followers, Khattab also posted footage of the conditions for internally displaced people at camps in northern Syria, and a bomb attack in the border city of Jarabulus.
Khattab also covered local news for TRT Arabic, including a local infrastructure project linking Idlib and northern Aleppo, and the impact of COVID-19 on the glass industry in the town of Armanaz.
On September 27, 2020, Khattab posted on his personal Facebook account that a local man identified as Ahmed Abdullah had pointed a gun at his face and had previously tried to stop him from reporting in the Aleppo village of Tarhine, where Khattab was covering a camp holding internally displaced people. He wrote that Abdullah accused him of working against the people of Tarhine in his coverage.
Khattab wrote that he felt Abdullah had “tried to kill me,” and added that he had reported Abdullah, whom he said was also known as Al-Sos, to local authorities. CPJ could not find contact information for Abdullah.
Mustafa Sejari, leader of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, a coalition of armed Syrian opposition groups that controls the city of Al-Bab, issued a statement saying that the Syrian National Army, the Defense and Interior Ministries, and the military police bore responsibility for Khattab’s killing, considering the journalist had made them aware of previous threats to his life, according to reports.
CPJ contacted the local council of Al-Bab via messaging app for comment, but did not receive any reply.