Jomaa al-Ahmad, a correspondent for Shahba Press Agency, was killed by an airstrike on Hayan, in Aleppo province, on October 27, 2015, while filming an airstrike for the privately owned outlet, Mamoun al-Khatib, the director of Shahba Press Agency, told CPJ.
Al-Ahmad died from injuries when the area he was filming in was struck four times by bombs dropped from warplanes, the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, a monitoring group, said. The report by the group, which Al-Ahmad had also worked with, said he was seriously injured in the fourth blast.
Three minutes of footage of three airstrikes taken by al-Ahmad and recovered by a colleague after his death, was posted on his press agency’s YouTube channel. From minute 0.40 to 1.12, the footage shows a family escaping from a building surrounded by dust and rubble. Al-Ahmad tells the camera the mosque has been hit. At 1.35, as he interviews a man who says civilians have been targeted in the attacks, a third airstrike hits close by. Several minutes later a fourth bomb strikes and badly wounds al-Ahmad, al-Khatib said. The footage posted on YouTube does not show this explosion.
Al-Khatib told CPJ that al-Ahmad was rushed to the Turkish border for treatment, but had died by the time the director arrived about an hour later. Activists told the media that two Syrian civil defense members and a number of civilians were injured in the attacks on Hayan that day.
The Shahba Press Agency and Violations Documentation Center in Syria both accused Russia of carrying out the airstrikes on Hayan. The violations center cited a Hayan-based media activist as saying the fourth airstrike on October 27, allegedly launched by Russia, struck a house in the town. Al-Ahmad, who was standing about 10 meters from the house at the time, was injured, the center said.
The Russian military began airstrikes on Syria in September 2015, ostensibly targeting Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other militant groups. Russia has come under criticism from the Syrian opposition and their supporters for allegedly using the strikes to target all rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad, a long-time strategic ally of Russia. Human rights and civil society groups have criticized the strikes for indiscriminately targeting civilians.
The Russian Defense Ministry has not not responded to CPJ’s emailed request for comment. The ministry published a report on October 28, 2015 saying that Russian planes made 71 combat sorties, engaging 118 “terrorist objects,” in the previous 24 hours including in Aleppo. Hayan was not specifically mentioned.
Syrian state news agency SANA said government warplanes also hit Hayan on October 27, targeting “terrorist organizations.” The report said the “terrorists” the airstrikes targeted named al-Ahmad as being among those killed. CPJ is unable to confirm whether Russian or Syrian airstrikes targeted Hayan on the day al-Ahmad died.
On its website, Shahba Press Agency commemorated al-Ahmad’s commitment to documenting the war. Al-Ahmad is survived by his wife and four children, the article said. Shahba Press Agency was established in 2013 in Aleppo and describes itself as a neutral news agency, run by Syrian journalists and not affiliated with any government or political party. Al-Ahmad had headed the Hayan office of Shahba Press Agency since 2013, al-Khatib said.
A week before the Hayan airstrikes, an attack allegedly carried out by a Russian warplane struck Binin, a town in Idlib province, killing Syrian journalist Wasem Aledel.