UPDATE 1-French journalist killed by sniper fire in Syria

Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:53am EST

(Adds Hollande condolences)

ANKARA Jan 18 (Reuters) - ANKARA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - French war reporter Yves Debay was killed by sniper fire while reporting on the crisis in Syria, a Turkish official said on Friday.

The Belgian-born Debay was taken to Turkey, where medical staff pronounced him dead, after being shot once in the head and once in the chest on Thursday, a Turkish official said.

"France condemns this odious act and expresses its condolences, its sympathy and its solidarity with the friends and family of Yves Debay," French President Francois Hollande said in a statement.

Syrian anti-government rebels said Debay had been shot in the northern city of Aleppo, a once-thriving commercial hub where two explosions tore through a university earlier this week killing 83 people.

Debay had been working for Assaut, a French magazine he founded and which specialised in defence matters.

According to French media, Debay was born in 1954 in what was then the Belgian Congo and later took French nationality. A former soldier, he later moved into journalism where he specialised in war reporting.

Last year, Syria was the most dangerous country by far for journalists with 28 killed, according to the watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists. Several reporters are also missing in Syria after being abducted during the uprising.

Rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad have detained journalists suspected of supporting the government. Pro-Assad militia have also seized journalists, including an NBC News team who were held for five days in December.

The Syrian government tightly restricts media access. (Reporting by Jonathon Burch in Ankara and Catherine Bremer in Paris; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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