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ICC Note: A Dutch priest who had lived in Syria for decades was reportedly assassinated on Monday in a monastery where lived in Homs. The priest had refused to be evacuated from the city despite the conflict that was going on around him. The city of Homs is under control of rebel groups but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, reportedly carried out by a single masked gunman.
04/07/2014 Syria (AP) – A masked gunman assassinated a well-known, elderly Dutch priest on Monday, shooting him in the head in the garden of a monastery where he lived in the central Syrian city of Homs on Monday, a fellow priest, an activist group and Syria’s state-run media said.
Father Francis Van Der Lugt — a Jesuit, the same order as Pope Francis — had lived in Syria for decades and had refused to be evacuated with other civilians from the battleground city of Homs.
The motives for the attack were not known, and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the killing, which took place in Bustan al-Diwan, rebel-held neighborhood of Homs that has been blockaded for over a year by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
But the fact that Van Der Lugt was gunned down in a rebel-held area will likely underscore fears of many in Syrian Christian and Muslim minorities for the fate of their communities should Assad’s government be overthrown by the rebels. Over the past year, hard-line rebel groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front have become more influential and dominant among the opposition fighters in the city.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the 75-year-old Van Der Lugt, was “a man of peace, who with great courage, had wanted to remain faithful, in an extremely risky and difficult situation, to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated, for a long time, his life and spiritual service.”
It appeared that Van Der Lugt was directly targeted. A single gunman walked into the monastery, entered the garden and shot him in the head, said Rev. Ziad Hillal, a priest, who was in the convent when the attacked occurred.
“I am truly shocked. A man of peace has been murdered,” Hillal said in a phone interview from Homs with the Vatican Radio.

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