Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told The Sunday Times his troops did not target Marie Colvin, the paper's foreign correspondent who was killed in a rocket attack last year.
The 56-year-old reporter was killed in the Syrian city of Homs in February 2012 alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik when the building they were staying in, which was being used as a makeshift media centre, was shelled by the Syrian army.
Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy was injured in the attack alongside several other foreign journalists and remains convinced from the pattern of explosions that the media centre was deliberately targeted.
Colvin travelled to Syria at the beginning of February because she felt the “truth needed to be told” about Assad's murderous regime. When she struggled to obtain a visa from the Syrian government she flew to Beirut and found her own way to cross the border via a Syrian smuggler.
In an interview with The Sunday Times (£) published yesterday, Assad said he regretted her death but insisted she was not personally targeted because of her reporting.
He said: “When a journalist goes into a conflict zone to cover a story and convey it to the world, I think it is very courageous work.
“If you enter illegally, you cannot expect the state to be responsible.”
Last week a new campaign to secure the prosecution of those who commit war crimes against journalists and photographers is being launched to mark the first anniversary Colvin’s death.