Rescued French journalist arrives home

Edith Bouvier met by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who on Tuesday prematurely announced her evacuation from Homs

The injured French journalist Edith Bouvier was met by President Nicolas Sarkozy as her plane touched down in France on Friday after a high-risk evacuation from the besieged Syrian city of Homs.

Bouvier, 31, a freelance journalist who had been working for Le Figaro, had her leg shattered in the bomb attack that killed the Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik last week. Bouvier had appeared in a video pleading to be evacuated, stressing the need for a series of urgent operations on her femur, which was fractured in several places. After several failed attempts, she and the French photographer William Daniels were taken to the Lebanon border in a high-risk operation by Syrian rebels on Thursday.

A French government plane flew the journalists to the military base of Villacoublay near Paris where an ambulance crew was waiting with Bouvier's parents, both pharmacists based in Paris, and the editor of Le Figaro.

Sarkozy had wrongly announced Bouvier's evacuation on Tuesday while he was out on the campaign trail for his re-election battle. This time he spoke to Bouvier by phone in Beirut before announcing she was on her way back to France. He refused to give details of the evacuation operation "given the extreme tension on the ground".

A French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said the journalists' "morale was good, but they were of course tired after everything they have been through in the last days and hours". He stressed that local Syrians "had risked their lives" to get the journalists out and that Bouvier "was very well taken care of by the Syrian doctors from the start, which meant her injury did not worsen".

Daniels, an award-winning photographer specialising in humanitarian projects and foreign reporting, had been working with Bouvier for Le Figaro when they were caught in the bomb attack on 22 February.

Le Figaro's foreign editor Philippe Gélie wrote a piece describing the journalists' nine-day wait in heavily shelled Homs and frustrated attempts to evacuate them. Gélie said that last Friday three Red Crescent ambulances had managed to get into Baba Amr to reach the journalists but their representative, Marianne Gasser, was barred by authorities from entering with them. She was waiting 400 metres away but the reporters were unaware of this and refused to travel out with the Syrian rescuers, fearing the lack of an international presence to guarantee their safety. Another attempt was made on Monday but the reporters were not at the appointed place. A religious leader there told ambulance crews the journalists did not want to leave out of "solidarity" with the local citizens under siege.

Eventually, after one failed attempt, the journalists made it to Lebanese border with rebels on Thursday. Before the flight back Le Figaro published a photo by Daniels of Bouvier smiling and talking on the phone from her bed in a French hospital in Beirut.


Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

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