Syrian journalist critical of Islamic State shot in southern Turkey

A Syrian television presenter who regularly delivered anti-Islamic State messages on his weekly programme is in a critical condition Monday after being shot in the back of the head by a masked assailant in southern Turkey's Gaziantep province.

Muhammed Zahir al-Sherkat, aged 36, was shot on Sunday in the province close to the Syrian border. He was reportedly carrying maps pertaining to the conflict in Syria. Originally from Aleppo, northern Syria, al-Sherkat has been a long-time opponent of Islamic State.

The extremist Islamic State group has been behind other attacks on journalists and activists in southern Turkey in recent months, causing concern among Syrians and reporters in the area.

"Doctors told us that they couldn’t operate because his vital signs are so bad and his blood pressure is very high. A surgery at this point could lead to his imminent death," Marwan Al-Shawi, a journalist who has visited the hospital, told dpa.

"He is living now on machines,” al-Shawi added, warning his condition was "very critical."

Al-Sherkat hosts a weekly show on Aleppo Today (Haleb al-Youm), an opposition broadcaster.

A former rebel, he first took up arms to fight forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and then refocused on Islamic State in 2014 as the extremist group gained ground, according to people familiar with his work.

In al-Bab, a town in northern Aleppo province, al-Sherkat worked as an imam at a local mosque, often dedicating his sermons to warnings against Islamic State. He also continued to oppose al-Assad's rule in Syria.

Police are in possession of security camera footage showing the incident, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. Investigations are ongoing.

Naji Jerf, a Syrian filmmaker who worked on exposing life under Islamic State control, was killed in December in Turkey.

In October the extremist group took responsibility for killing two Syrian journalists in Sanliurfa, also in the south, near the border.

Last update: Mon, 11/04/2016 - 13:39

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