SAT 14 - 12 - 2019
 
Date: Nov 12, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Founder of Syrian White Helmets organization found dead in Istanbul
Reuters
ISTANBUL: The British founder of an organization that trained the “White Helmets” emergency response group has been found dead in Istanbul, five years after the group was set up to perform rescue work in rebel areas during the Syrian civil war.

The body of James Le Mesurier, founder of the Mayday Rescue group, was found early Monday near his home in central Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, a neighbor said. The Istanbul Governor’s Office said an investigation had been launched.

A security source told Reuters it was believed that Le Mesurier had fallen from the balcony of his home office and his death was being treated as suspected suicide.

The White Helmets, known officially as Syria Civil Defense, have been credited with saving thousands of people in rebel-held areas hit by bombing by government and Russian forces in Syria’s more than 8-year-old civil war.

White Helmets members say they are neutral. Syrian President Bashar Assad and his backers, including Moscow, describe them as tools of Western propaganda and Islamist-led insurgents.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter Friday that the White Helmets help “the most dangerous terrorist groups,” and that Le Mesurier was a former British agent with reported “connections to terrorist groups.”

Mayday Rescue, a not-for-profit organization, began its operations in 2014 and established an office in Istanbul in 2015 to support its Syria project. Its projects have been funded by the United Nations and various governments, its website said.

A former British army officer, Le Mesurier was awarded an Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 2016 for services to Syria Civil Defense and the protection of civilians in Syria.

The security source said Le Mesurier’s wife told police that she and her husband had taken sleeping pills around 4 a.m. and went to bed. She said she was later woken by knocking on the door and discovered that her husband was lying on the street surrounded by police, the source added.

Mayday Rescue did not immediately respond to an emailed query.

Syria Civil Defense on Twitter expressed “our deepest sorrow and solidarity” with Le Mesurier’s family. “We also must commend his humanitarian efforts which Syrians will always remember,” it said.


 
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