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US student killed while filming violence in Syria

Shaam News Network / AFP - Getty Images

Bassel Shahade, 28, a filmmaker and graduate student at Syracuse University, was killed Monday during clashes between regime troops and protesters in the embattled city of Homs.

Just five months ago, Bassel Shahade, a film student at Syracuse University, was explaining to the hosts of Democracy Now! that he had to speak quietly. He had hunkered down in an apartment in Damascus, Syria and worried that soldiers outside could hear him.   

“Thousands of detainees are still in the prisons,” Shahade said in a low voice. “Among them are tens of my friends. They are not terrorists. They are filmmakers, journalists, doctors, lawyers. They are very high intellectual people and activists.”

In the studio, host Amy Goodman worried for Shahade’s safety. “We can hear you just fine, Bassel, but we want you to be very careful,” Goodman said. “You can tell us you can’t talk. That is fine.”

Shahade, 28, was killed Monday while filming the aftermath of attacks by government security forces. The United Nations believes that 9,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed during the 14-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Video: Shelling in Syria intensifies

Amer Mater, a friend of Shahade, told The Associated Press that Shahade was in Houla to film the aftermath of violence over the weekend that killed 108 people, including at least 32 children.

The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.

Houla Media Center / EPA

Houla Media Center, a Syrian citizen journalist group, provided this image of image of bodies covered in white shrouds following the massacre in Houla, Syria. Syrian authorities deny responsibility.

Clinton condemns Syria massacre: Assad’s ‘rule by murder’ must end

Shahade was filming a documentary, Mater told the AP, and had trained other activists as videographers to document the attacks.

Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor called Shahade's death a tragedy.

“His death is also a tragedy for the Syrian people, who have suffered many months of tragic violence as they seek greater freedom for their nation,” Cantor said.

Friends took to Facebook to mourn the loss of their friend. A man named Waheeb wrote that he had cried looking at his friend’s photos. He said that Shahade “loved Syria and the people around him.”

“I remember him showing me proudly an article by his uncle ridiculing sectarianism and ideas of religious divisions between Christians and Muslims in Syria,” Waheeb wrote. “He believed that neither sect, ethnicity or religion mattered in relations between people.”

Shahade’s interview with Democracy Now! took place on Dec. 29, 2011, four days after Christmas. He told the hosts that tension was rising and violence increasing. A baby cried in the background.

Despite the discovery of another atrocity following the recent massacre in Houla, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad showed no sign of relinquishing his power. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

“You cannot walk after three-o-clock in the city. You’ll be shot,” Shahade said. “And you don’t know from where it will come—from the army or from the locals. Like, it’s a total chaos there.”

He told of a friend, a doctor, who was shot while trying to cross the border into Turkey.

“He was providing help for protesters,” Shahade said. “And they followed him, and he tried to cross the borders to Turkey, and they shot him on the border.”

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