BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad denied in comments aired on Thursday that his forces targeted U.S.-born journalist Marie Colvin, a veteran correspondent for The Times who was killed in Syria in 2012, adding that he does not know how she died.
In an interview with NBC News, Assad was asked to comment on a lawsuit filed by Colvin's relatives in U.S. federal court claiming that Syrian government officials targeted and killed Colvin to silence her reporting on Syria and the besieged central city of Homs.
"Nobody knows if she (was) killed by missile, or which missile, and where did the missile come from, or how. No one has any evidence," Assad said.
The Syrian president said Colvin entered Syria illegally and "worked with the terrorists," adding that the government cannot be responsible for those who enter the country illegally.
Assad's government uses the term "terrorist" for all armed opposition fighters and militants battling his forces, whether they are Western-backed rebels or al-Qaida and other Islamic fighters.
The lawsuit filed last week said Syrian officials launched a rocket attack on a makeshift broadcast studio in a neighborhood of Homs on February 22, 2012, killing Colvin, along with French photojournalist Remi Ochlik.
Just hours before her death, the 56-year-old Colvin, a native of New York City, had filed another report on the Syrian government's crackdown and its impact on civilians.
The wrongful-death lawsuit filed Saturday in Washington by the Center for Justice and Accountability on behalf of Cathleen Colvin, Marie Colvin's sister, and Justine Araya-Colvin, the reporter's niece, said the Assad government "hunted down journalists and media activists" who were trying to tell the story of the government's deadly crackdown on Syrian rebels.
The Syrian government has contended that its attacks targeted "terrorists."
"When you're caught in crossfire somewhere, you cannot tell who killed who ... these are all allegations," Assad said.