UN chief decries death of 75-year-old Dutch priest in Syria

Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt chats with civilians, urging them to be patient, in the besieged area of Homs, on Jan 29, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt chats with civilians, urging them to be patient, in the besieged area of Homs, on Jan 29, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon condemned the shooting death on Monday of a well-known Dutch priest in Syria as an "inhumane act of violence."

Frans van der Lugt, 75, who gained renown for his insistence on staying in Syria's besieged city of Homs, was shot dead there by a masked gunman.

Mr Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN chief "demands that warring parties and their supporters ensure that civilians are protected, regardless of their religion, community or ethnic affiliation". The motive for the priest's murder was unclear, but Syria's main opposition bloc and President Bashar al-Assad's regime traded blame for the killing.

"Both the Syrian government and armed groups have the legal obligation and moral responsibility to do so," the statement from Mr Ban's office added.

"They must do everything to avoid and prevent violence against civilians, including indiscriminate shelling and air attacks on civilian areas." Mr Ban was also "horrified" by apparent executions in the town of Kassab, his spokesman said.

"While the United Nations is unable to confirm the validity of these reported atrocities, gross human rights violations undeniably continue and residents of entire villages such as Kassab have been forced to flee," the statement added.

"Government forces continue to indiscriminately destroy whole neighborhoods, burying entire families beneath the rubble of their homes." The UN chief is "extremely concerned that groups listed as terrorist organisations by the United Nations Security Council continue to brutalise the civilian population", the statement added.