Dutch priest shot dead in Syria

A Dutch priest has been shot dead by a gunman in the Syrian city of Homs.

The BBC reports that Frans van der Lugt had refused to leave the city so long as there were still Christians there. 

His death was confirmed to the AFP news agency by Jan Stuyt, secretary of the Dutch Jesuit Order, who said a man entered Mr van der Lugt's house, took him outside and shot him twice in the head in the street.

Mr van der Lugt first came to live in Syria in 1966 and, according to the BBC, considered the country to be his home.

He told the AFP news agency in an interview in February: "The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration and everything they have.

"If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties."

He lived in a Jesuit monastery and there are concerns for the safety of the other 24 Christians who reside there. 

They have stayed on in Homs following a major evacuation of 1,400 people from the city that was overseen by the UN. 

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi paid tribute to Mr Van der Lugt as a "man of peace who showed great courage in remaining loyal to the Syrian people despite an extremely risky and difficult situation".

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