Published: Tue, November 12, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

James le Mesurier, backer of Syria’s White Helmets, found dead in Istanbul

James le Mesurier, backer of Syria’s White Helmets, found dead in Istanbul

A former British army officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer organization in Syria was found dead in Istanbul early Monday, Turkish officials and the group said. "He was a British soldier", she added.

Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford said his wife had been "telling friends that he had just begun taking anti-depressants".

The White Helmets group confirmed his death on its Facebook page, and offered "deepest condolences" to his family. The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted about Le Mesurier last week, alleging that he was a former agent of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.

The police and paramedics arrived at the scene soon after they got the call and initially found nothing in his possession to identify the man who was later found to be Le Mesurier.

The body of James Le Mesurier, who received an OBE in 2016, was discovered in the early hours of Monday, White Helmet sources told the BBC.

Those regimes complained that the White Helmets were "faking a number of airstrikes, faking civilian injuries and casualties".

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Members of the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, carry away in a blanket the body of a victim following a reported air strike on a makeshift clinic in the area of Tallmannis in Syria's northern Idlib province on August 21, 2019. He said Mr Le Mesurier knew he was the target of Russian-fuelled vitriol and took precautions.

A 40-minute documentary about the White Helmets won an Academy Award in 2017 in the short-subject category. The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times.

The Istanbul governor's office said an investigation would be launched into the death. He was founder of the not-for-profit Mayday Rescue group which, according to its website, "builds emergency response capacity in communities at risk of conflict and natural disaster".

In addition to various governments, its projects have also been bank-rolled by the United Nations.

The group, which has had more than 3,000 volunteers in opposition-held areas, says it has saved thousands of lives since 2013 and documented Syrian government attacks on civilians and other infrastructure.

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