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updated: 3/13/2013 10:10 AM

EU representative killed in rocket attack in Syria

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Associated Press

BRUSSELS -- A European Union staff member has been killed in a rocket attack near Damascus, the Syrian capital, the EU announced Wednesday.

Ahmad Shihadeh, a policy officer with the EU delegation in Syria, was killed Tuesday in the Damascus suburb of Deraya, where he lived, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday. A spokesman for Ashton said Shihadeh was Syrian, 32 years old, and had worked for the EU for five years. It was the first death in the Syrian civil war of an EU employee.

Shihadeh "died while providing humanitarian help to the community of Deraya," Ashton said. "Ahmad was known for his courage and selflessness."

Both Ashton and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, extended condolences to Shihadeh's family and friends. The Commission is the EU's executive arm.

Ashton took the occasion to call for an end to the conflict.

"As we approach the second anniversary of the uprising in Syria, I call again on all sides to take urgent steps to end the violence, which has led to the deaths of some 100,000 innocent citizens and over one million refugees seeking shelter in neighboring countries," she said.

The effort to overthrow the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad began as a popular uprising on March 15, 2011, after activists call for a "Day of Rage" across Syria, inspired by other uprisings across the Arab world.

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