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12 November 2019 00:49

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JAMES Le Mesurier, the Brit behind the Syrian civil war White Helmets volunteer rescue group has died just days after Russian officials accused him of being a spy. The former British Army Officer reportedly fell to his death from a balcony at his home in Istanbul early on Monday morning. 10 Brit White Helmets founder James Le Mesurier 'plunges to death from balcony' days after Russia accused him of being spy A security source said it was believed that Le Mesurier had fallen from the balcony of his home office with his death being treated as a suspected suicide. According to the source, his wife had told police the pair had both taken sleeping pills around 4am, she then awoke to discover her husband was lying on the street surrounded by police. MURDER FEARS However, a third person - a diplomat - said the circumstances around his death were unclear, with this sentiment echoed on social media.

In a series of now-deleted tweets, BBC journalist Mark Urban said: "It not would have been possible" to fall from Le Mesurier's balcony. He has since tweeted: "There's a good deal of suspicion it may be murder by a state actor, but others suggest he may have taken his own life." In 2014, Le Mesurier founded the Mayday Rescue Foundation - which went on to organise and train the White Helmets. The White Helmets' official Twitter account today tweeted: "The Syrian Civil Defense family extends its deepest condolences to the James family, and we express our deepest sorrow and solidarity with his family. "As we also must commend his humanitarian efforts which Syrians will always remember." Known officially as Syria Civil Defence, they are credited with saving tens of thousands of people in rebel-held areas during years of bombing by Syrian government and Russian forces in the country's civil war. 10 Russia's MFA accused the White Helmets founder of being a spy in the Balkans and the Middle East Credit: MarkUrban01/Twitter 10 A Turkish police car parked near to Le Mesurier's flat Credit: Reuters Russia - which has close ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - has previously slammed the White Helmets and accused them of supporting terrorist organisations.

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It was reported on Twitter that the Istanbul Governer's office has announced a "wide ranging administrative and judicial investigation" into Le Mesurier's death. CIVILIAN HEROES In many areas of war-torn Syria, the white helmets were the only emergency medical workers able to help civilians wounded during Russian and government air strikes. The group, which operates in opposition-held areas, is often targeted in Syrian government attacks on its members and facilities. They also faced push-back from opposing groups after they exposed a series of war-crimes, including a horrific chemical attack outside Damascus, in 2017. The Syrian government considers the group a "terrorist" organisation because it works in areas controlled by its opponents, where state institutions and services are non-existent. In 2018, it was reported that 422 volunteers and family members had been evacuated from a war-zone in Syria by Israeli forces. The UK also helped with the re-settlement of the volunteers, re-homing 100 Syria White Helmets and family members earlier this year. Raed al-Salah, the head of the organisation told The Independent: "We were informed by [Le Mesuirer's] family that he had died. WHO ARE THE WHITE HELMETS? The White Helmets are a volunteer organisation that operates in parts of opposition-controlled Syria and in Turkey, founded in 2014 They were formed during the Syrian Civil War They work throughout the war-torn areas, carrying out medical evacuation, urban search and rescue after bombings, civilian evacuation and other essential and emergency service delivery As of 2018, the organisation said it had saved over 114,000 lives, with 204 White Helmet volunteers losing their lives in the process The group have been targeted in a misinformation campaign by Russian and Assad supporters, and accused of having links with terrorist organisations and staging their rescue missions, according to investigations by various journalists They're also banned from entering Kurdish controlled areas of Syria MOST READ IN WORLD NEWS LOO WHAT? The reason why toilet seats are U-shaped in public bathrooms but aren't at home PREGNANCY HELL Girl, 10, 'eight months pregnant after being raped by 15-year-old brother' THEY'LL REGRET TATT These women may wish they never had these rude inkings done at all Warning DEATH PLUNGE Workman plummets 131ft to his death after antenna he's working on collapses 'I'LL NEVER FORGET' Schumacher's wife thanks F1 legend 'for everything he did for me' HOLIDAY TRAGEDY Brit mum dies in husband's arms on dream US holiday after feeling tired "We read that the police found his body outside his home in Istanbul. But as of now, the police are investigating the case and have drawn no conclusions yet. We are waiting for the police report." Mr Salah said the White Helmets were "devastated" upon hearing the news. The White Helmets gained worldwide acclaim in 2016 when a British documentary on the group won an Oscar and they were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. 10 A police officer stands outside the home of Brit White Helmets founder James Le Mesurier as Istanbul announces they will be launching an investigation into his death Credit: Reuters 10 Police tape outside of James Le Mesurier's home in Istanbul, as circumstances surrounding his death are unclear Credit: Reuters 10 The White Helmets work to rescue civilians from rubble Credit: AFP or licensors 10 A White Helmets volunteer Credit: AFP or licensors The founder of an organization that launched the Syrian White Helmets has been found dead near his home in Istanbul. James Le Mesurier's body was found on Monday in the central Beyoglu district of the city. Turkish authorities have yet to confirm how he died, but state-run Anadolu news agency is reporting that he may have fallen to his death. The Istanbul governor's office said "comprehensive administrative and judicial investigations" had been initiated into Le Mesurier's death. The White Helmets confirmed his death on its Facebook page as well as tweeting its condolences to his family. Read more: Turkey: Babies behind bars His death follows just days after the Russian Foreign Ministry in a series of tweets on November 8 wrote that Le Mesurier had "connections to terrorist groups." Moscow said that the Syrian Civil Defense, the formal name for the White Helmets, assisted the "most dangerous terrorist groups" in Syria. Read more: Syria: German-funded health facilities hit in government offensive Who was James Le Mesurier? James Le Mesurier's Mayday Rescue launched the Syrian White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group credited with saving thousands of lives in the Syrian civil war James Le Mesurier was a former British army officer. 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." The group began operations in 2014, and opened its Istanbul office in 2015 to support its most well-known rescue project, the Syrian White Helmets. Le Mesurier has received personal awards in the UK for his work with the White Helmets, a former failed nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize. Besides Syria, Mayday Rescue also organized emergency response teams in Somalia and Lebanon. Read more: Syrian White Helmet rescuers say thousands of volunteers need help The White Helmets — neutral rescuers or spreading propaganda? Watch video 03:06 Share Syrian White Helmets risk death in Idlib Send Facebook google+ Whatsapp Tumblr linkedin stumble Digg reddit Newsvine Permalink Syrian White Helmets risk death to save lives in Idlib The volunteers working as part of the White Helmets are acknowledged to have saved thousands of lives during the eight-year Syrian civil war and the group maintains that it is neutral, because it provides assistance to both sides in the conflict. However, the Syrian and Russian governments have long viewed the group as promoting Western propaganda and supporting anti-Assad insurgents. Its first responders often risk death from "double tap" bombing raids by Syrian government forces, who launch secondary bombing attacks on the volunteers once they head into bombed buildings to search for survivors in the rubble. Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here. kmm/msh (Reuters, AP)