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Peacemaker Priest Of Homs Shot Dead In Syria

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

Posted on April 7, 2014, at 5:04 p.m. ET

This is Father Francis Van Der Lugt, a beloved Dutch priest shot dead by a gunman Monday in the Syrian city of Homs, AFP reported.

Yazan Homsy / Reuters

Van der Lugt, 75, had remained in Homs in solidarity with residents, despite the regime's siege of the city.

"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," the Jesuit priest, known as Father Fran, told AFP in February.

AP Photo/About our Neighborhood Hamidiyeh Simply

The Syrian government has besieged much of Homs for nearly two years, shelling rebel-held areas and causing a rising humanitarian crisis. The U.N. evacuated 1,500 people in February — but the priest refused to leave his monastery and the Homsi people.

Yazan Homsy / Reuters

"The faces of people you see in the street are weak and yellow. Their bodies are weakened and have lost their strength," Van der Lugt told AFP prior to the February U.N. evacuation.

Jan Stuyt, secretary of the Dutch Jesuit Order, confirmed Van Der Lugt's death. "A man came into his house, took him outside and shot him twice in the head," Stuyt told AFP. The motive and identity of the gunman remains unknown.

AP Photo/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Van Der Lugt moved to Syria in 1966 and made it home. "I don't see people as Muslims or Christian, I see a human being first and foremost," he told AFP in February. The Vatican released a statement expressing "great pain" and calling him "a man of peace."

AP Photo/About our Neighborhood Hamidiyeh Simply

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.