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Journalist dies in gun accident

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FREAK INCIDENT: She was checking a rifle when it went off accidentally in Lebanon

KUALA LUMPUR: A MALAYSIAN journalist was killed in a firearm accident in Lebanon on Saturday.

Claudia Theophilus, 42, who worked as a web producer with Al-Jazeera English news agency, died after a rifle -- which she was looking at, went off accidentally about 2.30am (8.30am Malaysian time).

The incident happened in Baakleen -- 45km from Beirut.

Malaysian ambassador to Lebanon Ilango Karuppannan said Theophilus died shortly after she arrived at a general hospital in the district.

"From what we were informed, Claudia and two Lebanese friends were taking a look at several rifles, when one of it accidentally went off.

"She was rushed to the hospital, but attempts to save her life were unsuccessful," he told the New Straits Times.

He said an initial police report did not indicate any criminal element in the incident.

Ilango said the embassy was informed about the incident about noon the same day, before it sent officers to the hospital.

The hospital had conducted a post-mortem on the body and the embassy had just received its report.

He said Wisma Putra had informed Theophilus' family here, and preparations were being made to fly the body home as soon aspossible.

He said her body would be taken to Beirut before being flown back to Kuala Lumpur.

"We are liaising with Lebanese authorities on the procedures. The process is expected to take at least two days."

When contacted about 6pm yesterday, Ilango said embassy officials were on their way to the scene of the incident to meet Lebanese police officers and get a better picture of what had transpired.

Prior to her employment with Al-Jazeera, Theophilus began her journalism career at The Sun newspaper and Malaysiakini news portal here.

Theophilus who was based in Doha, arrived in Lebanon on Jan 28 to meet her friends.

Her family members in Seremban are in disbelief over the news.

Her younger sister, Dora, expressed shock although she knew her sister was on holiday with her friends.

"We received a call from the Foreign Affairs Ministry about 3pm today (yesterday) telling us that our sister was shot.

"However we are still waiting for further details, including the arrangements for the body to be brought back."

She said her sister, who was based in Doha, was the eldest in the family and would consistently get in contact with the family on any occasion.

The family, she said, were hoping to be briefed soon about the incident which had claimed Theophilus' life.

"We haven't received any information except that she was shot to death. My parents are in shock that they both could not say a word since being told about the terrible news."

Checks by the New Straits Times showed that people were coming in and out from Theophilus' parents double-storey terrace house in Taman Bukit Kepayang here after learning about the news.

Theophilus' parents could not be reached for comment as they said they had to wait for confirmation from the authorities.

One of her relatives, who refused to be named said they (the family) received the news from Theophilus' employer, Al-Jazeera in Kuala Lumpur.

"The last time she was home was during the Christmas celebrations. She often came home, about once every three months."

She said when Theophilus told her family about her plan to go on a holiday to Lebanon, her father was worried and told her that the place was dangerous.

Claudia Theophilus was rushed to hospital following the accident but attempts to save her life failed


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