James Le Mesurier, co-founder of the widely recognized 'White Helmets', involved in rescue and humanitarian works in Syria, was found dead near his apartment in Istanbul. The 48-year-old former British Army officer's deceased body was discovered at about 4.30 am (Local Time) on a street near his home, in the Turkish capital.
He had fractures in his skull and legs and is believed to have been fallen from his apartment's balcony. Investigation has been ordered by the Istanbul governor's office. Mesurier's wife informed the police officials that the couple had taken sleeping pills at about 4 in the morning, after which they went to sleep, as reported by Reuters. She woke up after hearing knocks on the door following the incident.
Le Mesurier, a former British Army officer was the founder of the White Helmets, a civil defence group active in Syria, known for its rescue, humanitarian and repair works in the regions, not under control of the Syrian government. He received OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of British Empire), from the queen in 2016, for his humanitarian work. The group, he co-founded, took to Twitter to share the sad news and offer condolences.
The White Helmets, aka Syria Civil Defense, founded in 2013, rescues people caught in the middle of attacks. The group has worked in the region and is not controlled by President Bashar al-Assad's government. They comprise of civil volunteers, also does repair work in the regions destroyed by bombings and airstrikes.
The group's chief donor is a charity organisation, 'MayDay Rescue', also founded by Le Mesurier in 2013. They train White Helmets volunteers and has the UK and Dutch governments as its main donors. The group also receives funds from the US government.
In 2016, they won 'Right Livelihood Award', known as the alternative Nobel, for its "outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians". The same year, it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Syrian President wasn't amused with the White Helmet's achievement, in an interview with APTN news agency, he asked, "What did they achieve in Syria?". He went on to question the Nobel prize itself, "How unpoliticised is the Nobel Prize is?", he asked. Assad also mentioned that he would give the prize to whoever worked for peace in Syria, by first stopping all the terrorists from blowing war in the country.
Both Syrian and Russian governments have accused the group of working with anti-Damascus terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and al-Nusra. On November 8, the Russian Foreign ministry, accused them of staging provocations, helping terrorist groups active in the region, resisting counter-terror operations by the government and staging false-flag terror attack in the war-torn country.
Syria and its allies have accused both Le Mesurier and the White Helmets of working with the western countries, in an attempt to topple the Syrian regime. The group has resisted such allegations and has claimed that it's a non-political entity working to provide humanitarian assistance in the war-ravaged nation. According to the group, it has rescued thousands of civilians and lost 252 of its volunteers, in the process.