Gunmen in Syria Murder Well-Known Dutch Priest

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A well-respected Dutch priest has been murdered in the Syrian city of Homs.

Rev. Ziad Hillals said a single gunman approached Father Francis Van Der Lugt Monday at a monastery where he resided. The gunman entered the garden and shot him in the head.
"I am truly shocked. A man of peace has been murdered," Hillal said in a phone interview from Homs with the Vatican Radio.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killing of the elderly priest as "an inhumane act of violence against a man who heroically stood by the people of Syria amid sieges and growing difficulties," according to a statement released by the spokesperson for the secretary-general.

Ban demanded that "the warring parties and their supporters ensure that civilians are protected, regardless of their religion, community or ethnic affiliation," the Associated Press reported.

Father Der Lugt, 75, had lived in Syria for more than 40 years.

When the civil war began, the Jesuit priest refused to leave, instead moving to a rebel-held area to work with refugees and civilians.

Der Lugt's murder is highlighting fears among Christians in Syria.

In recent months, hard-line rebel groups have become more influential, including groups linked to al Qaeda.

As their power has grown, Christians have increasingly become targets of attacks.

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