DAMASCUS, April 7 (Xinhua) -- A group of unidentified armed men shot dead a Dutch priest in the rebel-held old quarter of Syria's Homs on Monday, according to the state-run SANA news agency.
The gunmen opened fire at dawn on Father Frans van der Lugt at the Monastery of Jesuit Fathers in Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood, killing him instantly, said SANA, spelling no further details.
Activists reported the death of the priest who had lived in Syria for 30 years, saying "unknown masked gunmen" shot down the priest in his head after beating him.
The 72-year-old acclaimed priest refused to leave the rebel- held old city of Homs, which has been besieged by the government troops since more than a year and a half.
The priest preferred to stay in his monastery amid reports that he had sheltered a lot of families, who escaped their homes due to the shelling and ongoing battles in areas of the old Homs.
In February, the Syrian government concluded a deal with the UN to allow hundreds of civilians to leave the besieged old city to safe areas under the government control. The government also allowed in relief aid to trapped people who refused to leave their homes in the hard-battered part of Homs.
Syria's Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country 's Sunni-majority population, have felt the pain of the protracted crisis in Syria, as their population has been subject to attacks by the hard-line rebels.
Earlier this month, 13 nuns were released by the rebels after spending almost three months in captivity, following the rebels' attack against the Christian town of Ma'aloula in the northern countryside of Damascus.