A former British Army officer who was honoured by the Queen for his work with the White Helmets civil defence group in Syria has been found dead near his office in Istanbul.
The body of James Le Mesurier, who received an OBE in 2016, was discovered in the early hours of Monday, White Helmet sources told the BBC.
Le Mesurier set up the Mayday Rescue emergency response group, which helped train White Helmets volunteers.
The cause of death is not known.
According to White Helmets sources, Le Mesurier’s body was found at about 04:30 local time (01:30 GMT) on the street in front of an office building used by Mayday Rescue.
Le Mesurier, who had also worked for the United Nations, was considered a founder of the White Helmets. The organisation, which is also known as the Syria Civil Defence, helps rescue civilians caught up in attacks in areas of Syria controlled by the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.
In 2016, the organisation received the Right Livelihood Award in recognition for “outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians”. Later the same year the group was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused the White Helmets of openly aiding terrorist organisations. The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted about Le Mesurier last week, alleging that he was a former agent of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.
Le Mesurier received an OBE honour (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) from the Queen in 2016 for “services to the Syria Civil Defence group and the protection of civilians in Syria”.