Edith Bouvier
Edith BouvierReuters

Efforts to covertly facilitate the escape of French journalist Edith Bouvier from Homs were halted last minute when the Free Syria Army learned of a plot to "use her as a bargaining chip with the French government."

Omar Al Homsi, a senior officer in the Free Syria Army operating in besieged Homs, said that while the SFA had aided British photographer Paul Conroy in successfully escaped from Syria, they were to concerned about Bouvier's safety to make the attempt.

Al Homsi said the Le Figaro journalist refused evacuation after the SFA learned of a ploy by the regime to use her to pressure the government of Nicholas Sarkozy ahead of upcoming French elections.

"She was returned back to Bab Amr from which she was taken and is currently suffering from foot injuries. The rescue operation was aborted for her own safety," he said.

"A group of FSA fighters in charge of protecting demonstrators and journalists were assigned to evacuate Conroy and Bouvier after they were injured in attacks on a makeshift press centre where two other journalists were killed," Al Homsi explained.

However, the group reportedly came under heavy enemy artillery fire by Shabiha militiamen and two FSA fighters were killed and several others injured.

The group then split into two groups, al-Homis said. Conroys group managed to cross into Lebanon, while Bouvier's group returned to Bab Amr.

Al Homsi said the bodies of American Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and her French photographer Remi Ochlik are currently being held in a freezer unit in a truck, until they can be safely repatriated.

They were killed last week in the intense shelling of rebel held areas in Homs, which has now entered its fourth week.

UN officials say the total number of civilians killed in Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on protesters demanding an end to regime have reached at least 7,300.

The Free Syria Army is comprised of some 20,000 army defectors armed as light infantry. They control several areas in Syria's north and have staged numerous lethal ambushes and hit-and-run raids on Assad's security forces.