The founder of an organisation who trained the Syrian emergency response group known as the White Helmets has been found dead, according to reports.
James Le Mesurier, founder of the Mayday Rescue Foundation, was found dead early Monday morning near his home in central Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, his neighbour said. A Turkish diplomat told Reuters the circumstances of his death were unclear.
In 2014, Le Mesurier, a former British Army officer, founded the Mayday Rescue Foundation, which organises, trains, and equips first responders in conflict zones.
The not-for-profit organisation has played a key role in training the White Helmets, officially known as Syria Civil Defence, which has been credited for saving thousands of people in rebel-held areas during years of bombing by the Syrian government and Russian forces in the country’s civil war.
His death comes just days after he was accused of being a spy in a tweet by Russia's foreign ministry.
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, referred to Le Mesurier on Friday as a “former agent of Britain’s MI6, who has been spotted all around the world”.
Her comments, which were shared on Twitter, further accused Le Mesurier of working as a spy in the Balkans and the Middle East.