flag_of_the_islamic_state_of_iraq_islamska država, zastava.png
Photograph: hr.wikipedia.org

A Syrian television presenter who regularly delivered anti-Islamic State messages on his weekly programme was in a critical condition Monday after being shot in the back of the head by a masked assailant in southern Turkey's Gaziantep province.

Islamic State's semi-official al-Amaq news agency claimed the extremist group carried out the attack using a gun with a silencer.

Muhammed Zahir al-Sherkat, aged 36, was on life support in a Turkish hospital. The claim on al-Amaq said he "presents programmes hostile to the Islamic State."

The journalist was shot on Sunday in the province close to the Syrian border. He was reportedly carrying maps pertaining to the conflict in Syria.

Islamic State has been behind other attacks on journalists and activists in southern Turkey in recent months, causing concern among Syrians and reporters in the area. Al-Amaq recalled that Islamic State fighters assassinated critics in the past.

"Doctors told us that they couldn’t operate because his vital signs are so bad and his blood pressure is very high. A surgery at this point could lead to his imminent death," Marwan al-Shawi, a Syrian journalist and colleague who has visited the hospital, told dpa.

"He is living now on machines," al-Shawi added, warning his condition was "very critical."

Al-Sherkat hosts a weekly show on Aleppo Today (Haleb al-Youm), an opposition broadcaster. Originally from Aleppo, northern Syria, al-Sherkat has been a long-time opponent of the extremist group.

A former rebel, he first took up arms to fight forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and then refocused on Islamic State in 2014 as the extremist group gained ground, according to people familiar with his work.

In al-Bab, a town in northern Aleppo province, al-Sherkat worked as an imam at a local mosque, often dedicating his sermons to warnings against Islamic State. He also continued to oppose al-Assad's rule in Syria.

Police are in possession of security camera footage showing the incident, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. Investigations are ongoing.

Naji Jerf, a Syrian filmmaker who worked on exposing life under Islamic State control, was killed in December in Turkey.

In October the extremist group took responsibility for killing two Syrian journalists in Sanliurfa, also in the south, near the border.

In January it was made public that Islamic State had killed Ruqia Hassan, a 30-year-old female journalist and activist who reported from inside Raqqa, the extremists' de-facto capital in Syria.

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