A senior British journalist has claimed Syrian rebels tried to lead him and his team into a death trap so they would be killed by gunfire from government forces in a bid to discredit the Assad regime.
Alex Thomson, chief correspondent for Channel 4 News said the incident happened on Monday in the Syrian town of Qusair, about half an hour’s drive from the battered city of Homs.
Thomson said he, his driver, a translator, and two other journalists were trying to return to government lines when their rebel escort led them down what he described as a dead-end in the middle of a “free-fire zone”.
“Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind,” he recalls.
“We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man’s-land.
“At that point there was the crack of a bullet and one of the slower three-point turns I’ve experienced. We screamed off into the nearest side-street for cover.
“There was no option but to drive back out onto the sniping ground and floor it back to the road we’d been led in on.”
Thomson claimed that they were not led into no-man’s-land by mistake.
“I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army,” he wrote in a blog post on Channel 4’s website
He said that their deaths at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces would have drawn sympathy to the rebel cause. “Dead journos are bad for Damascus,” he said.
Thomson said he and his colleagues eventually managed to get back to the government side. He has since left Syria.
His account was not possible to verify amid the chaos gripping Syria, but he insisted that there was no other explanation for what happened.
“They said: ‘Go left.’ Road was totally blocked 50 yards ahead. They had to have known.”
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists calls Syria “the most dangerous place for journalists in the world,” saying that it has recorded the deaths of nine local and international reporters there since November.