LONDON – A British journalist claims Syrian rebels set him up to die in no man's land near the Lebanese border, saying Friday he believes they wanted to use his death at the hands of government forces to score propaganda points.
Channel 4 News's chief correspondent Alex Thomson said the incident happened Monday in the Syrian town of Qusair, about half an hour's drive from the battered city of Homs.
In a blog post published to Channel 4's website and in an email exchange with The Associated Press, 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." A shot rang out, and he said their car made a series of panicky maneuvers before retreating the way it came.
Thomson claimed that they weren't 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 the post, explaining that their deaths at the hands of President Bashar 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 wasn't possible to verify amid the chaos gripping Syria, but in an email 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.
Thomson's blog post: http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/hostile-territory/1863