In a break with the British media's controversially one-sided coverage of Syria's bloody civil war, a seasoned war correspondent of Channel 4 has accused rebel fighters of engineering incidents to “discredit” the Assad regime.
Alex Thomson claimed that rebels tried to lead him and his team into a “death trap” so they would be killed by gunfire from the Syrian Army, provoking international condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad.
“I'm quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus,” Mr. Thomson wrote in a first-first person account headed, “Set up to be shot in Syria's no man's land?”
He said the incident happened on Monday when he and his crew from Channel 4 News were travelling with United Nations monitors tor the village of al-Qubeir, the scene of the killings of nearly 80 people. They were in an area dominated by the Free Syrian Army and looking for an escort to show them around.
“Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind. 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,” Mr. Thomson wrote.
“We screamed off into the nearest side-street for cover.
Another dead-end. 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.
Predictably the black car was there which had led us to the trap. They roared off as soon as we re-appeared. I'm quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.”
Mr. Thomson claimed that his “conviction” that he and his colleagues were deliberately put in harm's way was “strengthened half an hour later when our four friends in the same beaten-up black car suddenly pulled out of a side-street, blocking us from the U.N. vehicles ahead”.
“The U.N. duly drove back past us, witnessed us surrounded by shouting militia, and left town. Eventually we got out too and on the right route, back to Damascus,” he said.
Mr. Thomson said that his experience with the rebels was not a “one-off”.
“This morning I received the following tweet: ‘@alextomo I read your piece “set up to be shot in no mans land', I can relate as I had that same experience in Al Zabadani during our tour.' That was from Nawaf al Thani, who is a human rights lawyer and a member of the Arab League Observer mission to Syria earlier this year.”