BEIRUT: A government-organized plane trip for journalists to the war-ravaged city of Aleppo earlier this week came as surprise to those taking part, according to a CNN report.
In an item posted on CNN’s website Thursday, the news network’s Fredrick Pleitgen said that he and others taking part in the excursion the day before had no idea they were headed for the divided city that is the country’s largest, and its economic capital.
“We had been told we were going on a trip to the front line in Damascus. Instead, we were driven to an air field and packed into an old Soviet-made Yakovlev YAK-40 aircraft. It wasn’t until we were in the air that government officials on the flight finally offered up some information,” Pleitgen wrote.
“We are going to Aleppo,” one said with a smile.
The government minder informed the members of the press that they were on the first civilian flight to land at Aleppo International Airport since December 2012, when fierce clashes in the vicinity forced the facility’s closure.
Pleitgen said the rest of the day spent in Aleppo went fairly uneventfully, although the arrival itself meant that he and other journalists were in the process of making news as well as reporting it.
“We sat still, slightly nervous about the guinea pig role we had been thrust into by the government, as our pilot performed a spectacular combat landing on a foggy day. As the aircraft taxied toward the terminal we finally realized that we were the news of the day,” he wrote.
The members of the media spoke with Aleppo’s governor, toured an aid distribution center, spoke to government soldiers and visited several parts of the city before returning to the capital at the end of the day.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 25, 2014, on page 10.