A Jordanian newspaper's April Fool's Day report chronicling a late-night visit by 3m-tall aliens in flying saucers sparked public panic and almost led to the town's emergency evacuation, officials said Monday.
The Al Ghad newspaper published a front-page article April 1 about the fake UFO landing near the desert town of Jafr, some 300km from the capital, Amman. The report said the UFOs lit up the whole town, interrupted communications and sent fearful residents streaming
into the streets.
Jafr's mayor, Mohammed Mleihan, got caught up in the paper's prank and said he sent security authorities in search of the aliens.
"Students didn't go to school, their parents were frightened and I almost evacuated the town's 13,000 residents," Mleihan told The Associated Press. "People were scared that aliens would attack them."
A Jordanian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss security issues, said an emergency plan was almost enacted in Jafr.
Mleihan said he may sue the daily for its "big lie", but added that the paper had called to apologise for the inconvenience caused by the joke.
Al Ghad's managing editor, Moussa Barhoumeh, tried to defuse the situation, saying the report has been "blown out of proportion".
"We meant to entertain, not scare people," he said.
Orson Welles caused similar panic in 1938 with his infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast. The live drama's fake news reports about a Martian invasion sparked hysteria among listeners who thought its portrayal of the attack was true.