Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How "The Russians"* Covered up the Truth ... Partly, Gradually ... About MH17

How "The Russians"* Covered up the Truth ... Partly, Gradually ... About MH17
November 26-28, 2014
last edits Dec. 7

* "The Russians" here meaning whoever it was that ran and operated the Buk launcher (if it's all one and the same) that we're calling 3x2, blamed for the shoot-down of MH17. Note: it's quite likely they weren't Russian at all... 

Shortly after the July 17 crash of the Boeing 777 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, Eliot Higgins (aka Brown Moses) and the Bellingcat team accurately tracked a certain mystery Buk (SA-11) launching unit across Eastern Ukraine, up to a last point very near a likely launch site for the missile that brought the jet down (while the full implications aren't clear, I concur with their basic findings, as explained here on an ACLOS page where a lot of my other points below are explained out).

More recently, Bellingcat landed another coup in the saga, in early November issuing a new report claiming to link that very launcher, or at least the truck hauling it, to a truck-bound launcher also seen inside Russia a few weeks before the incident, and again just after. If true, it would seem to be a smoking gun. I think it's at least partly true, and the problem is only with the "seem to be" part. And I have no solid alternative at the moment, just verifying part of, and pointing out some puzzling implications of, their findings.

The report and whole site was not coming up when I tried (might be a problem on my end), so I don't even know what's behind their pay-wall. In the interim I checked around. Here's a critical blog article I like that mentions another article praising the report. But what was useful was the Daily Mail's Australian promo article with the cover and a few images from the report as well as a summary. 'There is strong evidence indicating that the Russian military provided separatists in eastern Ukraine with the Buk missile launcher filmed and photographed in eastern Ukraine on July 17,' the on-line report states..."

In this, they identify Buk Telar launcher "3x2," as the report puts it, where the x is a middle digit seemingly painted out for some reason. 3x2 therefore seems a fair name for the thing, and I'll follow suit. From the Mail's graphics, I can see how they link the trucks hauling the launchers by license plate numbers. That looks sound, and minor details support that this is the same truck, apparently in Russia and then in Ukraine. (Or is this not the same famous truck here? It's a side-point.)

The actual launcher link sounds less clear in the Daily Mail report, but in Russia, that truck was hauling a launcher marked on the side with a small, unreadable number and the large number 3x2 (top frame in the below comparison). Seeming to have a number painted over, many will note, smells of a mini-coverup - and it's with a machine that then went (back?) to Ukraine for some secret work Russia denies, before going (back to?) about the Russian border, via everywhere, on a truck advertising a phone number of a guy who swears it was pro-Russian terrorists who stole his truck... (see below for the fuller picture)

However absurd the whole story, there's this compelling, supposed, cross-border match-up. Tying things together more yet, the top frame below shows the relevant part of the Paris Match photo (windscreen dots and all, after being skewed to match as much as possible, and darkened a bit) at the bottom. Again the top image is from Bellingcat via the Mail, with enhanced contrast to make the compositing clearer. The middle is the composite - bottom laid over top with transparency to let us compare). Another layer of just the number box, carefully lined up, had its white spots outlined in black, lining up with white in the other image. All areas of interest highlighted in red.

In fact, comparing the two like this, we can also see other points of continuity. Earlier, I guessed maybe "4 240" for the smaller number (or maybe "return to Putin"). The new image doesn't seem to help much there. I'm guessing it matches though, whatever it says. The light patch right before the small numbers, and on the lip just below that (the red marks on the right) seem to correspond. Also on that lip, just to the right, is a bend visible in the June image. I cropped the Paris Match sample too close to be clear here, but that too comes through on the machine seen in Ukraine. Best explanation for that: it's all the same weapon.

I noticed earlier the sliver of white paint (or so it seemed) in the blank ID number area in the Paris Match photo, wondering if it was a telltale partly-painted-out number meant to be noticed later and used to blame Russia. It may be exactly that; now we can see it's consistent with the edge of the "2" here, or a couple of other numbers painted at that level. Note also in the bottom image the tiny white dot left of the white sliver, on the cable shadow, that seemed like an artifact. In Russia (if so) we can see it there before - apparently the last part of the first number they also managed to never paint out fully.

That middle digit could well be a one. I thank ACLOS member Resup for bringing this to my attention. As Resup notes, there's the issue with Buk 312 of Russia allegedly seen going back to Russia, put out by the SBU but then pulled, as it was Ukraine's Buk 312 in the photo (the unit's number: bottom image at right). That was also seen in the field not long before this (top image at right), and may or may not be accounted for on the days in question.

Now ... if "the Russians" were smart, what they'd do is paint out the original 312 and then paint over it with Ukraine's style of marking 312, or really any number of a known unit seen in the field (and hope it can't be proven to be elsewhere...) It seems they did not do this. Here, 312 as seen in March (skewed as it was to fit the composite below. That's underlaid by the Bellingcat find, and we can see the lack of the little marking, and the much bigger, bolder, easier-to-spot numbers "the Russians"* had such a hard time hiding (below alone for comparison, not enhanced). Below all, the same area from the SBU pulled photo.

What all this implies, read as the Bellingcat agency reads it, and as the global masses and decision-makers they're informing have read it, is simply that this was all the same unit and clearly a Russian-controlled one. Since it was the same one as seen all around the MH17 crime scene, Putin or top officials almost must have approved something that special. This in turn justifies more sanctions and so forth.

All I can vouch for is the number match and vehicle match, or a complex paint job and bend-mimicking operation. The paint part seems most interesting, with consistent bits remaining of a number ... that might have been falsely painted on, by whoever, to begin with. The June image location I'll credit as likely sound. It seems a troubling challenge for anyone suspecting a Ukrainian and not Russian hand. Proceeding from there...

What Bellingcat probably mentioned but I'm emphasizing is that "the Russians" also, in doing this, made a display of shadiness in the gradual, partial, and traceable erasure of the ID number. Read straight, the alleged coverup is plain silly: they wanted to hide this thing's identity, maybe because they were about to do something secret with it. So first they painted out the number in the middle. Except they left one little corner of white visible. Maybe they just got tired. It's identifiable (in both images). Then before it appeared in Ukraine, it was rendered totally unidentifiable: they boldly blacked out the 3, and perhaps at the same time even, the 2 - except for a larger identifiable sliver. Just got tired, maybe. It's next to the other dot. Haha, no way to connect these now!

- "Now has no number on it AT ALL. No one can say what it is."
- "Brilliant, boss. they will think must have been a Kiev fighter jet! And we will make fake satellite photos to prove. The world will stand behind our invasion!"

That's not just sloppy and stupid like people can be. It's more like something someone else would have them do, in a script they wrote for other parties playing "the Rusians." Its purpose seems to expose, illustrate, or imply a crime, not to cover one up. In fact, it's a bit too obvious to even be a good false flag operation. But maybe that we can chalk up to run-of-the-mill Human stupidity (or worse yet, Neo-Nazi psycho stupidity)

Addendum on Consistency with the Operation, as Known Otherwise: 
Whatever one thinks of this graphic comparison and interpretation, the strange and suspect thinking it implies is consistent with what else we know about how this "secret" operation was carried out. If true, it would fit this broader pattern (real or reported clues left by whoever, all open to interpretation, and here couched in the terms of allegations by Kiev and supporters):
  • Recalling that this whole weapon itself would have no normal business in the area and would be denied later, it should have been kept secret. Instead, it was driven around in broad daylight on the same day as the crime, just partly covered with a tarp but revealing all clues needed to identify it, its hidden ID number, and its full rack of missiles.
  • The truck it was so displayed on was stolen in Donetsk, and kept with the huge sign on its side with the apparent owner's phone number on it. When the media called that number, little surprise, the owner told them pro-Russian "fighters from Slaviansk" who took over his whole trucking company on July 8 (see here) Put lightly, this is a stupid way to secure a rig one intends to use for a secret operation like this was supposed to be.
  • They loaded the truck in Donetsk, likely at the commandeered site in the north of Donetsk, near the Ukrainian base with Buk launchers, in a coincidence. This truck then got seen leaving Donetsk on the 17th, parked pointing east at the east outskirts, then seen driving in convoy (a couple civilian cars with the operational crew moved with the truck) past Zuhres and then through Torez to the east. They were seen arriving in Snizhne around noon, then the Buk unit seen off the truck and driving in stand-alone, and it was then seen again driving south out of Snizneh, towards the apparent launch location.
  • The people running the convoy made sure AP journalists saw them in Snizhne just before the shoot-down from a bit south of there. The convoy stopped, and a man in unusual uniform "approached the journalists. The man wanted to make sure they had not recorded any images of the missile launcher. Satisfied that they hadn’t" filmed that secret missile launcher there, but had noticed it, and their intention to remain sooper seekrit "the convoy moved on." All this was made quite clear to the media and apparently published even before the news that MH17 was shot down. (AP Via Washington Post
  • After the disastrous attempt to secretly provoke a Russian invasion, with utmost discretion the operators put the smoking gun, its rack of one-less missiles left uncovered, back on the same truck and drove it and the phone number back to Russia - by a strange detour on a long route towards the other easily-recognizable smoking gun rebel capitol, Lugansk ... when government ATO forces had just battled their way to the edge of Lugansk ... and got seen there passing at dawn on the main highway south, apparently having come from the center of town, and then presumably drove to Krasnodon (rebel-held) and to Russia....

The fail delivery here is almost flawless, with no mistake left unmade and hardly any reasonable gaps to call for deduction. Letting multiple camera views on both sides of the porous border capture and track the gradual move to this stealth mode seems pretty consistent to me.

Note, Dec. 7: Obviously, the big wrinkle with this apparent match is that it puts this shady device on Russian territory, worked into a whole convoy there, and thus presumably Russian in origin as alleged. That remains the simple (usually most logical) reading, but it has maybes and second thoughts worth raising at each branch of the possibilities tree of "if (or whether) Buk 3x2 was in Russia), which I explored here at the ACLOS Buk tracking talk page. Some of the possibilities: faked imagery (perhaps removing the evidence for Buk 3x2 being in Ukraine) - a rogue officer in Russia helping with the false-flag Trojan horse operation - similar to or exactly as reported, with some serious questions about the logic and method, and the hostile world reaction to the "crime" also called an accident still worth questioning. I really don't know how to call this case. As I said at the wiki, I feel sort of "weightless" compared to usual. This may be the extra-nuanced false-flag I wondered if I'd ever see - one that's got tricks we're not used to involved, and comes out harder - or impossible - to solve clearly - the perfect crime.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Fight For Us" and Other Things Ali Said

"Fight For Us" and Other Things Ali Said: Houla Massacre Star Witness Reconsidered
Re-posted here November 15, 2014

This is a revised and updated version of an article originally posted July 3, 2012 as "Houla Massacre Star Witness Reconsidered" at SyriaNews.cc. After that site’s closure, it was also carried by Arabi Souri at Wordpress.com). This revision, with much new information, was drafted for and included in the 2013 CIWCL report Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity for the Syrian Houla Massacre. Small updates and an extra graphic only are added here.

<-- Houla Massacre (Syria) {Masterlist}

1. Adored, Not Ignored

Ali Al-Sayed has been heralded as the most important survivor of and witness to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012. Just over one hundred people, nearly half of them children, were cruelly butchered in the collected villages called Al-Houla, in Syria’s Homs province (the killings were in the southernmost town of Taldou). But this boy survived, a miracle and a ray of hope. And most importantly, by living to tell, he was a window for the world onto what happened, and what should be done about it. (Or, alternately, a window onto what someone wanted us to think and do).

As related by the news, the victims of the massacre were members of Sunni families being punished for aiding the protests against Assad’s regime, or just on suspicion, or just for being Sunni. Ali’s is no exception; the eleven-year-old says he was shot at but unharmed as his entire family was massacred around him. He dramatically smeared himself with his brother’s blood, after seeing that Nader’s spirit had left his body, and played dead. He then escaped unharmed into the night to tell the world. Or so he says.

Ali wasn’t alone in surviving to blame the government and its allied shadow militia, the Alawite “Shabiha” (roughly “ghost”) armies. [1] Perhaps two dozen others who say they escaped from various targeted homes, most by playing dead, are known so far. [2] Like Ali, they all blame soldiers, Shabiha, or “Alawite pigs,” and ask for outside protection. Ali actually puts it best, if not most subtly, conveying his strong personal feelings about the world’s responsibilities, considering what he says he saw.
 
“I demand that the international community stop the killing in Syria & in Houla … We’re being killed in our homes. The international community is sitting, just talking and not doing anything. The people must fight for us, do what they say, and protect us.” (3:09-3:38) [3]

The world is now dimly aware of a whole other set of alleged witnesses with an opposite story. These have said rebel-affiliated terrorists, including known local families and unknown foreign helpers, carried out an attack on loyalist families remaining in this rebel-dominated area. This witness set contain less miracle escapees who saw the killings, and their accounts are thus more distant, more vague, and more realistic. But somehow these others were ignored while Ali, above all, was adored.

Little Ali is so cute with his baby face and “supergame” t-shirt that he barely even looks eleven. In fact he doesn’t; by the video Ali looks about eight or nine. Perhaps he is younger than stated, maybe after someone decided that the sophisticated plea for foreign help just looked preposterous coming from an 8-year-old.

2. Contacts and Suggestion

Later in 2012, Ali was interviewed by German news Der Spiegel [4] and gave a lip-chewing Skype interview for a documentary by France 2 [5], as well as being featured in an Arabic-language opposition video re-enacting his ordeal. [6] But it was in the days after the massacre that Ali made such big waves in English and worldwide, initially speaking out at least four times, all apparently via a Skype video connection. The first was a video of the boy interviewed, in Arabic, by an unknown man. [3] He also spoke to Martin Chulov of the UK Guardian via Skype, first un-named but with plenty of detail. [7] Both of those occurred on or before the 28th, but he also spoke to the Associated Press the same way on the 30th. [8]

Chulov noted that, with all his family allegedly dead, the boy was living with “a town elder who is a member of the Syrian Revolutionary Council and is now caring for him,” as well as arranging the discussion. The AP contacted him “through anti-regime activists in Houla who arranged for an interview.” [8]

The UN Commission of Inquiry’s initial report, released June 27, shared their investigators’ doubts about a boy that’s clearly Ali. They spoke to him via Skype, making a fourth known interview, but with no details shared. They also reviewed the previous video, but not apparently the Guardian or AP interviews. “In both interviews he blamed the killings on Shabbiha and soldiers of the Syrian army,” they found. "In one interview the survivor stated that the perpetrators arrived together in tanks. The CoI took note of the age of the boy and duly considered his suggestibility." [9]

  The bolded part is something the corporate media and world leaders apparently never did. Considering Ali’s guardian and handler and his network, it’s quite clear who would be doing the suggesting and what basic form it would take. That geo-politically useful form is likely the reason it was accepted with no question.

  Suggestibility is a type of unreliability, but only a potential one. New research shows that active story break-down is a more immediate problem with this alleged witness and survivor. Between only three publicly available accounts, the kid has managed to contradict himself to the point of absurdity, as explained below.

  3. “That is True” – The Attack

In the video, Ali says the attackers entered his home after emerging from “the tank” that pulled up out front. To Chulov, he said “they came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks.” To the AP, he said they arrived “in a military armored vehicle and a bus.” To Der Spiegel, Ali described, by sound, a “BMB” personnel carrier. [4] Later in the video (around 4:00), he says in Arabic: “they wanted to burn the house, and then they left in cars.” That sentence was bypassed in the translated captions. [10]

  In general, Ali describes the attackers as eleven in number, primarily military in appearance, with some in uniforms and some in civilian clothes, sporting big beards and shaved heads. Some commentators, like Martin Janssen and by him Rainer Hermann, have noted the hair and beard style could describe anti-government Sunni fanatics. [11] However, in various details Ali clearly describes them as Alawites and Assad loyalists. At 2:07 in the video, he’s asked “how did you know it was the army, not armed gangs?” He answered “the tank was outside, they came out of it.” Further, they “were dressed as military,” and were “Shabiha.” [3] Chulov noted the boy’s calm delivery relating his family’s massacre, but how he then grew argumentative when asked how he knew who the attackers were. “Why are you asking me who they were? I know who they were. We all know it. They were the regime army and people who fight with them. That is true.” [7] Later, he was quoted by Chulov as saying the attackers “spoke with an Alawite accent,” and “said they were from Foulah (a neighboring Alawite town). They were Shabiha. And they were proud of it.” [12]

  He agrees in all accounts his mother was killed after shouting at the soldiers. In the video, he says “my mom screamed at them as they were arresting (brother) Shaoqi and my uncle(s),” who were taken alive but killed before the next day. [3] AP reported back “the men led Ali’s father and oldest brother outside” and killed them there, and then she screamed “Why did you take them? Why did you take them?’” before being shot down. [8]

  But in the version told to Chulov, Ali’s mother and the young children were shot dead while the sought men stayed hidden nearby in the house. “My mum yelled at them … ‘What do you want from my husband and son?’” They gunned her down, tried to kill Ali, and murdered Nader and Rasha, then started looting. After all of this, “on the way out of the house, the boy said the gunmen found the three men they had been looking for. “They shot my father and uncle. And then they found Aref, my oldest brother, near the door. They shot him dead too.”[7]

  In general, Ali claims he escaped only after the attackers left, having played dead until that point. They had found him and shot right at him, he’s said, but managed to miss, and then he dramatically smeared himself with someone else’s blood as a disguise. Some sources say it was his mother’s blood he used, but no primary sources seem to support that. Martin Chulov reported in the Guardian “he smeared himself in the blood of his slain brother.” To the AP, he specified it was Nader’s blood, a point played up in the cited New York Post publication (the photo is captioned “blood brother”).

  However, in the video interview, he doesn’t mention anyone’s blood. He does however say that when they shot and missed, he was actually “hit,” or grazed on the back of his right hand. He shows this to the camera, which can make out what seems like three faint scratches, less than three days after the massacre. It seems it was his own (bloodied?) hand that he used to hide under; “after they killed us, I went like this (right hand covering the side of his face), acting like I was shot.”

  There are other points he was more consistent on between his Guardian and video interviews. For example, the number of bullets (five) fired through the front door lock. The stolen items are consistent; on video, he lists three televisions, a computer, and an item translated once as a vacuum cleaner, another time as a broom. [3] (2:36) The Guardian’s Martin Chulov listed only “three televisions and a computer.” Later speaking to Der Spiegel, however, the vacuum cleaner had been explicitly replaced; they stole “two TV sets, our washing machine and the computer.” [4] This seems to refer to the usual, bulky and low-value, domestic clothes-washing machine, but to be fair, it could be just another translation issue.

  From his attack chronology conflicts alone, the boy’s account is highly questionable. Traumatic reality has a way of driving facts home better than attempts at memorization, and these alleged facts are pretty loose.

  4. A Fungible Family

  Considering Ali as a questionable witness, it might well follow that he was never a member of the massacred Al-Sayed family. And if that were so, his alleged facts of this family might be as loose as his attack narrative, seeming to be sloppily memorized rather than driven into place by a short lifetime of shared history.

  And in fact Ali seems unable to keep his family members straight. A certain pool of names remains constant, but these shift freely from one member to another between accounts. The effect, distilled below, is bizarre.

  To Der Spiegel, Ali recalled his unnamed father fondly; he took his son "to many demonstrations," always having "kebabs and cola first!" But an arrest in November left Mr. Al-Sayed "afraid to go." [4] Rendered harmless, he was killed anyway.

  As for the father’s name, Ali gives that as identical to his own – Ali Alsayed -  in the video interview. But to the Guardian, he’s apparently named Aref: “They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother.” Then it turns out Aref was “my oldest brother,” and Shawki apparently his father. [7] In the video, Shaoqi (Shawki) is his killed older brother. [3] So perhaps Aref is the father after all? No – the video is where it’s specified he was named Ali.

  On video he names two uncles, Oqba and Arif/Aref. Though the interviewer repeatedly reminds him both uncles were taken, Ali keeps using the singular form, apparently referring to Oqba, and insists the third male killed was his own brother, not his father’s. [3] But to Martin Fletcher, he said the killed uncle was named Abu Haider. [13] (MF) To Martin Chulov, the killed uncle isn’t named, but the gunmen initially “asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name. ” [7]

  Ali’s mother is always dead and never named, and his younger siblings are a bit more stable. Rasha, 5, and Nader, 6, both killed before his eyes, both mentioned in the video and in both early interviews. To the AP he also adds another brother, Aden, age 8. That’s seven murders minimum, eight if there were two uncles taken. But when he saw the soldiers later “they were describing six people dead in my house. They included me. They thought I was dead.” [7] By this he thinks there were only five people killed, forgetting at least two.

  The one known victims list, * from the Damascus Center for Human Rights Study (DCHRS), comprehended with Google translate, doesn’t even contain the family names Al-Sayed or anything close. There is a family name “Mr. Arif” or Aref, the first name of Ali’s brother/ uncle as given, and the father of the family by other sources (see below). This appears for entries 30, 31, 48, and 93, with matching first names Nader (#30) and Rasha (#48). But there are only the four entries when 7-8 family members are said to have been killed. [14]

   * 2014 note: other lists were later tracked down and correlated - see updated endnote 14

  The other two Arifs given on that list as dying are Mohammed and Adel. [14] Adel is similar to Aden, the brother who was mentioned by Ali only in his later interviews with AP and Spiegel. And it’s Ali’s middle name too; “A baby, Ali Adel al-Sayyed, miraculously survived,” anti-government activist Maysara al-Hilawi told Reuters. [15] To Der Spiegel, the witness spoke as “Ali Adil Sayyid.” [4] Further, when the interviewer in the video repeats back Ali’s father’s name, he seems to add, and even emphasize, an “Adel,” repeating “Ali Adel Sayed.” [3]

  The Adel link might also help explain why the DCHRS victim list also contains one “Mr. Adel Shawki,” perhaps meaning “Mr. Aref Shawki,” meaning Shaoqi Al-Sayed, the brother/father that Ali cited. [13] Thus it seems possible these related entries were gathered from Ali himself, who managed to confuse things again to create the mess recorded here. (DCHRS is a member of the International Federation for Human Rights, FIDH/IFHR. [16])

5. The Physical Family

  A partial family identification, pieced together by A Closer Look On Syria (ACLOS) after this article’s first publication, draws on several sources. The first appeared only in September, when Ali made a video with opposition Houla Media Office and a couple of rebel fighters, taking a long walk together south across the fields just east of Main Street. At a certain home, they stop so he can re-enact the massacre as he allegedly saw there (this is still not fully scrutinized for details). [6]

  The home in question is the same one shown by SANA news on May 26 and filmed by UN monitors as well. As both showed it, the home featured in situ bodies matching the family Ali describes; two dead boys (aged app. 6-9), a girl (app. 5), and an adult woman inside, and three men executed just outside the door. [17]

  Further, the identities SANA specified are head of household Aref Mohammad al-Sayyid, killed alongside "his two brothers Imad and Ouqba, his wife Izdihar Ali al-Daher,” and the three children, unnamed. (The mother is seen in a room apart from the others - laid across a bed - in a UNSMIS video. Though fully clothed, it’s said in a France 2 documentary that she was raped before her murder, conflicting with Ali’s claim she was simply shot right in front of him). No survivor is mentioned. [17]

From SANA TV, May 26, the men killed just outside Ali’s alleged home. SANA cites Aref Al-Sayyid and his brothers Imad and Ouqba. Ali cites his brother Shaoqi / Aref, their father Ali / Shaoqi, and uncle Ouqba / Aref / Abu Haidar. 
  The father’s name, Aref, is a common one in Ali's narratives, used for his uncle or his older brother, but never for his father. All three were, he said in most versions, taken outside and shot. Uncle Oqba is a fit, but the third man is in contention: Ali cites his older brother Aref/Shaoqi, while SANA said it was his alleged uncle Imad.

  At this point, it’s more than reasonable to put the name “Ali Al-Sayed” in quotes, on suspicion of being a fake witness who, lucky for him, was nowhere near the massacre sites that day. His winding up under protection of opposition people could be from being born there. Perhaps the “town elder who is a member of the Syrian Revolutionary Council” is his uncle.

  His story then would be untrue, but it does seem crafted to fit with, and explain, the very real demise of this one particular family.

  6. A Government Family?

  Abdelmutti Al-Mashlab is a name that doesn’t appear in Ali’s early narratives. He was in the Syrian parliament, the Peoples’ Assembly. This had just been chosen on May 7 in an election the rebellion insisted was a regime ploy no one should participate in. [18] (Rebels managed to block polling in many areas, but about 52% of eligible voters managed anyway, according to official sources). The winners – this time including many pre-rebellion opposition members, and working with a brand-new constitution – were sworn in on May 24 and voted into positions within the parliament. [19]

SANA reported that “Abdel Mou'ti Mashlab” was elected as one of two secretaries that day in Damascus. (A previous version of this article said that he was elected the parliament’s speaker, but SANA says that went to one Mohammad Jihad al-Laham.) [20] The next day, as the new assembly set to its first day of work, it’s strongly alleged that part of Secretary Mashlab’s family back in Al-Houla was one of those slaughtered. As with all the others, that was blamed on the government, right along with its “reforms” and “democracy.”

  One of the ignored local witnesses explained the man she called Abdullah Al-Mashlab “was elected on May 24th, and the next day they killed his wife and three kids and his brother and his big family as well.” [21] She may have the name wrong and the victims too closely related. SANA reported, as do other witnesses, that the family with Oqba in it was only somehow “related to a People's Assembly member.” The link was distant enough to have a different actual family name, but close enough, SANA implies, to matter here. They say the election raised the ire of “one Haitham al-Housan,” (aka Hassan, Hallak) a local bandit who already hated the Al-Sayeds, and oversaw their murders on May 25. [22]

This parliament connection to the Houla massacre is acknowledged, if vaguely, by the other side. American NPR reported on the testimony of a possible alleged relative of Ali’s, 17-year-old Maryam Sayid. “The Syrian government says [the attackers] were out to punish one family that had a relative in the Syrian parliament,” NPR reported. But Maryam, a self-described member of that family, “said the government’s version is simply untrue.” She wouldn’t “hide with anti-government rebels,” as she did, if that’s who she was running from. [23] But it could be, as it could be with Ali, that she was always with the rebels, and only pretending to have first been a survivor of a government massacre.

The killed family Maryam describes was headed by retired police officer Muawiya Al-Sayed, who, as SANA reported, “didn’t defect (to the rebels) and was always in danger (from them).” [22] Maryam says he never defected, but was killed by the government anyway, along with some portion of his family. This included his grown son, Maryam said in a more detailed interview with Der Spiegel - an army soldier on leave with a broken leg. [4] Innocent of rebellion and seemingly almost on the government’s side, they were apparently hit for their sectarian credentials alone, in her provocative and propagandistic narrative. “They killed us because we are Sunni,” NPR quoted Maryam as saying; the killers were “Alawite thugs wearing all black and chanting sectarian slogans.” [23]

While they share a common name and lived close to each other on Main Street, the available information is not decisive on whether the Muawiya Al-Sayed family and the Aref-Oqba Al-Sayed family were directly related. But Maryam says - to NPR, if not to Der Spiegel – that she was related to the People’s Assembly secretary. And the latter heard that Ali from down the street was “a distant relative of Abdulmuti Mashlab, a member of the Syrian parliament.” [4] In fact, Ali says, he “was merely the uncle of his uncle's wife,” probably too distant to hurt like the authorities suggested, or to be related at all. [4]

The article further says this tenuous kinship “prompted UN observers to make the assumption” that’s why the family was killed. [4] No source was given for that claim, and no such statement is readily available. It would be encouraging to learn that the UN’s investigators had become open-minded when presented with a clue like that. But in the end, such things didn’t seem to matter much to them.

7. The Unnamed Evil Uncle

Despite the amazing confusion over his alleged immediate family and their names, two of Ali’s accounts consistently suggest another, closer relative, described as an uncle – unnamed but living nearby – was complicit in the killings.

To the Guardian, he reported running to this uncle’s house for safety, but strangely, the soldiers who had attacked his own home then arrived right after him. Unseen, apparently by everyone, he overheard the Shabiha talking to his uncle as if on good terms. They mentioned the six killings that were only five, and then he recalled them “asking his uncle if he knew who lived in the house that they just rampaged through,” as if he had been the one to send them. [7]

Furthermore, in the video, Ali says his father, uncle, and brother were taken away, rather than killed there. He said he only knew they had been killed because “the next day I saw them dead on the government TV channel.” [3] This 8-11 year-old from an ostensibly rebel family apparently makes sure to keep up on what SANA is saying, perhaps while eating a bowl of cereal back at his uncle’s house. After that, “my uncle came on saying that armed gangs killed his children.” (emphasis added) But Ali knew this wasn’t true – he caught the lie on both ends, at his own home and his uncle’s, in his fanciful story.

The name of this evil uncle is unspecified in both cases, which is noteworthy. Relation Abdelmutti Al-Mashlab, the Peoples’ Assembly secretary, is likely to be featured on state TV following the murder of his family. Was Ali accusing him of celebrating his election victory by running back to Al-Houla and overseeing the massacre of his own traitorous or too-Sunni  family? Maybe that was the idea at first, but the there’s no indication Mr. Mashlab lived in Taldou, and Ali’s Spiegel interview all but rules him out even if he did, as too distant to be called “uncle.”

  These stories could refer to Muawiya Al-Sayed, the possibly related police officer up the street. But he was killed that night, Maryam and the Syrian authorities say. SANA has specified an uncle Imad, but Ali never has, so that’s probably not it. He too was killed. Ali might also refer to his uncle Abu Haidar, whom the soldiers asked after before gunning down uncle Oqba. Unless Abu Haidar was the uncle killed along with Ali’s father and brother, as he once said. [13] Then, maybe it was Oqba he ran to, but he too is reported dead, and more reliably so.

  None of these works very well, and none of them seems to be the intended match. So it must have been some other uncle yet to whom Ali ran, only to find he’d sent the killers himself and lied about it on national TV. And still, this villain allowed Ali himself to see it all and survive, apparently escaping again to his new anti-government friends and their world audience.

  Perhaps this convenient uncle was more of a literary device than a real person. That would explain it.

8. Conclusion: Abilities and Disabilities

The case for a Syrian government-ordered massacre at Al-Houla was taken as obvious fact from day one by the Western powers and all those kept on the same page with them. The blamed government had its ambassadors expelled over the blame, along with harsh condemnations of the blamed government, and increased talk of arming the rebels to help stop the killing.

But the blame comes down to a handful of alleged miracle escapees and the “activists” they now live and roll with, divorced from all consideration of the non-rebel witnesses. The believed batch is anchored by this juvenile star witness, but we can now assess his abilities and disabilities.

He’s not able to remember the names of his own father and older brother, nor of his cluster of named uncles simmered down to a dead one vs. an evil one. He apparently cannot count past six or know when he should try. He cannot remember consistently whether the men of the house were killed first, were taken away and killed later, or cowered by the door in silence as the youngest and their mother were mowed down one by one. He cannot well explain how he escaped with those faint scratches on his hand standing in for the slightest actual injury. He reports gunfire only, no stabbing, throat-slitting, eye-gouging, or any such thing. We know these things happened in the Houla massacre, but not to Ali or any of his kin, he reports.

Ali’s abilities more than make up for his shortcomings. Like a video camera he consistently recalls minor details, like the five bullets in the lock and that everyone knows it was the regime, and those who fight with them, who did it. He can expose his scheming uncle’s wicked plots, detect an “Alawite accent,” from the Foulah “Shabiha” a mile away, who don’t seem to exist. [24] He’s incapable, apparently, of telling us what really, realistically, might have happened. But as we’ve seen, he’s been fully able to move a world that badly wants to believe the poor little guy anyway.
---
2014 addendum: an odd pattern that popped up where one early list of only 7 names seems almost like half of the Aref al-Sayed family, with the other half of its members swapped in from other families. (Fatima stayed appearing on her own merits as a real victim, while Ali and Khawla - listed as adults, maybe meant to be his "real" parents - remain unsupported anywhere else but for seeming phantom entries at the VDC (Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria)

References:
[1] http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/The_Shabiha:_Ghost_Stories%3F
[2] http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Houla:Alleged_witnesses_for_a_government/Shabiha_attack
[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9KnjNxU8nI (account deleted, said vacuum cleaner) or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6yVbOBbO6I (says broom)
[4] Christoph Reuter and Abd al-Kadher Adhun for DER SPIEGEL, "Searching for the Truth Behind the Houla Massacre", published July 23, 2012 http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/a-look-back-at-the-houla-massacre-in-syria-a-845854.html
[5] Houla, autopsie d'un massacre, France2 documentary aired September 20, 2012 http://envoye-special.france2.fr/les-reportages-en-video/houla-autopsie-d’un-massacre--20-septembre-2012-4605.html
[6] http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Ali_Al-Sayed#Field_expedition_with_Ali 
[7] Houla massacre survivor tells how his family were slaughtered. Martin Chulov, the Guardian, May 28, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/28/houla-massacre-survivor-boy-syria
[8] Syrian boy says he survived military massacre of his family by smearing himself with his brother’s blood and playing dead. Associated Press, via New York Post, June 1, 2012.  http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/syria_slaughter_miracle_boy_awn8GLCUh0o8Qp3kRcVVLO
[9] UN Human Rights Commission, Oral Update, June, 2011 A/HRC/20 http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session20/COI_OralUpdate_A.HRC.20.CRP.1.pdf
[10] Comment by “Shaamnews” on posted original version of this article http://arabisouri.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/houla-massacre-star-witness-reconsidered/
[11] Janssen: http://opinie.deredactie.be/2012/06/02/de-verschrikkingen-van-houla/ Hermann: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-erkenntnisse-zu-getoeteten-von-hula-abermals-massaker-in-syrien-11776496.html (translation from German) http://www.moonofalabama.org/2012/06/prime-german-paper-syrian-rebels-committed-houla-massacre.html
[12] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/01/houla-massacre-reconstructing-25-may
[13] http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120602/jsp/frontpage/story_15560453.jsp#.UWlHaUbTQ98
[14] 2014 note: DCHRS victims list, Arabic, compressed with original auto-translate names, better translation, etc. available here at ACLOS: http://www.shoutwiki.com/w/images/acloserlookonsyria/archive/3/3a/20140708110056!Houla_Victims_Arabic_Correlated.pdf
[15] “Families herded “Like Sheep” to die in Houla massacre” By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters (Amman), May 30, 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/30/us-syria-crisis-houla-idUSBRE84T1BH20120530
[16] Damascus Center for Human Rights Study. http://www.dchrs.org/news.php
[17] “The Household Ali Explains,” A Closer Look on Syria: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Ali_Al-Sayed#The_Household_Ali_Explains
[18] SANA, May 15: http://sana.sy/eng/21/2012/05/15/419139.htm
[19] http://english.cntv.cn/program/asiatoday/20120524/122858.shtml
[20] SANA, May 24. http://sana.sy/eng/21/2012/05/24/421043.htm
[21] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD0PA0BxNAQ
[22] Witnesses to al-Houla Massacre: Massacres Were Carried Out Against Specific Families That Support the Government. Syrian Arab News Agency, English. Jun 02, 2012 http://www.sana.sy/eng/337/2012/06/02/422915.htm http://nsnbc.me/2012/06/02/witnesses-to-al-houla-massacre-massacres-were-carried-out-against-specific-families-that-support-the-government/
[23] “Sectarian Syrian Group Blamed In Houla Massacre” by Kelly McEvers, NPR Morning Edition, June 05, 2012 http://www.npr.org/2012/06/05/154335032/sectarian-syrian-group-blamed-in-houla-massacre
[24] Alex Thompson’s blog, Sunday June 3, 2012. http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/search-houla-killers/1811

Saturday, November 22, 2014

May 22 Bus Hijacking - Houla Massacre Link?

Originally posted here, July 22, 2014
Re-posted here November 22, 2014

I'm not meaning to find things this interesting at the moment, but ...  As I just posted in graphic form here at ACLOS, there's some intriguing patterns in a reginal rash of violence on the same Friday as the Houla Massacre, and a bit of stuff right before and after. The details are discussed in the talk page there, worth copying here, but in reverse for variety.

First, a report from October, 2013:

Lebanese Al Manar TV reported the release of 9 Lebanese pilgrims after 17 months of being held captive by Qatari-backed terrorists in north of Syria.
On 22 May 2012 a group of terrorists stopped a passenger’s bus near the Turkish borders north of Syria and the passengers were held by a group of anti-Islamic Wahhabi terrorists with direct links to Turkish prime minister office and the Qatari Emir. The terrorists then released the women and children and kept 11 men captive, 2 of them managed to escape after a Syrian Arab Army operation in Azaz last year that killed one of the terrorists leaders responsible of the kidnapping.

I doubt this basic event - the taking of a busload of people including (Shi'ites, it sounds like, from Lebanon) three days before the Houla Massacre and a long ways away - will be disputed. Just where south of the border this happened isn't clear, but presumably way north of the al-Houla area. But another source might help narrow it down, and show the terrorists did not release all their women and children hostages. Nor the driver. Unless maybe there were two busses hijacked that day ...

here's the clincher story, part 1: VDC query - all Hama martyrs May 24 - 7 total. All but the top one play in here. Five represent a family:
* Natania Oreib Al-Saleem, Child - Male
* Yahya Oreib Al-Saleem, Child - Female
* Yakoub Oreib Al-Saleem, Child - Male
* Farouq Oreib Al-Saleem, Child-Male
* Fadwa Al-Shaddeh, Adult Female (mother) (details f/c as needed, available there, including (alive) photos).

These entries tend to say "Date of death: 2012-05-24," "Cause of Death: Kidnapping - Execution" Notes:
"The whole family, consisted of a mother and five children were kidnapped 2 days ago while they were on their way back from Sahl Al-Ghan to Hama. They were executed, and their corpses were found today in Mesyaf. They were slaughtered by knives." 
Note "Shabiha" or the regime aren't specifically blamed. The VDC, like the SOHR, accepts information from a variety of sources, so maybe no rebels even reported this, just alarmed locals. Who knows? There is apparently one child not listed - maybe not dead for all we know.

Sahl al-Ghan ... not sure how I figured out that means al-Ghab plain, aka Sahl al-Ghab. It's north and west of Hama, and part of the province - its northern panhandle I didn't know about, running north, flanking Latakia up to the Turkish border. It's a large, vague locale to return from. You might drive south to Mesyaf a bit south of its south end, then east to Hama. Or get killed anywhere prior and dumped in Mesyaf - not far from Aqrab, just 16 km direct.


This family wasn't driving their own car back from wherever as far north almost as Turkey. The other relevant victim on that list is Refaat Al-Hussein, adult male, killed also May 24 by "Kidnapping - Torture - Execution." Notes:
"He was a bus driver. He was transporting the family who was slaughtered. His corpse was found too with signs of torture."
So ... were there only the six passengers on his bus, or are these seven corpses the residue of a once-larger pool? The date of death isn't clear - found "today," apparently meaning the 24th, after being captured by some kind of bus hijackers two days earlier, is the best reading - so it should be May 22.

If the bus hijackings are the same, and both reports are accurate, we can say it was at the north end of the Al-Ghab plain not far from Turkey and the infiltration points there for foreign Islamists. And if this all lines up, these 7 or so victims of that then proceeded way south with some friends of their captors before getting dumped by the 24th just shy of the arena's edge for the coming Houla Massacre. This has its Aqrab connections  - fighters from there swooping south to help, victims from there dying either with the Abdulrazaqs in Taldou, in Aqrab, or both) - and alleged units of unknown foreigners, presumably filtered in via Turkey as usual. This Salem-Shaddeh family might've been the kind of thing a horde of fresh Ottoman mercenaries track in on their boots/sandals.

It might sound like grasping at straws except we must remember video evidence repeatedly backs the witnesses who describe a rebel attack on Taldou the 25th. They say that attack was huge, with 6-800 fighters total. That's an attractive (alleged) force, like a dry sponge is to water. Hundreds of people, probably more than were just hanging around already, would need to swoop in, probably from the north, at about this time, to fill the space that apparently was filled. So I propose it's quite likely the southward journey of that poor Syrian family and their driver is a valuable clue to understanding the Houla Massacre.

Update, August 4:
I just stumbled across the missing Oreib-al-Saleem child: listed as dying earlier, on May 22, VDC victim #16911 Shahd Oreib Al-Saleem], girl, age 4 (rounded down, it appears - see photo). Her notes are the same, kidnapped, slaughtered with knives. A Facebook page is provided: https://www.facebook.com/aribalsalim This was started on May 24 to share photos of the just-killed children. It's all in Arabic and I didn't check the content, but it seems to completely lack rebel colors and icons - and government ones. It was active at least into 2013.


From the VDC entry, her photo at left. What eyes. The name Shahed means "witness," it seems - a girl of that name had her mouth torn off a few days later in al-Houla. Again, what this episode suggests is a mappable movement of child-slaughtering terror towards the site of the Houla Massacre. And it's not from the Alawite villages just south of there, but from the distant and ominous Turkish border to the north. Someone should seal that thing off for good. I think little Shahed would agree.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Will Handing Seif al-Islam to ICC Stop the Fighting in Libya?

November 16, 2014

Amidst the general chaos in Libya, new fighting rages between different factions in Dernah, Al Qaeda central in the east of Libya. As the BBC reported on November 11, The "Islamic State" (ISIS, taken globally) is trying to gain control there, and might be up against regular Al Qaeda (both should be strong there), plus at least a third group recognized by the BBC, who say three main groups are fighting there. These have different levels of moderation, so the one BBC favors is clear: The known factions "are the Islamic Youth Shura Council, a branch of Ansar al-Sharia, and the more moderate Martyrs of Abuslim Brigade."

The third group being whoever aligned with "Islamic State," unclear. The BBC's activist source said it was a breakaway part of the Shura council. More scrutiny is probably needed before one blames this Shura council breakaway group. The moderate group here take their name from the Abu Salim prison uprising - advertised as a massacre - of al-Qaeda-linked militants and suspects detained after a CIA-MI6-sponsored assassination and overthrow attempt in 1996.

Anyway, in this millieu, BBC reports three activists were just found dead, beheaded, in Dernah. They name them as Siraj Ghatish, Mohamed Battu and Mohamed al-Mesmari. "Our correspondent says they remained low-profile, mostly passing on information via social media pages." The report notes beheadings like this are relatively rare in Libya. It probably is, compared to Iraq and Syria, pits of unknown and deepening barbarity, where Dernah had once the world's record of recruits-per-capita fighting and learning. It's been said they've been flocking back to Libya, and these beheadings seem like a bad sign - a blacker yet wind blowing into the void that was, until 2011, a solid green nation.

The same day, Human Rights Watch issued a statement (based on the preceding surge of violence in a similar vein) calling for action to solve the crisis; Islamists should stop fighting and agree to a "political settlement," and Libya should finally (force the Zintanis to?) hand over Seif Al-Islam Al-Gaddafi to be tried at the Hague.

They point to an International Criminal Court (ICC) statement to that effect as a beacon of light amidst a "deteriorating situation" and "soaring insecurity" with "grave abuses being committed by all sides," here in November 2014. The only side for HRW and the ICC, at one time over three years ago now, was the side of the "Gaddafi regime." But by now Muammar was murdered, along with several of his sons, some grandchildren, top ministers, aides and generals, loyal military forces, supportive civilians, and random "collateral damage" either tossed in a deep prison cell or stomped into their graves.

By now, that's not even one of the sides - or are they again? They're the only side then mentioned as needing fresh punishment at this point. HRW and the ICC feel that the long-jailed son of the martyred leader avoiding "international justice" is what drives the chaos that has plagued Libya ever since it stopped having a natural and functional government. This seems to be the opinion of Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, who said “Security Council members should make clear that the state of impunity in Libya needs to end,” because it's become "a main driver for the country’s current instability.”

Note: he's not serious about this, or he'd be asking Libya's tribes to mange the hand-over, not distant "security council members" with no more credibility in Libya.

I haven't been following closely enough to have the best say on this, but it sounds pretty preposterous. Last I heard, the charges against Seif were vague and baseless, concocted to justify the overthrow of his father's government and prevent a family-based transitional alternative to the popular and pragmatic Seif. These, as I recall, were mostly connected with issuing orders for the killing of innocent protesters that it seems never happened, or perhaps it was the air strikes on them that also didn't happen, the mass rape orders, the hiring of African mercenaries, or some specific massacre of mostly black civilians he was implicated in...

Maybe somewhere he wronged Al Qaeda or ISIS and they want him tried at the Hague and this really would help chill them out. It's possible? What does everyone else think? Will handing over Saif Al-Gaddafi still the tensions racking Libya and especially its east today? Or is the solution to be found elsewhere? How about installing Seif as president?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Odessa Trade Union Massacre: Stairwell Victims - Murdered and Burned Later

By Adam Larson (aka Caustic Logic)
November 1, 2014
last edits November 12

<-- Odessa Trade Union Massacre {Masterlist}

Warning: This is an exceptionally gruesome crime, and this semi-forensic examination of it is extremely graphic and not for the young, faint of heart, etc. By the standards of this site, for those who know, it's about average - but in Europe this time, and standards seem to differ (?). As usual, respect to the dead is paid in attention to detail, with an eye to truth and to achieving some semblance of justice, whenever that become possible. 


Note: I had to get this up slightly ahead of the 6 month mark - it's not complete, missing some links and images I'll add soon ... and as we're still considering the details (these victims mainly at this spot), I'm expecting revisions to this post in time. But this is the latest acceptable time and it's close enough to get this advanced rough draft up. These details need to be addressed, then double-checked, verified or refuted. In my opinion, proof of state-sponsored terrorism doesn't get much more obvious than this.
---

After the fires were put out at the Hall of Trade Unions in Odessa on the night of May 2, at least 12 bodies were visible in or right next to the central stairwell at different levels. The only of these to be widely seen are the five charred bodies, all seemingly of men, clustered together on the landing below the half-barricaded 4th floor. These were first seen in a Dumskaya video with a privileged view at what the screen-titles say is 22:00 (rounded off, possibly rounded way down, who knows, but presumably around 10:00 PM). This shows all the stairwell victims, mostly in extreme dark and revealing little detail. At that time, the five on the landing were arranged as shown in the composite view, lightened (from still images found around, apparently from this video):
For reference, let's number these poor souls left-to-right:
#1) hanging out the window, as if he died (from the gas? From the glass in his belly?) in the act of climbing out, and had his pants burned away and shoes melted
#2) head at the railing's bend, arms out to the sides, far more charred than most
#3) along the wall, face-up, almost recognizable
#4) head towards stairs, arms frozen up
#5) same but with head almost under the pile of junk "barricade"

These five and some below can be seen mid-day on the 3rd in a Euromaidan PR video of "Russian Terrorists Burnt Alive" and in the ubiquitous photos taken by a young lady calling herself Alena. These show the victims finally tagged by the police, and also arranged differently. #1 is pulled inside and laid in the corner, abd #2 rolled over halfway. #3 is about the same, and #4 and 5, of most interest here, have been dragged a little ways down the stairs. 

With the scene established, let's consider four points, A-D:

A) Gunshot Wound?
The May 3 Euromaidan video offers one brief glimpse of an important clue regarding victim #4. Seen at 0:54 - the clearest frame frozen here - is a dark circle on the right chest, indicated. The way the angled light falls across it, this seems to be concave, some kind of circular puncture wound - likely a bullet hole. About fingertip size, it seems, this might be about one centimeter/a half-inch across, or about the size of a 9 mm round?

A bit further over is something dark and convex, looking more like his nipple than this other dark spot.

This is not a conclusive finding but as the next part clarifies, something killed this guy hours before he and the others were burned in a fire on this landing. A bullet or other puncture just to the left of his right nipple could explain that.

B) Rigor Mortis Before Burning
An extremely important point that can be discerned just from the available images is that victims #4 and 5 at least were dragged here by the arms after they were dead and rigor mortis had set in.  They didn't die here as claimed.
By my limited reading, it seems rigor mortis onset is usually 2-6 hours after death, or a bit faster in warm conditions - like summer, or a severe fire. Considering the intensity of heat it might be reasonable to put it at 2 hours here. A human body usually reaches maximum stiffness after about 12 hours and relaxes slowly thereafter. By this, anyone killed at 8 PM would start stiffening around 10 PM, be most rigid around 6-8 AM, and be little different from that by mid-day.

In charred bodies, muscles contract, locking the last position and never relaxing. Both at night and the next day, the raised arms here look the same - like handles, on bodies dead for a few hours or so before that pose was charred into them permanently.

Landing victim #2 stands out from the others in being more charred, almost skeletal in spots. He (or she) was quite likely burned once in another spot before being placed with these other bodies, apparently carried face-down by two people, one holding each wrist to create this unusual "crucified" posture.

Two others not in the above image show the same signs, all within one floor below these victims, in or right by the blazing stairwell:

- third floor landing - never seen clearly, we see stiff, raised left arm, fingers burnt to the bone, with the right arm unclear and also the head unclear - it almost seems there's not enough room there for a full head, and there's no sign - no nose or anything but an off-center light object. If missing part of his head, that's a clearer sign of prior murder than #4's possible bullet-hole. But this sin't enough to be sure. He was either dragged into this position by a person who back up to the wall and pulled the body right up to it as well, or only dragged part-way and later pushed back further.

- third floor - fingers burned to the bone, face inexplicably messed up, maybe boiled outward (?), no trace of pants (except at waistline?) often considered female rape victim, aside from hairless burnt legs, I'm not so sure - all others in the stairwell seem to be male. * This body seems to have the same handles as the others, as seen on the 3rd, but the bent legs don't suggest dragging. The body's earlier position - flipped over face-down - can hardly be the one he/she was burned in. Top sides burn, faces and hands. That we see the ub-charred back of the victim's jacket on top means they've been flipped over, and the next-day view is more accurate - so the arms do look like the same raised handles, and the legs were perhaps re-positioned after dragging.

* note - gender segregation of the dead to this degree often means someone singled out the men to kill and the women for some other fate - but possibly only the men went here hoping to get out and get help for the women inside, or whatever...

I'm not an expert on the subject, but have the insight of studying the Khamis Brigade Shad Massacre, where we could see many cases of extreme burning. It does not cause arms to stick up in the air. What it does, that study showed, is contract muscles, with the most relevant feature how the stronger back muscles contract with more force than the front, and the body curls backwards. Ribs, arms, and legs, splay out in reaction to that, and the head rolls back and to one side. None of the bodies here is burned enough to clearly show that, and there's no fire-related cause for these zombie-arms.

This effect is not really seen elsewhere among the TU Hall victims. Some have arms are up like they're surrendering horizontally, or were dragged lengthwise, but the extended arms lay on the floor with the rest of the person, not locked up in the air.

Consider a victim seen of the 5th floor landing, in the Dumskaya video from 10 PM (at 1:02 in the video) and in a better side-view in this Dumskaya photo. Lightly burned on the back of the head and hands only, his cause of death is unclear. His hands are elevated slightly, suggesting he too was dragged into place. His arms would have been higher at first, but the movers saw them adjusting back down and figured after a few minutes it wouldn't look so odd. But the stiffness was still increasing, and his hands only dropped this low before filming. After full stiffness and some relaxation, his hands are flat on the floor by mid-day on the 3rd as seen in another photo (that has strange issues to cover elsewhere). That's the natural progression, with not enough burning to lock the position in place.

C) Burned After Positioning
The arm position of these five victims being locked in place by fire suggests both that they had rigor mortis, and that they'd been positioned like this prior to their main torching, and not after it. But there are other supporting clues, including these:

We can see these stairwell victims have specifically burned faces and hands, like many other victims do. Perhaps in an expansion of that, or in a separate round of burning, #4 and 5 seem to have also had fire set to the upper-middle surfaces of their bodies. We can see on their thighs and bellies where fatty tissues beneath ignited, bubbled briefly and then went out. That suggests a fire dwindling from an intense start, probably with one coat of flammable liquid applied and lit up.

All things considered, the body movers must have managed this part as well. Note how victim #5 has only the left pant leg burned away. That suggests the fuel was sort of drizzled on/between both of them by someone standing on the landing, further from #5. More fuel would be splashed on the their inner halves (#4 right, #5 left), and less on the far side of #5. Also, they splashed more in the middle of each body and less at the ends; at the open expanses, clothing burns away. leaving the crotches and seams, with lower pant legs and footwear intact, and at least #4 retaining the upper part of his long-sleeved shirt.


Victim #2, as noted above, seems significantly more charred than the others, possibly burned once even before being positioned here, doused anew, and included in this staged blaze. 


D) Burned Too Late or Killed Too Early?
When this all happened is a central question. At least one victim, and perhaps only the one, was being burned in that spot shortly before fire crews arrived, so app. 8:00-8:07 PM (estimate - "8PM" hereafter). This is seen on video: Road E-95 News at 20:40, for example, shows him from the outside, hanging headfirst out the window as flames churn behind him. (See also my analysis video that shows a possible start to this second blaze, then some footage of it really going) It might seem natural to conclude all the victims are there behind him and being burned as well, in the same fire of disputed cause that pro-government sources blame for their deaths.


But if so, to develop rigor mortis in time, they must have died around 6:00 PM, and I challenge anyone to tell me where that happened and by whom. Were the federalists already killing their own before the mob arrived? (that was about 7:10 PM, by the way) Who was dragging them around and burning away their faces at 8:05, well after after Maidan and Right Sector took over and stormed into the building? No, the dying started between 7:30 and 7:50, at the change in management following the mob's arrival.

Unless ... it's true that some of the mob's worst allies - the apparent false-flag provocateurs from downtown, Parubiy-sniper types dressed as pro-Russians who slipped through the special police-Maidan cordon at Afina Center - came here earlier than the rest. Some clues do suggest some tricked their way in, mingling with local security, up to the roof and down to the basement and urging everyone else to hide inside between them. Once in, they might start killing an early few people quietly in the shadows ... shortly after 6 PM, the timeline suggests.

"Okay, you two guys that were here before, go with these two new guys and set up a surveillance room at the north corner." A wink and a nod at the right time, and there's two dead ...

Placement and burning for the three discussed - #2, #4, #5 - should be around 9:30-10 PM at the earliest, if they died around 7:30-8. The fire response ran from arrival at 8:09PM to, as the Rada investigation's report says, all fires being declared extinguished at 8:50. So there was either a later fire that defies the official timeline, or the victims were killed earlier than the known fact can account for - something mysterious was going on there well before the main attack force arrived.

Let's consider this Odessa Channel 1 video - 9:55:50 PM by the title, meaning (broadcast time? Live? It's got edits... whose time zone? Etc.) It's full dark - possibly 8:50 (fire containment time), but likely even later. At 0:12 the camera looks slightly down from a high fire ladder or crane into those windows, with victim #1 still hanging out on the right. Firefighters with their white helmets are inside, working the landing, with others descending from there. A strangely bright and energetic fire continues high up and to the left - corresponding perhaps to the pile of debris "barricade" on the right (as seen from inside). This may be some kind of intense gas lantern - they don't seem at all concerned with it. Maybe we shouldn't be.
 
Note how they're bending down as if doing special work on something on the floor, like the other four bodies would be. Suggested is a no-later-than planting and apparently burning time for those - whatever that is (unsettled). We can see firefighters tried putting out the one victim as a first order of business around 8:10 PM, while actually putting out the 2nd floor blaze. They had a proper ladder soon (about 8:20?), and presumably put the 4th floor blaze down then, and claim they got all fires by 8:50.

But the clues might say there was one last fire they didn't admit and had to put out anew an hour later, in about the spot they started at almost two hours earlier. Confirmation or refutation of this fire time is an important next step.

Two possible scenarios, depending how all the details really line up:
* Only the one victim was in place at 8 PM: #1 in the window. Then the landing was doused with flammable liquids and lit up. The fire crew arrived right after this and put it out. Later, the movers had more bodies, dragged or carried the other four in, doused and torched it again shortly before the Channel 1 footage was filmed.

* These were people killed an hour or more earlier, and possibly no second fire after 8PM is needed to explain it.

Possible thinking for a late fire: the visible victim #1 already set the picture for the whole landing fire at 8PM. As long as the later blaze didn't get noticed, the clues would seem to suggest killings around 6 PM - long before they got there, publicly. "The "Russian Terrorists" were shooting each other before they started the building on fire by accident, and also before we ever got here, maybe just to make us look bad!" Sounds silly except they may have had a hundred extra bodies and some worries about that becoming known ... just in case, they could say there were some pre-killings by their own side ... and in context, that probably includes the extra hundred, already trucked away before we got there. When you're dealing with Putin, all bets are off and anything goes, right?

Other Evidence for Bodies Moved After Murder
While it can't be directly connected to any of the stairwell victims under study, there is at least one spot where we can see signs supporting people being murdered in one place and then dragged elsewhere - possibly to this spot. This is seen in the "Flagneck Tour Video," as it turns out filmed by local Right Sector supporter Alex Rychkoff. In there somewhere, in an upper floor office (seems maybe 4th floor?) we see smashed-in doors, a dead man and a dead woman (smoke inhalation, "Flagneck" says) and next to a far wall, no body but instead a heavy smear of blood. Not brains shot out, Alex is told - the blood just coagulates. Fire and smoke killed them, smashing down doors, and leaving blood coagulating beneath the one person who ... got up an walked away fine? No, that does not add up well.

The person who bled and presumably died here was clearly removed. The copious blood might be from  an obvious fatal injury not suitable to explain with "smoke inhalation" like the ones left in place. Problem is, it doesn't explain the blood either. Here, maybe 4th floor, a non-burned room with a murdered body taken out. In the stairwell just below the 4th floor and a bit further down, bodies that died or murdered somewhere else were dragged in and burned. That might add up perfectly.

Conclusion:
Point B is central. The other two have their ambiguities. All-in-all, we have clear evidence that people were murdered and dragged around after rigor mortis set in and deliberately burned, for whatever reason.

The main mystery that raises questions for investigators of the massacre is the killing-and-fire timeline. To be that stiff before burning, victims either needed to be dead by around 6 PM, if they were burned around 8:00 (at least one was), or killed at the time of the known incursion (roughly 7:30 and after) and burned in a later fire around 9:30-10 PM, that challenges the official story.

At the moment, I'm leaning to earlier murders by allies of the attackers who had managed to get inside the building well before the main events. I suspect these quietly picked off a handful of victims (I presume they make silencers even for 9mm pistols), anyone they ran across over the afternoon as they laid the trap for the rest. Details of who was/should be in there still remain unclear to me - anyone happen to have more info on how busy vs. empty it should have been?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fail Caesar: Exposing the Anti-Syria Photo Propaganda

Fail Caesar: Exposing the Anti-Syria Photo Propaganda {Masterlist}
November 8, 2014
last edits July 6, 2016 

This story of "Caesar" - the code-named defector with a supposed 55,000 photos worth of proof the "Assad regime" was genociding its Sunni political prisoners, 11,000+ at least 6,627 of them - warrants a series of posts (number of parts unsure but low) and so, as they come up:
  • Fail Caesar Part 1: Protecting his Identity - From Whom? (if his story of employment by the Syrian government is true, the code-name and other precautions couldn't possibly hide his identity from them. So ... why all the secrecy then?) 
  • Fail Caesar Part 2: Re-Considering the Victims (if we're willing to question what he says about the dead men documented during the Syrian conflict, what else might explain the evidence?)
  • That may be enough, unless there's some new development...
  • There was. Fail Caesar, part 3: A New Offensive at the Ides of March, started post added a bit late, March 19. The nearly 7,000 detainees face shots are released, challenging one core problem I'd raised, and leading to a slew of alleged identifications.
  • Part 4: The Other Half of the Photos - And then in December, 2015, the Human Rights Watch report and its revelation that half of Cesar's photos did not show tortured detainees, but rather, more or less, showed victims and effects of rebel violence.  The half that did show alleged regime detainees was the app. 6,700 shown in March.
  • Photos Timeline - scrapped for now, see ACLOS page with a usable start (collaborative, if anyone collaborates!)  Helps largely verify the numbers and number system alleged.
  • Part 5: Questioning the Number System - building off the timeline and other on-going analysis, so far this proves nothing one way or the other, but it's well-worth understanding, and some serious contradictions and minor mysteries are raised.  
  • Part 6: Evidence the Victims were NOT Prisoners of the Government The start of what I've been building up to here; it seems these are unidentified bodies, not coded prisoners. They include rebel combat deaths, some pro-government fighters, some civilian massacre victims, and mainly a whole bunch of civilians and fighters held captive, starved, tortured, seemingly mass-exterminated and dumped - by the foreign-backed terrorists plaguing the Damascus area. It does not seem likely the victims were held by the government those terrorists seek to undermine with hostage-taking, genocide programs, and false-flag allegation. 
  • Part 6, sub-posts (see part 6).  
  • Part 7: Inventing More Coded Prisoners? Connecting to parts 5 and 6 but deserving its own slot - Identifying a peculiar pattern of inserted entries  that essentially proves some invention of the telltale "prisoner ID#" from a different number that means no such thing.  133 cases at least were nabbed in this analysis, with the method, pattern and meaning explored in a super-detailed explanation.
  • Part 8:  Upside-Down Terrorist Crimes in Geneva?: On Mohammed Alloush, poitical leader of Jaisg al-Islam - possibly the killers of the Caesar photo victims - using the photos in his new job as Saudi-Western-backed chief negotiator in Geneva, in light of the evidence of genocide contained in the photos.   
  • Part 9: Prior Documentation of Torture: So far one telling example of opposition activists intercepting regime abuses (of the kind as, from the area as, and at the same time as the abuse of the Caesar photo victims) - just moments after they happened. 
  •  Part 10: On the Silence From Damascus: Asking for more information. 

#CaesarPhotos Identified Victim Profiles
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"Caesar" is widely advertised as totally winning, a hero for truth and justice, risking his life. But his life might be a work of fiction. No one can really know yet who the victims are and who killed them. But over the last ten months, I and teammates at A Closer Look On Syria have compiled some good analysis and questions on the page Torture Photos from "Caesar" and its talk page. This research is the starting basis for the material in the posts linked above. From the main page there,
the overview:
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Carter-Ruck report, figure 5
On January 21, 2014, the media grew abuzz with startling news - first broken the day before - of "industrial scale" torture, abuse, and murder of at least 11,000 Syrian prisoners by their government. Such claims were nothing new, but this time they were supported by actual photographs and some kind of study by professional investigators of such crimes. The unusually strong claims and noted parallels with Nazi death camps made waves, among other places, at the Geneva 2 peace conference which began in Montreaux the following day.

The claims were lodged originally by an alleged defector - code-named "Ceasar" - who says he was employed by the Syrian government as a morgue photographer. Over the first 29 months of the Syrian conflict, he says he collected copies of 55,000 digital images he says show about 11,000 dead victims, all of them executed prisoners of the Syrian government. Sometime in August, 2013, "Caesar" says he stopped taking new pictures, faked his own death, and escaped with his trove, as he says, "in order to stop the systematic torture." With funding from the Qatari royal family, the defector's narrative was bolstered with the hire of British law firm and a team of three war crimes prosecutors. The latter drafted a report - stamped "CONFIDENTIAL" but ultimately released on January 20th via Western Media in France, Turkey, the US, and UK. (see below) - that analyzed the photos, and passed on the back-story "Caesar" provided. The primary media reports added little to no skepticism, and political leaders have of course added none of their own as they reflexively push their well-known anti-Assad agendas.

It should be considered there are two parts to this evidence package; the actual photographs, and the alleged photographer's explanation of what they show. The 30+ images published, at least, do show systematic abuse of captive men, including signs of torture, starvation, and sometimes execution. While we cannot know how representative the few publicized photos truly are, it seems criminal abuses are being carried out in Syria, a problem that merits alarm and attention. "Caesar's" story may be true, but for all we know, many of these bodies passing through this morgue could have different true stories. For example, some of them (like the apparent Christian man in image #25 - see list here) could be of civilians hostages taken by rebel forces, executed and then dumped, and simply being documented by the government. It's only by trusting Caesar that one can be sure that's not even part of the picture.

The reasons to question or even doubt the defector's word are many, starting with the baseless claim that any code-name would protect him or his family from the Syrian government, if his employment story is true. All it really does is keep his identity secret from those he's appealing to, and suggests he may not be at all who he claims. [3] But these reasons have been ignored in a push by the powerful to indict and harm the Syrian government again, this time over distressingly ambiguous morgue photos.

"Caesar" has arguably been given more credibility than "Curveball" and "Nayirah" combined. Nonetheless, this project has proven less effective than some may have expected; throughout 2014 it continued with diminishing efforts to spur direct, perhaps military action against the Syrian government. The first release on January 20, as mentioned, complicated the peace talks starting on the 22nd. As the conflict ground on, some photos were presented to the UN Security Council in April in another fruitless effort to secure firmer action against the Syrian government. Some images plus the defector appeared before the US House of Representatives foreign policy council in late July. Then a select few images were displayed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in October. These plus frequent media exclusives and interviews with countless uncritical echoes, as a New York Times article lamented on October 31, had so far "spurred outrage, but not action." [4]
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The cartoon below shows the one victim of the few shown so far that is apparently a Syrian Christian, a segment of the populace that the Sunni extremist anti-government rebels often kidnap and execute, for their religion and/or for supporting the government and resisting the rebellion. Other targeted classes, by the way, are Alawi, Shia, Kurds, and the majority of Syria's Sunnis who also support the government. They don't usually sport tattoos like this, so it's hard to tell whether or not you're looking at one, once he's been murdered in a photo that rebels wound up with in the end (if not from the start).



Note, Feb. 11, 2016: I can expand on the photographed Cristian victim now. The card always said (in other views) Branch 227 victim #2615 - that's the number on this SAFMCD entry with consistent face shot from folder 7-7-2013. Eye gouging isn't clear (partly blurred) but his eyes do seem at least damaged (chemically),  like many, many sets of eyes in here. Like the rest of those, he also has some red-purple irritation of the skin, mild cyanosis (blue blue lips), yellow crust in the eyes, and orange fluid (blood-mucous mix) running out of his nose and mouth, apparently bubbled or foamy at the mouth (blurred). That's besides being stabbed, starved, etc.  For what it's worth (not clear), his entry number is just 5 lower than eyes-gone Douma resident Mohammad Khaled al-Tout (he's 227-2620), and little ways into a long and horrible stretch of hundreds of mostly-starved bodies where half seem to have actually had their eyes totally removed (runs at least 2480 to 2824 - link on that maybe in time).

Other Assorted visual aids:
Famous victim with fan belt "highly consistent with  the ligature mark seen in a different individual," and put around his nech for unclear reasons. New details: logged Jan. 2013, victim 1043 from branch 227 (they say,) moderately starved, fit fighting age male, apparently exposed to a caustic chemical of the most common type.


How about victim 485 from branch 215, also photographed in 1-2013. This is a roughly teen-aged guy, perhaps adult but likely under 18 - he's been badly starved, perhaps tortured, and finally gassed, creating yellow mucous in the eyes, and burning the hell out of his neck, and causing him to spit up blood - most likely while being hanged upside-down, like many victims apparently were. The guy above might've looked like this before cleanup.

Seriously folks, words aside .... is this more like a Mukhabarat (Syrian military intelligence) extermination program, or one run by, say, al-Qaeda? 

Continuing with that thought, see this, and FC part 6.