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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Douma Market Attack: Precedents

Douma Market Attack: Precedents
September 7, 2015
(cleanup and completed, October 14)

Peter Bouckaert, "Emergencies Director" for Human Rights Watch wrote on August 20 Douma: Syria’s horrors need the world’s attention. This was released the same day HRW called for an arms embargo on the Syrian government over the attack (that's part of of what Bouckaert means by "attention"). I have been paying more attention than most and still see no reason to think a jet was involved; the physical evidence is fairly consistent with that, or a number of other things, but there's no video or photo of the jet or contrail, no radar track, no consistent missile remains specified, and for some reason there's even vagueness about the attack time.

And this is looking worse and worse compared to increasing reasons to see instead a laundered terrorist massacre of almost entirely male captives. I recently published what might be a smoking gun proving that rebels just laundered another of their massacres; the inset photo of around 40 gathered bodies was taken just minutes after the August 16 missile/rocket attack, meaning at least this big portion of the victims were dead well before the alleged cause existed. A critic on Twitter chided me and "Syricide" (who re-tweeted me on it) so: "Peddling any conspiracy theory that exonerates #Assad and his loyalists no matter how far fetched. Classic." I replied well; "Lol, "Far fetched" Far from what activists said, fetched by photo proof." 

That may have been a bit strong to say, "proof" - it's still being analyzed, pending certainty we've actually read it right. But in the meantime, I had promised an article on the rich if under-appreciated history of precedents for this being a false-flag provocation or even worse. Here it finally is, for those having a hard time seeing how near-fetched such a thing really would be, in two parts: Sarajevo (1992-1995) and Syria (2011 to present)

First, lest reach back and fetch a far example, decades old, but cited by those blaming the Syrian government and by those questioning that blame. HRW's Peter Bouckaert, in his "Syria's horror" thing cited above, pointed a solid precedent for such a government-sponsored atrocity that was dealt with adequately and serves as a model here.
Almost exactly 20 years ago, a similarly brutal bombing of a marketplace during the Bosnian war changed the course of that conflict. On 28 August, 1995, during its siege of the city of Sarajevo, forces of the breakaway Republika Srpska fired 5 mortar shells into the Markale market, killing 43 and wounding 75.

The horror and outrage generated by that attack - the second on the Markale market, following a 5 February, 1994 strike that killed 68 - unified much of the international community into action.
He cited eventual prosecution of Serbian officers as supporting evidence for their guilt, but failed to mention there was a serious air war along the way to that. NATO air strikes of 1995, per the Wikipedia article, "struck 338 Bosnian Serb targets, many of which were destroyed" in a one-month campaign starting on August 30. The planners of "Operation Deliberate Force" clearly did not deliberate very long before they had bombs falling two days after the provocation at Markale market. This international action would eventually force an end of the war, on terms favoring the ethnic Albanian separatists (from Yugoslavia) over the "breakaway" Republika Srpska (favoring the preservation of Yugoslavia).  "Sadly," Bouckaert concludes, "it seems unlikely that the horror of the latest market attack in Douma will bring about any effective international response" of the kind seen in 1995. 

In case it matters, and it wasn't mentioned by Bouckaert, the Wikipedia page for Markale massacres points out while first analysis was clear in blaming the Serbs, "a later and more in-depth UNPROFOR report noted a calculation error in the original findings. With the error corrected, the United Nations concluded that it was impossible to determine which side had fired the shell." Well, then how did the UN, the Hague's jurists, and others decide, then and now, who it was? Apparently they picked the side with the anti-motive, the side who lost the ensuing air war their third suicide attempt (see below) finally triggered. This is a preview how any Syria war crimes trials will be run, and this Douma attack, a plain as day "official massacre," is likely to be included.

Aftermath of one the Markale attacks, from Lewis report
I just now heard of crime writer Robert Lewis, who shared his informed thoughts about the Douma allegations on August 28, the 20-year anniversary of the last Markale bombing.
The story reminded me that despite the fact markets have no [military] value, they’re bombed all the time.  ... [almost entirely] the victims have been Muslim (I have started to compile a spreadsheet). These bombings occur with incredible frequency, and an astonishing number of them are never claimed by any terrorist group. Isn’t that bizarre? It suggests a strategy of tension, or perhaps several of them. Certainly it warrants further study.
Of course, many of them are blamed on non-terrorist state actors, being branded as terrorists, but always uselessly denying the accusations, so no terrorist admission should be expected. Lewis focuses on Markale, adding a less-known attack there in 1992 for a total of three before war was finally sparked. He notes that:
"On each occasion there was ambiguity about whether the Bosnian Serbs were actually responsible. General Michael Rose believed the shells actually came from the Bosnian side. Multiple sources (such as Michael Rose, David Owen, Boutros Boutros Ghali, President Mitterand, and Yasushi Akashi, the UN Special Envoy for Bosnia) refer to a secret UN investigation which found exactly that. A second, non-secret UN report (the one intended for publication) confined itself to saying the attack could not be confidently attributed to any particular faction.
I have visited the market in Sarajevo. An arc of attack was not apparent. Sightlines were few and very narrow. It would take exceptional skill, I think, to accurately and reliably hit it with the groupings and timings we are asked to believe in. I do not seek to exonerate the Bosnian Serbs, who seem to have sniped and shelled Sarajevo at will, but the mortar attacks in question reveal what you might call a tradition of unattributed, misreported, propagandistic attacks on Muslim markets. And the CIA and the Saudi-funded Islamists were present then just as they are today.
Oct. 14 note on "arc of attack." He didn't see in Markale one to point one way or the other, but this is one precedent that doesn't carry over to the Douma market attack. In that case there's an arc, which points to ground artillery to the south, not to a fighter jet above at different angles. A rebel lie about rockets fired from a rebel area doubly points to rebels and false-flag. This case becomes a precedent for understanding the others, as well as vice-versa. See mapping the arc of attack.

Furthermore, the 1994 and 1995 Sarajevo attacks and the credulous response came after time to reflect on earlier discredited accusations, rebel false-flag attacks back in 1992, perhaps including the early Markale attack. As the UK Independent reported at the time:
United Nations officials and senior Western military officers believe some of the worst recent killings in Sarajevo, including the massacre of at least 16 people in a bread queue, were carried out by the city's mainly Muslim defenders - not Serb besiegers - as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intervention.

The view has been expressed in confidential reports circulating at UN headquarters in New York, and in classified briefings to US policymakers in Washington." 
Even those leaking these classified details are quick to de-emphasize such events as irrelevant flukes: "The officials were anxious to point out that they were not trying to exonerate the Serbs, who have been besieging Sarajevo for months, killing unknown numbers of townspeople, as well as carrying out 'ethnic cleansing' around the city and elsewhere in Bosnia." So this is an at-least kind of list by people interested in blaming the Serb side, among a barrage of false-flag attacks, discarding the worst fakes and keeping the rest as a deciding majority. But among those they were forced to reject, besides the bread line attack:

* "UN officials also believe the bullet which killed the American television producer David Kaplan near Sarajevo airport on 13 August was probably not fired by a sniper from distant Serbian positions. 'That would have been impossible,' one UN military officer said. 'That shot came in horizontal to the ground. Somebody was down at ground level.'"

* "UN officials also say a Ukrainian soldier shot in the head and heart at Sarajevo's Marshal Tito barracks on Thursday was killed by 'small arms fire' - by implication the Bosnians."

I've bumped into signs of a false-flag mosque-bombing suspect, a PFLP-GC member apparently active in Bosnia in May 1992, called "Abu Elias." He may also have been involved - centrally - in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and was last known to be living in Virginia with a US government engineering job, under an odd pseudonym (Basel Bushnaq, in Arabic: brave Bosnian) (see here).


Examples to the Syria conflict will be more immediately relevant. There have been numerous reported government-ordered attacks on bread lines, public markets, and the like. I've only looked at a few of these and the details were generally hard to call with certainty - tension/provocation seem most likely in general, but I'm talking about supporting evidence, not starting hunches. So no clear lessons pop to mind (but later, some records analysis was added at this post), but a few other cases with common features are worth considering.

Non-Jet Jet Attack on Civilians: Aleppo University, Jan., 2013
Blast crater at Aleppo University, facing E-SE
The Douma claims are quite similar to the alleged fighter jet attack on Aleppo University, activists were clear a fighter jet fired a missile at the school of architecture on January 15 during exams, swooped around and fired again, killing dozens of students at "the University of the Revolution," as pro-revolution people called it. Unlike this case that did feature jet evidence to back up the claims - a vapor trail shown on video, but looking more rocket-oriented) On closer inspection that attack had no jet; the forensics (lack of jet indicators in video of the attack, size of blast and severity of damage, and - I think - the apparent direction of fire) favor the government's story: terrorists had fired two powerful surface rockets from the north-northwest.

The brunt of the attack was taken not by students but by a tent camp for displaced people outside the dormitories packed with other people displaced from their homes by fighting or rebel occupation (see ACLOS page, talk page, and un-developed physical evidence page). A later report gives a final figure of over 90 people killed besides the hundreds wounded, again mainly IDPs, and then 15 students were killed in a further attack on March 28.

* 100+ dead as magic number: Houla Massacre, May, 2012, Hama July 2011, etc.
We may all still remember the furor in May/June 2012 over Assad's brutl Houla Massacre, where Army shelling enabled a Shabiha invasion of a Sunni rebel village, where they massacred 108 random Sunni civilians, almost half of them children. It was an unprecedented scale of child-killing that was totally blamed on "Assad" and sparked an unprecedented wave of diplomatic warfare and greater support to the rebels.

But the fact is it was rebel shelling and Salafist terrorist massacre against targeted families in the last government-held part of the Houla region, immediately after they finally overran the remaining security posts there, as the video record actually shows. I know what the UN investigation found, and I can show where they went wrong. Well-read video evidence trumps their sloppy hodge-podge of reasoning any day. As for the victims, those whose stories agree with the video evidence say the victims were mainly former Sunnis who converted to Shi'ism, and others who remained Sunni but supported the government.

But it's the number that I cited it for. That third digit makes a world of difference in how the world reacts. Consider July 31, 2011, the first day in the campaign when just over 100 people died in one place on one day. Turns out there was a rebel offensive that day and a quarter of the dead were security forces, some slaughtered and dumped in the river. The rest; 87 ostensibly civilian men, were unclear. The world denounced "Assad's" brutality against the unarmed protesters, and dismissed his lies about them being armed terrorists.

Unlike that, the Houla Massacre famously involved women and especially children murdered on a horrific scale. And consider the first triple-digit massacre of "entire families" that "Assad" convincingly pulled off...

* Triple Digit Deaths + Female-Sparing Bombs; Khalidiya, Feb. 2012
Activists said regime shelling on a rebel-held area destroyed 20+ homes overnight Feb. 3/4, killing whole families in a main, first-reported batch of 138 people. But these, by opposition lists, were 130 men and 8 boys, many with odd injuries to the throat. A smaller number of more mixed victims were counted later, including about 8 women and 4 girls, making the final tally only about 90% adult male. (see ACLOS page)

That's strikingly similar to the Douma market attack death toll - not quite as all-man as it first seemed, but almost. It's suspicious, suggesting some kind of unnatural gender segregation. After the Khalidiya massacre, state media aired locals speaking of a terrorist assault on police stations the same day, and some of whom claimed they recognized the "Shelling" victims on rebel videos as family or neighbors who had been kidnapped. Such claims are consistent by these unverified details from a John Rosenthall report:, citing Mother Agnes-Mariam:
According to an account published in French on the monastery’s website, rebels gathered Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in Khalidiya and blew up the building with dynamite. They then attributed the crime to the regular Syrian army. “Even though this act has been attributed to regular army forces ... the evidence and testimony are irrefutable: It was an operation undertaken by armed groups affiliated with the opposition,” Mother Agn├Ęs-Mariam wrote.
In my experience/opinion, this source deserves the nickname Mother Agnes of the Mixed Reliability. Such reports are usually based on real claims, but the claims aren't always true. Nor are they always false, nor that there was ever a case that was totally certain anyway. The claims in this case seem well-worth considering, and quite possibly relevant to the apparent 2015 massacre in Douma of 100+ men and a few others, that was hidden under dubious fighter jet claims.

Regime Massacre Victims, Killed by Rebels: Douma, August, 2012
victim of Aug. 16 massacre, opp. video
(see Douma Hostage Massacre page at ACLOS ) - perhaps an even better anniversary point for the Douma allegations, it was around August 17, 3 years earlier, when rebels found 16 local men kidnapped by Assad-loyalist thugs and recently killed by slicing their throats - likely on August 16, which could make the market attack a sort of anniversary homage to this earlier crime. 

But 6 of those same men were already shown, and clearly, on a FSA rebel unit's recent video as government loyalists they had captured and were threatening to kill. It was an obvious case of terrorists fobbing off their own massacre. And it happened in Douma, back in 2012, before it became as overwhelmingly Islamist-friendly as it is today (pro "army of Islam" activists say the regime killed civilians at the market because all of Douma loves "Army of Islam" who were also winning battles, by the way). Back then, neighboring Harasta seemed to be leading the way, with Douma dragging its feet. The death squad responsible for this massacre was based there.

There's no such proof I know of for the Douma market victims being slaughtered in that manner. From the few dozen I've seen, most are not throat-cutting victims. But some cases are unclear or even suspicious. Consider Akram Seroul, as given - it's him, an alleged fighter jet victim of August 16, shown above (I was being tricky! It's leading, but just for effect!).

Fighter Jet Kills People in Market: Ariha, Idlib, Aug.3, 2015
Here's a bizarre precedent speaking to fighter jets bombing markets on Assad's order and, in this case, crashing the jet into it deliberately to kill more, in an expensive new way to argue for a "no fly zone." Over 30 civilians, mostly men, were listed as killed. (expanded into this article for more details).

Getty Images/Anadolu Agency has a photo to prove that this time a jet was over the market and thus might have hit it; some flag-marked jet wreckage, next to melons. It looks arguably natural how it came together, but ... to me, the metal appears to be quite weathered, having spent some time in its crumpled state. If it was shot down long ago and had wreckage dripped here to prove jet-on-market action ... what does that say about later alleged jet-on-market attacks?

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