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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sept. 6 Fatalities Seen on Video?

Syria Chlorine Allegations: Sept. 6 Fatalities Seen on Video?
September 18

The latest alleged chlorine attack in Aleppo was almost two weeks ago now, on September 6 (ACLOS page). Barrel bombs are blamed, reportedly dropped from a helicopter in broad daylight, around 1 pm (usually it happens at night, making video impossible, but so far I've seen no videos showing this drop either, nor even the gas cloud afterwards). These were said to said to hit the rebel-held Sukkari district, at least one barrel releasing what seems to be chlorine gas, said to have affected over 100 people and killed two.

This came as a reminder a week after the  UN-OPCW report with its terrible flaws had blamed the government for at least two helicopter chlorine attacks. And it came about a month after Islamists in Sukkari reportedly fired chlorine gas on government-held area(s) of Aleppo, killing at least 13 (ACLOS).

Briefly, here's the science of it for an idea what to look for (feel free to check here for an indicators list  and for supporting source material to explain): chlorine gas turns to acid (hydrochloric and hypochlorous) on contact with water. So moist tissues of any animal will be attacked, causing anything from irritation to outright melting as the victim is hit with tiny droplets of acid on the skin, in the eyes, in the nose, throat, and lungs... bad news. Skin can be irritated or burnt, especially in tender or injured areas. It causes eye damage, starting with watering and redness and proceeding to worse. Lungs and airways are damaged - painful, shallow, strained breathing (dyspnea) results - later the tissues bleed, and later yet protective mucous forms, one or the other often suffocating the victim fatally some hours after the incident. Changes in blood chemistry lead to cyanosis, a color shift to purple and then blue, especially notable in the fingernail beds and the lips, but sometimes visible all over the body or localized.

Activists know this, and made sure to say things like "red eyes" and "incessant coughing."  But 90% of the victims seen on video don't actually have these signs. Video analysis of some 24 allegedly exposed persons shows only 1-3 likely, well-illustrated cases of moderate chlorine exposure - the gas probably was released, somehow. But mostly the available videos show lots of apparent acting or staging, apparently just to exaggerate the scale of it and including more heart-rending images of children with breathing masks on. Here are some representative faces, white eyes, and one apparently effected (fake) cough. (see here for links and more analysis)

The Fatalities
Two civilians killed by the chlorine attack were reported by the next day - a man who had died right after the attack, and a teenage girl who died "overnight" or on the afternoon of the 7th. To my knowledge no one has shown videos or photos of either victim as that ("here is an image of..."). But it's pretty likely both are shown (unnamed) on video, and analyzed below. If these are the fatalities, it would reflect badly on the allegations (which would be nothing new, of course). As the ones who died, these should show the clearest chlorine indicators of all. But they come out just as weak as most.

Hajer Kyali, as Reported
"13-year-old Hajer Kyali, had been in intensive care but died Wednesday afternoon. Officials said her house was directly hit by one of the barrel bombs." (UPI)

"Mohammed Abu Jaafar, head of the local forensic department in the rebel-held part of Aleppo, said on Wednesday that the girl died overnight of suffocation and respiratory burns." ... "Mohammed Abu Rajab, a technician in an Aleppo medical center, says ... she was suffering from the impact of the explosion, gas inhalation and burns. Her fascial bones were broken."  (AP)

Note: There are no "fascial bones." There is "fascia," which runs body-wide under the skin, but it has no bones. But there are facial bones, of course, in the face (A Times of Israel report corrects this to facial, while most other postings do not). So to clarify, her breathing was complicated by a smashed face, caused by the physical barrel bomb impact/blast or after effects (or so it's being reported). But the actual chlorine is what finally killed her. And it did it realistically, as described. Clearly, video confirmation in this case should be unpleasant and bloody.

Seen on Video?
On the Ground News (English-language roaming Islamist propaganda "news" source) may have video: site report, September 6. At 1:26, arriving at the clinic with an affected man, they record a girl of about 13 brought in on a stretcher, with facial injuries - seeming alive but in pain, quiet, tense, and still (gripping the stretcher). I apologize for this, but this might be the girl who reportedly died, and this brief glimpse might be of interest to the global public and to the family of this victim. The story may not be true.

Notes: she has strangely torn clothing (pants partly shredded with no injury seen beneath, flimsy shirt seeming intact). She has a light coating of dust that could suggest some explosion, but mainly on her pants and not shirt. Nowhere on her clothing do I see blood suggesting any serious bodily injury.

On first view (at right) the girl's face seems intact but red and swollen on the right side (our left), with blood under the chin on and perhaps into the jaw area on her left side. That could be a serious wound or not - it's hard to say. There doesn't seem to be any blood from it on her (replaced?) shirt. Other injuries are unclear but seemingly minimal or non-bloody. Burns, stains, and/or abrasions on her left hand is all we see.

As she's carried by, we then see the girl in profile, and her face again seems to be intact and not smashed. However, on her left cheek is an irregular, scarred-looking patch and what looks like a large hole deep into the bone, but with no blood - almost like an old wound that's healed. That seems to be related to a swollen area down into her jaw - like a wound-related infection.
Is it a coincidence the barrel bomb apparently tore into her other jaw, of all places, after that had gone on a while? If all the injuries were fresh, this might be called a likely gunshot through the face, from right cheekbone to left jaw. But it seems one injury is old, and the other fresh, but unclear. 

Out of a pool of around 100 people, there shouldn't be very many girls of around 13 with serious facial injuries, old or new. So quite likely, but far from certainly, this is Hajar Kyali. The strange injuries support this in another, roundabout way: people in abusive detention are likely to have horrible injuries that are poorly treated. So she could be from some abducted Alawite family, for example. She is exceptionally thin and might be malnourished (clearly another sign of captivity), or just ill from the infection. And prior research has shown hostages/human shields like that are often, or maybe exclusively, selected to die from alleged regime attacks like this.

If this is her, said to die the next afternoon ... let's check the chlorine indicators list here:
  • dyspnea - no sign
  • Agitation/distress - restrained/calm
  • coughing - no signs (brief view)
  • Coughing blood/mucous - no sign
  • Retching/vomiting - no sign
  • Skin redness - not of the chlorine type (possibly infection-related)
  • Other skin burns - not of the chlorine type (localized, to hand, by blast/heat/etc.)
  • Red face - possibly infected cheek, not the middle part that gets red from coughing
  • Eye irritation/damage - unclear
  • cyanosis - no sign
  • Weakness in the legs - injuries suggested/irrelevant
So ... if this is the girl who died, chlorine probably has nothing to do with it, unless she was gassed after arriving at the clinic. This is actually possible, but not the kind of thing we should presume. More likely, she would be suffocated or overdosed on opiates or something (as with the 2015 Sarmin chlorine attack, and perhaps see below).

Mohammad Abdulkareem Afefa, as Reported
Some first-day reports mentioned one fatality, while most did not. The first of two to die was an adult man. British ITV news was told the male victim was Mohammad Abdulkareem Afefa, age 29. SNHR at first "documented the killing of one individual, Mohammad AbdulKarim Afifa."  

AP heard "a 29-year old man also died from respiratory failure." Usually, a chlorine death is described with "suffocation," not a breathing "failure." The victims don't fail, they try hard and score A+ but they die anyway. To score an F in breathing suggests something else. This could be a minor semantical issue, or something more.

Seen on Video?
A man of perhaps this age, unresponsive and perhaps dead, appears in a video of he 6th, seen for a long time at the start.Ample daylight comes in a window, so it can't be very many hours after the mid-day attack.

This man is quite likely already dead or, if not, then comatose. He never moves or blinks that I noticed, or even visibly draws a breath. He just stares into space as a doctor tries ventillation with a pump, and another draws a blood sample from his neck. 

Appearing roughly 29 and likely dead or nearing it, I would venture this is most like the same man reported. If so, the visual record clearly matters. So here's his face contrast and gamma enhanced at right.

  • dyspnea - if alive (as recussitation efforts suggest), he's having the opposite - automatic non-breathing
  • Agitation/distress: unconscious/unresponsive/comatose (opposite)
  • coughing - not even breathing, it seems
  • Coughing blood/mucous - no clear sign
  • Retching/vomiting - no sign
  • Skin redness - no sign/pale (not the best lighting) 
  • Other skin burns - no sign
  • Red face - no sign/pale
  • Eye irritation/damage - no sign/white
  • cyanosis - no clear sign
  • Weakness in the legs - n/a, seems comatose
So this man who might be the other fatality, even more clearly than the first case, shows no sign of chlorine exposure, and shows instead contrary and roughly opposite signs. These are very like the signs shown by the Taleb family babies seen dying in March, 2015. This is most consistent with a CNS depressant overdose (barbiturates, opiates (morphine, heroin, demerol, etc.) - again, as linked above). Passed off as chlorine, we could call this a "chloroin" overdose if it keeps coming up and begs a nickname.

Mr. Afifa doesn't seem to be malnourished or suffer any other clear abuse or neglect consistent with long-term captivity. He might be a recent capture, or some other kind of person who somehow stopped breathing in the Sukkari district that day.

Neither of these identifications is absolute or equivocal. But both matches are quite likely, and between these two probably at least one and likely both reported deaths in this incident were simply passed off. They would be claimed as chlorine victims, in defiance of the physical evidence that something else (covered-up) actually killed them, here in this "liberated" corner of Syria.

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