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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Mystery of the W77 Trucks

The Mystery of the W77 Trucks
September 10, 2017 
(rough, incomplete) 
last updates Sept. 17

The "W77 trucks" is a mystery I've been meaning to do a post on. There's some speculation on what this occasional making means - the most straightforward guess is it's to allow some people to pass a certain way through Islamist-held areas and maybe across the Turkish border. This was first investigated in late April, 2016 2017, as one of these vehicles was used as the suicide bombing that killed around 100 Shia evacuees from Kafraya and Foua, on April 15, in Rashidin, Aleppo. The other places they turn up have a way of being interesting as well.

That early work was largely by (among whoever else) a few Twitter users, including Alex Ocana and John Delacour. The latter has blocked me from seeing his tweets, so I'll just cite Alex's here, and maybe miss a few points. All sightings I know of in approximate chronological order. Info and details may be added...
Note 9/11: I was unaware of a useful Bellingcat investigation published by Christiaan Triebert  August 2, that collects several other instances of blue Porters or W77 vehicles. This didn't seeming to make much of it, but noted "Bellingcat thinks the colour scheme as well as the W77/77W signature may be unresolved clues in this investigation," and invited collaboration. I'll be adding at least the relevant entries above.

* 07.04.2016, Handarat, Aleppo: AO tweet: "W77 again. Complete picture from Russian Agency 07.04.2016 - 19:57 Nusra at #Aleppo ’s Handarat." 

As noted, the W is slanted different than usual (or as would be usual later...). There must be separate W stencil done backwards here. Armed black pickup with Nusra flag is different in all those ways from what we'll see later, after an apparent pause of about a year (or so it seems at this early point).
They emerge more heavily in the period after interest peaked in 2017, and people started looking for them in current material. There may be many missed passing by in videos from this span and before.

* March 16(?), 2017: (added 9-13, from Bellingcat) 2 seen at Jinah Mosque, Aleepo/Idlib border: W77 blue Porter, very muddly, sharinf colors and decoration details with the Rashidin suicide truck. Nearby in the same video a cleaner 77W blue porter - window designs include Hyundai logo - tailgate says Daio? Mark of the custom paintjob people? May be what's under the W77 in many cases.

Two Porters appear in post-attack imagery released by the US after it bombed the meeting hall half of the mosque complex on March 16. (one a different model, the other may be one of these) What's interesting here: the US claims it targeted a militant meeting after the mosque services let out and the civilian cars left. But rebel sources were insistent that dozens of civilians were killed, despite that we only see militant-looking vehicles. But these Porter trucks, one with high-sided cage walls, are capable of trucking in dozens of civilians to use as human shields. It's worth considering.

* March, 2017, near Khattab, Hama: (add 9-13, from Bellingcat) Triebert: "A blue Hyundai Porter without cage but with window decoration, driving reportedly near the town of Khattab in the Hama governorate, as shown in Qasioun News Agency video published in March 2017." Back end clearly has a white patch for W77/77W, but it's unclear which. The white floral design on the front and apparently windows marks it as part of the system. Along with Majdal, Khattab is of course one of the two named villages occupied by al-Nusra-led Islamists in late March, from which a reported 250 civilians were abducted, probably put into trucks, and driven to Khan Sheikhoun when the Islamists retreated on March 31. This one is still in the area but empty. It might be filled with something before it left with the Islamists. I may look into this more, try and set a date, etc.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=29&v=K-ZfJV819_o
March 22 upload, maybe the 23rd in Syria. "Ensure the exit of civilians from the town of Khattab north of Hama after the opposition control." A horse, some tractors, lots of bedding, two portable generators? and several civilians moving one way on this road while the blue truck alone comes the other way along the shoulder. It gets a bit closer than the above still, but the video cuts before it gets clearer than this closer view.
Qasioun news reports: March 22 rebels take over. March 31 they flee. So maybe people were taken anywhere in this span, and not just at the end.

* April 4, 2017, Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib: During the Khan Sheikhoun chemical massacre, just five days after Islamists pulled out of Khatab and perhaps trucked up hundreds of hostages ... one of these trucks (apparently the blue Porter variety?) delivered some of the bodies of alleged sarin victims from who knows where to be hosed off at the White Helmets Al-Rahma cave hospital (which victims?) By sunlight, it's pretty early, but no estimate yet. W77 variety: white or silver with black outline? Small underwriting between the 7s.

Video by Ibaa Agency, basically the official media wing of HTS/Al-Namechange Front. WH-Nusra link widely suspected - Nusra W77 link illustrated - Nusra video gets best view of (came in with?) this W77 truck. But others got the even earlier and more interesting appearance of these trucks, in the next entry.

* April 4, 2017, Khan Sheikhoun, same place: (add 9/12, thanks to Qoppa999 tweet) A Porter but perhaps nicer - it's an H-100 - white,  marked 77W, but in RED or maybe reflective GOLD rimmed with red, Allah on the windshield, mirror dots up the side, and most likely another W77/77W truck, but likely marked different, seeming more mundane. Between them, a bizarre and troubling scene - these seem to be about the first rescue vehicles to arrive at al-Rahma, prior to the earliest image, at ~7:10 am. In some images at the ACLOS timeline page, and the video one of them is taken from, we can say a batch of possibly dead civilians was unloaded before that first image, continue being sprayed, and in a later image (timed at 8:00 but I might need to review that), the same people are put back on the tuck to go somewhere else, and get sprayed again. This is what W77 trucks and White Helmets do when they hang out together.
This gold-red on white effect seems special, esteemed, like the W77 king's own truck. The apparent small underwriting seems to be done the same way. What an odd choice to be the first rescue vehicle out there picking people up in the first minutes, and to then hang around like this and haul the same people again...  Anyway, I now think the order is significant: W77 means one thing and 77W means a different but related thing: another level in the system, that's higher (closer to Al-Nusra?). 77W's may appear more around this incident closer to the victims, their furniture, etc, while . W77s seem to do more menial hauling.

At least four sightings at least in the following days, same area:

* April 5? 6? Khan Sheikhoun: Driving past the alleged sarin crater as men gather samples - hauling unclear materials in bags with "production date" readable in English, perhaps unclear, 2006? No back license plate. None needed, because of the W77?


* April 5, 2017, Khan Sheikhoun area: Al-Jazeera Arabic video, apparently in KS, but   unclear - in a report about the incident. I think I first found this one, just now.
https://twitter.com/CL4Syr/status/907103267619954689




Windshield writing - hard to make out. side window patterning, white flames stenciled low on the side - winged logo on the front - W77 with small writing underneath (should say Hyundai...)

Another possible W77 truck passes just after this - an older truck with red paint, but the markings are much less clear if so. But tying it in, the noted "Lithuanian" color scheme appears on its railings, and it comes shortly behind this other, like they're on a joint adventure.


* Another crater pass: (add 9/12, from Bellingcat) - "A blue Hyundai Porter without cage but with the W77 sign in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib governorate. The video was uploaded by Ùmaya Press in April 2017 and is about the chemical attack in the city." Again, it's just caught as it passes the alleged sarin crater, while a boy is filmed. Seems about April 5/6, when the red signs was out and the crater still not filled in. Regular lowly W77 with no visible cargo.


* Hauling away homes? (add 9/12, from Bellingcat): "A blue Hyundai Porter without cage in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib governorate. Published by TRT World. The Khan Sheikhoun Porter was spotted by Jesse Sandberg." I got a better still from the video cited - it's a 77W variety, window decor. It's perhaps hauling away furnishings and bedding after the people using them were killed in the chemical attack. This is KS, and just after - prob. April 5. They're still holding up dead birds.

There's a photo of this scene and the truck in this report from Yenisafak with the caption "Chemical gas attack survivor residents load their goods on a pick-up truck before leaving the town after yesterday's suspected chlorine gas attack in the town of Khan Shaykun, Idlib province, Syria on April 05, 2017." Okay, so they help people with moving? 





* April 15, 2017, Rashidin, Aleppo - Rashidin suicide bomb massacre: It was a blue W77 Hyundai Porter with no license plate and an apparent false bottom that killed about 100 evacuating civilians, mostly children, after they were lured into one place with food, after rebels held them there for a day... medical help was delayed, the victims harangued, and one usload of the was just stolen, its 15 occupants taken as bargaining chips. Somehow, a blue Porter W77 truck played the central role, bringing all this attention. 

Apr 16: AlexOcana posts this composite image from a video of the suicide truck, asks for a make-model ID.
Soon, a Hyundai Porter is decided: it's a standard color, tending to come with the strange angled square on the door standard. This applies to many or most other W77s - they're Hyundai Porters, by and large.  Alex Ocana notes it seems to have a false bottom, as for smuggling, in which the explosives are hidden.  And it doesn't have a rear license plate.

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/853835583059263488
flag ID - Lithuanian? Apr 16
https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/862291272295436288
Just to remind: The Rashadeen suicide truck had a false bottom full of explosives and a Lithuanian flag.

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/861337257097273346
@LinkeviciusL Can you explain how the blue suicide bomb truck with Lithuanian flag at #Rashadin got into hands of the suicide bomber?
https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/861326112537935873
#NATO #Lithuania #Syria How the blue truck IDed by Lithuania flag as #Rashidin suicide truck end up there? LITCOM? UNSMIS?

Bellingcat's Cristiaan Triebert admits the color scheme points to Lithuania, but also is a scrambled version of a local Kurdish flag, etc., seems randomly hand-painted, and just not clear. For now, I have no opinion. Next I'll have to find out what  LITCOM is, etc.

* May 10, 2017, Bab, Aleppo: @JohnDelacour #Rashadin Latest W77 this time from the clashes in Turkish occupied N. Aleppo https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/874413093157302272 - http://syriadirect.org/news/dozens-of-casualties-after-latest-row-between-turkish-backed-rebels/ -  Sellers showcase their produce in al-Bab on May 10. Photo courtesy of Zein Al-Rifai/AFP. I don't think that's a license plate, but ground visible through the frame. Again, W77 seems to suffice.

Andrew added some finds in some comments here, for lack of a better place:
http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2017/06/idlib-chemical-massacre-hostages-in.html

* Unclear, Idlib: Nissan Caravan in Quniya (or perhaps Yacoubia? in "liberated" Idlib) where Nusra had just opened a mosque, perhaps at this closed-down church. The lettering is not the clearest here, but seems to be the same W77 - and no need for a rear license plate. A white porter sits nearby, but unmarked on this side, plates unclear. Date unclear, but well before May, 2017 documentary release
Documentary (2017) - Undercover in the 'rebel' held Idlib (Youtube) at 12:45

* May 25, Maarat Numan: an urban cleanup video  shows a blue Porter truck marked 77W with underwriting at 1:37, parked at an apparent grocery store (?) A white truck seen earlier may be W77 too, but unclear (0:37)

* June 5, Maarat al-Numan (added 9/17, from Bellingcat) June 5 tweet using photos stamped by HTS-linked Ibaa News Agency: "An IED exploded this morning near a car in Maarat al-Numan, driver injured." White H-100, W77 in silver outlined in black. Here the smaller underwriting appears as outlined over-writing, but unclear what it says (same Daio or similar as on others?). Only other place we've seen outlined W77, in red and black, was two cases hauling victims of the KS chemical massacre. Hm. Different door design than usual, marked Porter, super. Limited custom decorations, but front wings, side flames like April 5 KS sighting, and same windshield writing, which we can see says Hyun(crown)dai.

* June 2017? Ain Issa
Another "W77" truck in Ain Issa (still no idea if significant) In the makeshift camp at Ain Issa, 50 km north of the Raqqa in Syria, a boy carries a jerrycan filled with water. Photo: UNICEF/Souleiman (on or before June 9)  
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56945#.WTu2Fty1uUl
But this says N7, right? Nope. seems painted, so it's not likely part of the black paint fell off - was it deliberately re-painted? To be less obvious from a distance, after Rashidin?Note: this is an unusual area - not Al-Nusra/HTS-dominated but rather Kurdish/SDF-controlled.

* June 25, 2017, Hish, Idlib: WH video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDnDurGaRXI - cargo: one well-dressed young girl. Story unclear. No rear license plate.

* July 21, Tabqa, Raqah: One seen in July (from Bellingcat), photo taken by by Dutch journalist Harald Doornbos of a damaged street in Tabqa, Raqqah - recent ISIS turf, taken by SDF? seen from a distance at a bad angle, so details unclear, No license plate. Apparent light patch for W77, not the clearest, may be partly obscured. Unusual cage/rack, custom decorations unclear, yellow-blue door pattern.

Parked in front of it, a white truck, seems to be a similar model Porter, with a possible black spot for W77 markings, and apparently no license plate. It has a full-topped tiger cage on the back, probably used for transporting prisoners.

* September 6, Al-Ra'i: from Triebert tweet - https://archive.is/MtaE0 - https://www.facebook.com/AlfuratNewsAgency/photos/pcb.1944613382219256/1944613298885931/?type=3&theater
September 6, by Fırat Haber Ajansı, Istanbul
"The Free Police performs its duties in inspecting vehicles in the town of Al-Ra'i ( الراعي ) in order to protect the lives of citizens from any terrorist threat." 77W with extra clear (DAIO?) (overwriting?) Unusually, a rear license plate. Similar colors pattern to Rashidin truck, but different (less Lithuanian) colors. Location: Al-Ra'i sounds familiar, but I can't find it at the moment. Turkish border? Ah! FriedmanWo helps: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Rai%2C_Syria - Turkish border, north of Bab, Aleppo - usual ISIS stronghold, repeatedly taken and re-taken, here a week into Turkish-backed "FSA" control. Right on the border: here on Wikimapia, 2.7km from "Turkish train station" and closer to the border in other spots. If this is a midday photo, the truck is currently set to drive north or northwest, so coming from within Syria rather than from Turkey. Probably coming from Tal Atiya to the SSE. Helpfully marked Danger! on the tailgate. What does that mean?
---
The Decorations:
Blue Hyundai Porters compared: I don't think we've seen the same one twice yet. The April 5 Al Jazeera and April 15 (Rashidin) ones have their W77 painted at different levels relative to the underlying small name (which says Hyundai?) Two from above and another from (?), flipped horizontally by Alex Ocana - floral patterns stenciled in window, but different other features: dots, flames along the bottom, all in white. 

The one passing the sarin crater seems to have window florals as well, but the angle is too oblique to bother comparing. However its rear window may have an identifiable part of some logo. The April 5 one also has writing across the top of the windshield I'm not sure is ever readable. (from another instance, it says HYUN(crown)DAI)

Under-writing/over-writing: DAIO? Seems to be done in the same colors as the added W77, and apparently added on top of it. ??


...
W77 = Allah?
As a comment at the Bellingcat post suggests: #77 of the traditional 99 names of God (Allah) is Al-Wali ( الوالي ), "the patron." Interesting. And  FWIW, the main name of Allah in Arabic contains two W shapes. That could be a roman-letter way of saying "serious Islamists with solid patronage on board."

hsm.w77?
W77 appears in a few things one can search for, and could have many possible meanings (some fumbling through possibilities in comments by Andrew and I here)

But the most promising seems to be an e-mail address: hsm.w77 @gmail.com  is attached to this Youtube account.  This channel promoted some Saudi-Turkish backed humanitarian truck delivery activity to deliver things that will help the Syrian people. The top video is still this from mid-2013 (still at right).

AO tweet: "facebook.com/DyrAlzwrDeerAlzor … seems to be the renamed FB acct from hsm.w77 and has this logo." (right: seems Saudi-inspired: seems to say "tell people the good news" or spread the Wahhabi creed?)

I perused this site and shared some highlights here - it espouses solidarity with the Sunni "revolution of Aleppo and Damascus," with a lot of ugly sectarian propaganda, like promotion of (and maybe fundraising for) the 2013 Latakia offensive that wound up a genocidal massacre and mass-abduction of Alawite civilians - and a sudden stop in October, 2014, as if the page's proprietor had run off to Turkey to join ISIS or al-Nusra...
This my be unrelated, but it could be just a long pause before the same still-mysterious W77 appears by April, 2016 on trucks driving around the Turkey-Syria border.

Rashidin - persons of interest
(mostly Alex Ocana tweets - may not directly relate)

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/862352042664308739
1. @ShehabiFares reported Samer Kharita as Rashadeen bomber with no supporting evidence. Here is maybe same person. Feb. 1 '16 Anadan Aleppo


https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/862411727216029696
I think I may have spotted Samer in the back of the W77 truck. Widow peak there but faint.


https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/856521257906470912
14. Wanted for questioning. Armed goon at candy distribution point, JAS personage, photographer for Syria Charity & Catman of Aleppo.

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/856522305731776513
April 24
16. Another shot of the JAS personage handing out sweets. Wanted for questioning.

Person of interest from the video with the truck.
https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/862388360370937859

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/856498858456698881
Catman of Aleppo plus two Syria Charity (one a photog, plus one Jaysh Tahrir al-Sharqiyah and armed AQ type distributed candies.

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/856347050736328704
Probably Jaysh Tahrir al-Sharqiyah logo?? We have: Syria Charity, ONGLive (Bilal)  and Cat Hospital on the scene.

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/892531533449498624
#Syria #SAA We find blue W77 trucks at both Rashadin and Khan S. sarin attack, and the same person handing out sweets & catching bodies.

https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/892545987645976576
compares KS-Rashidin

18 comments:

  1. Interesting comment on Bellingcat saying 77W is one of the names of Allah - I came to the conclusion the literal meaning is religious, there is also the "77 branches of faith"

    Any religious meaning doesn't necessarily tell you how it is being used on Syrian trucks of course

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Allah the name as written is odd, collapsible, could fold right into W77 somehow. I can see that. That might just be the origin - independent, for the truck, the website, others... in which case, it wouldn't be in itself a clue to who and where. Just some other Muslims.

      But we have where and how it's used to go on. Seems to replace a license plate for passing around with the relevant authorities. It's specially encoded with a system people will have to know, but not so secret they leave it invisible.

      Delete
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_alphabet#Ligatures
      It looks like a W with a loop on the left, some doodles above, and a tall 1 on the right (but read r-l). I don't see how 1 turns to 77 on its own, but using W in some western-stencils code for "Islamists on board" that Turks and others can read - makes total sense.

      Delete
    3. And that was August 2 at https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2017/08/02/digital-pursuit-of-suicide-truck/

      which I had missed

      Delete
  2. One more in KS hauling people: https://twitter.com/Qoppa999/status/907267601373548544

    and several from the Bellingcat piece to add - if one was at that bombed mosque, it seemed to me like the militant meeting the US claimed. But still the W77s can be used to haul around people, including human shields and hostages.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think the TRT one was a bit of an event, it had a photoshoot too

    http://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/remnants-from-the-chemical-attack-render-syrias-khan-shaykhun-a-ghost-town-2641171

    Bit off topic but also on that link - family of 7 "Badshayip" in a shelter that died? (real name or "bad shape"?)

    I've used your work to make this complete mess http://onemorninginsyria.blogspot.co.uk/p/abdelhamid-al-yousef.html have I missed anything obvious? I have a hunch maybe not everything he has said is true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Badshayip in Arabic would be, I think بادشايب (ph: badshayib) They don't really have a p, using b instead. This gives no results for anything. Unless I did it wrong, it's just not a name, so the family is unnamed but I guess in bad shape.

      Delete
  4. Grat photo. WIll add.

    "The Badshayip family is one such family that fell victim to the regime’s attacks." Huh. Never heard of such a name. Never heard of Baytounji before though. But this sounds less like a name, more like "bad shape," though how that could get swapped in is unclear. Name aside, at 7 big, it might be a woman and 6 kids found in a shelter, maybe on the day of the report? But not reported in other sources, and likely not among those we've seen? Will look into it.

    Too busy to review your timeline. I presume it's pretty good. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. More multiple choice, I would challenge anyone who believes him to actually try and write down what he did that day.

      Motorbike plates could be Copart too (they have auctions in ME) https://www.copart.com/locations/

      Opinion on this one https://twitter.com/Qoppa999/status/894959996886286337 is the man with Mazin Yousef (having lost a bit of weight) Assaf Dalal? https://youtu.be/-6nZXR7ShqE?t=55 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz-Ixii2cA8&feature=youtu.be&t=20

      Delete
    2. Another one, a Mahmut Mansur. I'm not really sure he is in the Smart washing video

      https://imgur.com/vlfmDqK

      but story is interesting all the same. Google translate:
      "Mahmut Mansur, a 14-year-old man who was hospitalized, said he was working in the fire during the attack.

      The Mansur tells me that the furnace is close to the houses, "There was a big explosion, it started to turn, I fell down, I could not get up, I had the debris around me and I heard screams. said."

      http://aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/idlibdeki-kimyasal-saldiridan-etkilenip-turkiyeye-getirilen-kisi-sayisi-32ye-ulasti/789164

      Where do you think it means he was working? Another bakery?

      Delete
    3. The over-written white version is the W77 Super

      https://youtu.be/HWqKVu-w4hs?t=1

      Also seen on the W77 Super Taxi...

      https://youtu.be/xjxb2lw7JpE?t=61


      Related to explosions by a bakery

      http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-chemical-attack-explainer-20170406-story.html

      "Another activist, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said in a WhatsApp voice recording Wednesday that a bakery in the eastern part of town had been repurposed as a weapons storage area"

      Anonymous activists aren't the definition of reliable but makes me wonder if Mahmut Mansur's bakery with big explosion isn't the central bakery that pro-opp activists point out was bombed but another... repurposed?

      I'm not really sure who they'd get to work in an repurposed bakery armoury but Mansur is the same kind of age as the fuel seller boy in Raslan's completely stupid story (where on HRW report p22 Raslan lives 100 meters from the bakery and by page 30 the boy who collapsed next to Raslan's house is being killed by the explosion 240 meters from the bakery) and the FFM found Raslan a credible witness for some reason.. maybe confirmed the boy a genuine victim of an explosion?

      Delete
    4. Furnace where people work - how close to the bombed houses? Not very close, I think, so who knows? Maybe where the white cloud appeared - sowing a faint backstory of some unknown bomb there that blew up a furnace, caused steam, ??

      But that guy is one of my identified fakers. He's got a mouthful of foam he holds in, gasping through his nose only, until a better camera shows up, and he starts "foaming at the mouth." SO whatever story he sows, it's fake.

      Delete
    5. Fuel-seller boy - I hear he was aged 12, gassed, and then injured/killed by a bomb. I wondered if he was injured in the neck, and was Mohamed al-Qadah, killed at the same time as his family but allegedly over here at work. If anyone specifies where he was injured, that would be interesting.

      Delete
    6. Super-taxi: I see no W77. 4x4 and something starting with N (alt. Nissan logo? Is that a Nissan? I'm bad with that stuff) I see no W77s here among many porters. "fuel crisis in Tabqa" - not a Nusra area, but w/some poss. W77s noted. They aren't lining up for fuel if they're around.

      Delete
    7. At 1:40 in the video seems to be a white Porter with W77. Otherwise I didn't see any.

      Delete
    8. There are two of them seen later, but with different stencils I think, on different model trucks (one is Song make, and has a woman's made-up face painted around the headlights - not normal) 2:00 and 2:08.

      Delete
    9. Super taxi has a really bad version of it (left side of the W looks like it has come off)

      https://imgur.com/lN3AXok

      Delete
    10. Ok, duh. There's another 77, with a misplaced "super" (usually goes w/super porter). Definitely non-standard style. Total 3 or 4 seen here, just one maybe in the usual style. That's Taqba. Will maybe add this today.

      Delete

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