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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo

Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo
Caesar Photos Victim Profile
February 5/6, 2019
(perhaps complete, but rough formatting for now)

Background: The Cause Behind a False "Dawn of Justice"
One that made the news briefly … a truck or van driver Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo, from Idlib or perhaps Latakia, was said to be abducted, went missing, was detained from a government checkpoint, something... in February, 2013. The part that seems clear is he wound up dead, seen in one of the "Caesar photos" a year or two later. 

Because Mr. Hamdo's sister was a Spanish citizen, she was taken as a victim of brother-killing by the Assad regime by a legal activist group called Guernica 37. A Spanish National Court judge's ruling on March 27, 2017 marked "the first criminal case accepted by a foreign court against President Bashar al-Assad's regime," as this detailed AP report says, further explaining: "The case is built around the arbitrary detention of [Mr. Hamdo] who was detained arbitrarily, "then disappeared, was allegedly tortured and executed in Damascus." His plaintiff sister is given as "Amal Hag Hamdo Anfalis, a Spanish national," who "learned of her brother's death by looking at the macabre trove of photographs." The ruling judge "has called on the sister and the forensic photographer to testify April 10," and also "called on the European Union's agency for judicial cooperation to provide information that could lead to setting up an international commission to investigate similar cases." (I'm not sure if either happened)

The decision was criticized.

But it was also hailed. Some creeps I study are cited in the AP report:
"Stephen Rapp, former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues... "It is the dawn of justice for Syria, it will only get stronger after this point," he said."

"The Commission for International Justice and Accountability" behind the "Assad Files" hoax "...said Monday the decision had "significant symbolic importance" for victims in Syria but recognized that the chances of the nine being brought to trial were slim. Spain has previously taken up universal justice cases against foreign nationals although almost none has concluded in trial." https://newsok.com/article/feed/1192571/spain-court-opens-1st-criminal-case-against-syrian-officials

But alas, four months later ...
Spain’s National Court drops probe into Syrian crimes
July 21, 2017
"A panel of top judges in Spain says the country’s courts have no jurisdiction to investigate the first foreign criminal case for torture and terrorism against the Syrian government.
The U-turn by Spain’s National Court is a setback for activists and human rights campaigners who had hailed the case as a stepping stone for accountability in Syria."

So it didn't really go anywhere. They can keep moaning about denied justice. A few further articles about the case give more details about the victim in question.

Further Clues in News Articles

Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo, a Syrian truck driver, was allegedly forcedly disappeared, tortured and killed in an illegal government prison in Damascus in 2013. Pictures of his dead body emerged as part of the Caesar files...
The Guernica 37 lawyers argue that Hamdo’s sister should be considered an indirect victim — which satisfies Spanish law’s requirement that a victim in a criminal case should have Spanish nationality at the moment when the alleged crime was committed.

on 17 February 2013, Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo, a Syrian national born in Idleb, disappeared while delivering goods between the municipality Mashta el Helou and the city of Homs, in the west of Syria. In 2015, the oldest son of Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hando recognised his father’s corpse on multiple photographs taken by a forensic photographer going by the name of Caesar...

https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2017/03/31/spanish-prosecutor-appeals-decision-to-allow-trial-of-syrian-officials by Cristina Roca
Hamdo was detained somewhere between his hometown of Mashta al-Helou in Latakia and Homs city, a route he regularly took from his job as a delivery van driver.
"From Caesar’s photo, the family was able to deduce that Hamdo was tortured and executed in Branch 248."

As Atrocities Mount in Syria, Justice Seems Out of Reach
By Anne Barnard, Ben Hubbard and Ian Fisher
April 15, 2017
In 2014, Amal Hag Hamdo Anfalis, a Spanish-Syrian hairdresser, received a text message from her niece containing a photo of a body she had seen on Facebook. She immediately recognized her brother, a truck driver who had disappeared at a Syrian government checkpoint a year earlier.
 “As soon as I saw it, I completely collapsed and my children were wondering why I was crying,” she said by phone from Madrid. “My children recognized him right away. They looked at the photo and said, ‘That’s our uncle.’”

In Review:
Most sources cite a 2015 ID by the man's eldest son, but his sister says her niece (his daughter?) already made the match from an online photo in 2014. (That also involved "government checkpoint," where others say it more like "missing") Neither the 2014 nor 2015 identification claim seems to give a month (one report said "mid-2015"). "The sister learned of her brother's death by looking at the macabre trove of photographs" herself, AP reported. But that could be a fuzzed report of either of these other stories, besides, perhaps, a third story.

It doesn't seem likely both storiesare true. Wouldn't everyone hear about whichever match came first, so the second one would never happen? The 2014 match is unlikely, and I can see why they might change that story, or call it an erred memory. Barely any of the photos were published in 2014. I'm Not sure about Arabic sources, esp. Zaman Al-Wasl, etc. at the moment, but Western-published images had faces blurred out almost 100% of the time It's possible these few contained one of the 54 victims included for the small Branch 248 folder, and showed a face to match, but that might be provably impossibly (with more work than I'm willing to do). The other story is much better; it was only in March, 2015, that the full set of face-shots people have mainly used for IDs were made available on the SAFMCD website (and briefly by a Facebook site as well). The facial details there are all but required for a good visual match.

Mr. Hamdo has no published images (I know of) to compare with the "Caesar photos" I have on file. That would yield a photo folder date (indirect clue to death date), and some visual clues on how he died (usually just those from the neck up). But if I had one, and he was in 248 … that's likely to be a quick match, except for how people change under starvation, neglect, sometimes torture, and usually it seems poisonous gas extermination at the end. 

VDC Records
The basics, in review, will help find more details on this alleged victim of Assad regime brutality. 
- Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo - Name always given just like that. Age never given, even approximately. 
- said from Idlib, or Latakia, a truck or van driver, presumably civilian
- disappearance perhaps on Feb. 17 2013, driving between Homs and "Mashta el Helou
- No mention of any further news from him, trials, sightings, anything.

As usual, I checked the useful databases of the opposition VDC. His name does not appear exactly. An Arabic search for all detention-related deaths of people with Hamdo ( الحمدو ) in the name = 25:
The name Abdulmomen ( عبد المؤمن) does not appear.

The closest few, perhaps including him in a slightly different name, include:

* Abdulmou'men Hamdow from Karnaz, Hama. A non-civilian, he died 2013-02-03 "due to clashes with regime's army." Also noted: "defected colonel." so really, might be from either side (some allegedly tried to defect right at the end, but not quick enough...) noted nickname Abu Omar suggests he was on the Islamist side). Kernaz is not in Idlib, but it's right on the border, just west of Kafr Zita, Hama, southwest of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. No mention of driving, and locale of clashes not clear, but this is just about the name given, and the date is only two weeks too early to match. But it says he was killed in shooting, not detained. Former military, defected to be a fighter, not the civilian presented.

In the VDC's detainees database, one can find Major (SAA?) Abdulmoamen Muhammad Hamdou, from unknown (possibly Idlib), "in a list of military detainees in Seidnayah prison," no mention of his having defected, or of being a driver delivering goods... Detention Date (inaccurate) 2013-05-19. That's likely a reported-on date, so based on an alleged sighting, etc. from then  or earlier. Considering the above … two military guys with the same basic name, one said shot by the regime, one said arrested by the regime … is this two references to the same man? Killed, no taken alive but likely to die... same man later dead in the Caesar photos? 

Abdul Mote Hamdo al-Qasem, from Halfaya, Hama, a civilian, killed (by?) 2013-08-26 (inaccurate) in Damascus, after being "detained on August 2011 with his brother Emad" - not quite the right name, locale, or story.

martyr Mohammad Haj Hamdo, civilian, from Aleppo, 2014-05-24 "Martyred under torture in the regime`s prisons in the State Security Branch Date of death unknown accurately, Corpse are in Aleppo university hospital" Should not be in the Caesar photos, by time or locale, incomplete name match, etc.

Ahmad Abd al-Hameed al-Hamdo
civilian, from Kernaz
Date of death: 2018-12-11
Notes: "under torture in the regime`s prisons, Date of death unknown accurately. The Hamdo Family was informed about the death of their son by the Personal Status Department in Mharda"

I checked the regime forces/otherstatistics list (all names including Hamdo), didn't see any likely matches (one likely relative was killed fighting terrorists in 2012).

I don't always check their smaller "missing" database, but did and found another 'defected' military Hamdo near-match, and also … what the hell is going on here?

* Abd al-Fattah al-Haj Hamdo
from Aleppo province. 
Missing Place: Homs: Qaryatain
Disappearance date: 2013-03-15
Notes: Defected soldier 
Photo provided, in uniform. Unhappy non-selfie from prior to capture? Hostage photo made available to someone? Qaryatain is nowhere near where our subject was said to go missing - it's way south of Homs, in the desert halfway to Damascus. This is also about one month later than the reported arrest of a guy with such a similar name. But … that could still be two versions of one man's story, with one or probably both being mostly untrue, in a few clashing effort to conceal the true story. That seems to happen.

The VDC entry for Abdelfatah also points to a Facebook post, still available, with the same photo they use. Auto-translated, that said: "# Missing Abdul Fattah Haj Hamdo from # Aleppo broke away from the regime army and lost in the villages B ( بـ ) # Homs on 2013/3/15." The B is not a word, but a typo, perhaps "brive" was meant, meaning rural - the towns of rural Homs. Vague. We hear from the VDC is was around Qaryatain, not up around Al-Houla. An Ibrahim Moussa says in a comment this is his brother(?) 

I've made a point of looking for that distinctive chin or other similarities - maybe the same camo jacket? - in the "branch 248" folder. No clear matches popped out. Most chins are bearded, many faces starved down. 248-60 26-7-2013 seems like a possible match, but no good basis for anyone to be sure … http://safmcd.com/martyr/view.php?id=3485

Likely, this missing soldier is a different relative of the missing driver. And both went missing around Homs, about one month apart. This one, got in contact with opposition people enough they knew he had "broken away" - I mean, you don't just make that up. Maybe he was an active fighter who had defected month ago. But then must have been back out of touch, as they don't know where the hell he went. Just wandered off. Hm.

This is Abdulfatah, not Abdulmomen, but it seems he has the same father's name - Haj Hamdo - as the missing-detained guy in question. If these aren't the same guy reported differently, or two brothers … it would be quite a coincidence if two different sons of two different Hajj Hamdos would both go missing-detained in rural Homs within a span of about one month. It's not a very common name, either part and especially in that combination.

And Two More Haj Hamdos Just Vanished Then?
And oddly, two presumably civilian relatives from Aleppo (Sfeera) went missing the same day as the defected soldier. These also have Haj and Hamdo in their family names, but with two full middle names before (Al-Yousuf, Al-Omar). That means these are great-great nephews of the Haj Hamdo brothers, one at least a young soldier or ... I don't get this family (or two very similarly named families with bad luck synchronized?). (for all 3 entries, see VDC query, all missing named Hamdo - three of the first four shown below)

These two lack explanation, like how they went missing, but likely they were with Abdelfatah for some reason as he 'defected.' Coordinated abductions in different areas can also be coordinated. A dead Facebook link is provided. 

So … the driver with the sister in Spain was oddly not listed by the VDC, unless he was - also oddly - as an unmentioned militant, probably for the government side at one point if not always. But they have relatives listed - is it four total, for five including the one they missed? Or is one of these the same man that Spanish court was so interested in? And that other Hamdo soldier taken into regime prison apparently prior to May, 2013... is he part of this strange pattern?

Other Records
Looking past the VDC, I find the exact name appears on Twitter as two tweets, both referring to the defected colonel killed Feb. 3 2013, pointing to a deleted YouTube video (v=QbmHNjoO6Zk)

Targeting a group of gunmen in the village of Mughayira in Hama countryside, killing and wounding a number of them # known as "Abdul Momen Hamdo"
Mentions he was from Kernaz.
Mughayira ( المغير ) is just north of Kernaz. I was wondering if it was near the Lebanon border west of Homs...

No other tweets I could locate seemed to mention anyone with a more similar name.

So he never received much social media support, unless he's that militant, who would have two different stories now.

My guess is his case was never strong or clear, like the few cases meant to highlight (like known peaceful activists Rihab Allawi and Ayham Ghazoul, etc.). He was just one of the many murkier cases who happened to have foreign nationality - or rather his sister did, at the reported time of the arrest-disappearance, and had a case develop far enough to make the news. 

Location of Abduction

We hear Abdulmuemen was a truck driver , or van (perhaps minibus?) driver - Two sources cite Homs and "Mashta el Helou" as the places he was between when he went missing. One source said this was in Latakia (and was his hometown), while the other doesn't say. 

But a search on Wikimapia places this name only in Lebanon, just across the border from Syria, west of Al-Houla (so NW of Homs city). It's very near the Valley of Christians, and labeled as a "predominately Christian" town.… http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=34.874102&lon=36.259689&z=11&m=w&show=/37146522/Mashta-al-Helu-Subdistrict-(Nahiyah)&search=Mashta%20al-Helou
The town name appears in 2 other spots, neither in Latakia. Both are just inside Syria, on roads between Homs and this same Lebanese town. (auto-translated to "Elbow in the last of the road - a road up to Mushta sweet" and "Intersection of Musayaf junction with the next road from Mashta El Helou to Barshin")

So Abdulmuemen was doing cross-border deliveries of goods, or people, in a truck or van, between a Christian-majority area of Lebanon and perhaps some part of Homs city (where many Christians live, and often travel by bus, I hear). Someone took his truck and him, perhaps his cargo/passengers, anywhere between inside Lebanon, in the Houla area, in or right around Homs city, elsewhere. Maybe it was at a government checkpoint, or a rebel one, or at his destination, carrying whatever...

How The Driver Precedent Swings
It could be Mr. Hamdo was killed by terrorists who wanted his truck/van, or were already using it. Professional drivers of taxis, trucks, etc. and people abducted while driving are common in the Caesar photos. Several captured drivers wind up with brothers and cousins also tortured-detained to death ... perhaps after they showed up at the jail with some ransom money? How many relatives of this Abdelmuemen Hamdo were killed, detained, or went missing at the same basic time? The VDC lists at least 4, none of them clearly this guy (so maybe 5+ - another defected military Hamdo arrested prior to May, 2013...).

Regardless of those questions, the best evidence already suggests the famous "Caesar torture photos" show several thousand Syrian men and boys systematically exterminated by terrorists, likely with Jaish Al-Islam, who had the run of the countryside around Damascus.  Many of them look like soldiers and militiamen, and some at least are Shi'ite, Alawites, or Christians (just those that can be told by visible tattoos).  


Someone abducted in Homs could wind up in an East Ghouta dungeon in a variety of ways; it seems likely Jaish Al-Islam bought up other peoples' surplus prisoners to use for things like the Ghouta sarin attack victims on 21 August, 2013, that was supposed to cross Obama's "red line," spark a decisive US-led pounding, and an Islamist ground push to take Damascus the JaI guys would lead. Also, they would be used, and I think thousands were, for these horrible photos"that - coincidentally? - were collected up until "Caesar" suddenly felt unsafe in Damascus and fled on 20 August, 2013 - just hours before that red line-crossing. Kind of makes you wonder...

Beyond the "Caesar photos," other abducted drivers, especially of large and expensive and useful vehicles, including firetrucks and armored fighting vehicles, often wind up dead, vehicles unknown, regime blamed as possible. One was a bus driver, killed along with a small family, found dumped just north of the Al-Houla area, just before the infamous massacre there on 25 May, 2012. It turns out that was conducted by a huge rebel force, including foreigners - just after a couple busses with Shi'ite pilgrims were hijacked near the Turkish border on 22 May. Did the jihadists involved cross the border and use those busses to travel south to Houla before they massacre over 100 people from loyalist Sunni and Shia convert families?


There have been many clear cases of buses, minibuses and vans carrying state workers or other travelers, hijacked by armed gangs who single out and executing non-Sunni passengers. This was especially common in the Homs area in 2012 and 2013. I haven't studied other areas as much. See several bus massacres listed here, even though that wasn't the main scope (so I've missed many).

Side-note: His sister's name - Amal Hag (Haj) Hamdo Anfalis - is a bit odd. They both share the middle name Haj, presumably their father's first name. But the family part is half-different from his. Observant Muslim women usually keep only their father's name on marriage, shunning the adoption of her husband's name, so she would stay a Hamdo. Here, it sounds like she took both names, after marrying a man named Anfalis. 

Anfal is an Arabic word, but Anfalis sounded Greek, and Greek names are common among Syrian and Lebanese Christians. But a bit of searching suggests it is an Arabic name. (which are also used by Christians and others in that language area … it's just a neutral clue). Still, her adoption of it suggests at least the family is not part of a Sunni extremist network, who have a way sometimes of getting arrested by the authorities. And, perhaps, she has the extra name for some other reason. That's too big a paragraph for such a small clue, but oh well. It's at the end now. Unless this isn't the end.

Further Findings
They seem possible. Here's space.

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