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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Douma's Mask of Death, part 2: The “Caesar Photos” Connection

Douma Chemical Massacre, April 7, 2018
Victim Analysis
Douma's Mask of Death, part 2: The “Caesar Photos” Connection
April 23, 2019

Note: this long article covers Douma and the “mask of death” (in review) and then the “Caesar torture photos.” The first part might be shorter, with some updates moved to part 1, which should be updated ... but for now, a longer review is helpful for some readers. Those who already know about the mask thing can skip to the second long section and the part that's new, that might hugely expand on the theme, and link into other crimes in what would be one the largest sub-stories of the whole Syrian conflict.

Warning: graphic images, upsetting content, high danger of horrible realizations setting in.

2A) Douma and the Mask of Death in Review

A Managed Massacre by Terrorists?
It's now been a bit over a year since the Douma chemical massacre of 7 April 2018, which remains mysterious so that some readers could use a review. It came at the end of a brutal six-year rule over the Damascus sububrb by the Saudi-backed “Army of Islam” (Jaish Al-Islam, JaI). As we heard, toxic gas from a government helicopter killed at least 43 civilians trying to shelter from bombs in some basements. It was claimed this attack forced JaI's decision to surrender the following day and leave Douma in a brokered deal, “to save lives.”

But in August, 2013, the same militants refused to back down after claiming Assad had killed perhaps 1,700 in a sarin attack. Of course, they were at the peak of their power then, while in 2018 they were clearly on the verge of final defeat either way. So consider they were also at their last chance to use any captured civilians (they had thousands at one point); they couldn't take heavy weapons or hostages on the green bus. They could kill them quickly and use that, or simply let them go. Most likely, they did some of each.

On the anniversary, we were informed by some quite sectarian, JaI-linked “civil society leaders” from Douma that 187 actually died. This was somehow never verified (the story was dropped) but it does line up with widespread early reports, and might be true.

This came shortly after the much-delayed final report of the OPCW's Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), in March, 2019, nearly a year after the incident (my review with report linked. This skipped over the death toll issue, among many other important points, some of them brilliantly covered by the UK Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM, with whom I'm affiliated) in an April briefing note by Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Piers Robinson (both to be cited here).

However many truly died, of the ~35 bodies were shown as proof, found at what the OPCW termed Location 2, I still maintain none were killed by the chlorine that was apparently released there. None of them displays the red, bloodshot eyes typical of exposure, and chlorine is barely fatal anyway; it simply cannot explain this scale of apparently sudden death. Not on its own, and that's how it was found to be; the OPCW finding no sign of sarin or its breakdown products in the environment - just two weeks later - means there really was none there. Nothing else CW or deadly came up, just that inadequate chlorine.

Considering the bodies were never tested to see what killed them, while the alleged site of their death was, it's entirely possible the two do not fit together. As the WGSPM briefing note put it, the visuals suggest “the victims at Location 2 had made no attempt to escape,” as agreed and noted by the FFM, who chalked this up to “an agent capable of quickly killing or immobilising.” They did so, the briefing note continues, “without considering the possibility that the victims had been killed elsewhere.” In fact they ignored that at some cost to their own case; they blame something for which no trace was found (again, chlorine is not paralytic or suddenly fatal, like sarin can be).

The poison used, therefore, needn't be the chlorine found at Location 2; if there's another, unknown killing site, it was never investigated. The poison used apparently had caustic properties (as both chlorine and impure sarin do, besides many others), judging by the clinical signs (see below). It was quite possibly released on the victims deliberately, at high concentrations, in some unseen gas chambers. Even chlorine could easily be fatal in that case, besides a great many other things. But it's still unlikely to be sarin, as several people swore it was or would be; bodies are freely handled without even the use of gloves, and the overall case for SLUDGE syndrome is very weak.

So it might be a “managed massacre” scenario, as the WGSPM puts it, of people held captive by - most likely - Jaish Al-Islam. They would be killed at some unclear location, under controlled conditions. Their bodies could easily be brought, via Jaish Al-Islam's tunnel system, to a tunnel entrance just around the corner from Locations 2, where they were shown poorly arranged, beneath a poorly-staged and illogical “chlorine barrel bomb impact.”

It's notable how among the 43 killed, at 12 or 13 were related to a rebel commander with the rare name Bakriyeh, founder of a Douma Martyr's Brigade that first worked with, but later led a rebellion against their Douma-based rivals in Jaish al-Islam. The “Jaish Al-Ummah” rebellion was in late 2014, 5 months after Bakriyeh's own death “in clashes” when JaI reinforcements came too late to save him from death - or came earlier than they admit and caused it? The same day, a possible brother of his died randomly from “shelling” across town. Friction might have already existed, and the family of an 'enemy of Islam' might be fair game, get kidnapped, etc. 11 with the rare name Bakriyeh (plus unclear wives, possibly husbands, children, in-laws) made the largest portion of the 43 known deaths on 7 April.

Such a controlled and targeted killing is an option the OPCW's FFM never seem to have even considered. But this and its associated logic might hold the key to understanding the rest of the evidence (which they don't seem to understand).

The Mask of Death in Review
Among the evidence that remains confusing to the OPCW is the subject of this long article, as introduced last year in Douma's Mask of Death part 1: some very unusual clinical signs displayed by those killed in this false-flag incident. These are signs never seen before in any chemical attack but here... I initially noted 6 clear cases, and later added 15 others with some mix of the features that seem to be related, That means 21 victims, about 60% of the total seen, display these unusual signs. Considering some show it faintly and others likely wouldn't show it at all, it seems likely all of the victims were killed this way, and it's only evident a bit over half the time.

So this might be an important clue. I'm not an expert, and this could stand more professional review, but in the meantime, I make this reasonable effort. The related signs, in review:

* Underlying signs of pulmonary edema and breathing distress, probably from breathing a corrosive or irritant gas: a gasping look, some cyanosis, and a thick, persistent foam that exudes from the mouth and nose; this might appear fake but may be real, considering the many unknowns here – it's sometimes mixed with blood, occasionally replaced by almost pure blood.

* In most cases with or without the foam, a less normal-seeming yellow-brown fluid also leaks from mouths and noses; it might be protective mucous, maybe tinged with blood, and with some of the fatal chemical or smoke, adding properties so it seems to both stain and irritate the skin in the areas it flowed over most heavily. (where it appears too thin to be mucous, consider it may be thinned with water from an earlier body-washing)

* The pattern of fluids and/or staining suggests they flowed “up” the victim's face. This means their heads or perhaps entire bodies were upside-down - possibly bound and suspended head-down while suffocating. Of course that alone would prove captivity; civilians at liberty don't hang around in that state waiting for a gas attack.

* Normally, the eyes should be irritated from exposure like the lungs; aside from the mixed record in Syria, chlorine exposure always causes redness of the eyes. But the area immediately around them seem protected from yellow staining, and the sclera of the eyes is free of any notable irritation (the whites stayed white, so no chlorine exposure). These points jointly suggesting eye protection, and in fact the outline of small-style swimming goggles is perfectly clear in some cases with heavy staining, with additional clear areas suggesting straps to secure the goggles, etc. This essentially proves bondage as well – upside-down or not, people don't sit around in goggles waiting to slowly choke to death from chlorine...

Below is a crude extract I made from the clearest example of how this comes together, reminiscent of a domino mask. This is from the case I dubbed “Mask 1” (on, as I've listed them, victim #23, woman #7 - for victim numbering system, see here). Here the yellow stains have almost totally turned dark brown, perhaps constituting a chemical burn. This unusually dark color makes her 'mask' much sharper than the others, and a helpful guide of what to look for.
It starts at the mouth and nose, expands up the cheeks, pools up against the goggles and does its worst under the eyes, slowly rolling around the outer corner. In her case we can see nearly the full outline of the goggles (see how a thinner line kept rolling around the outside of the goggles and along the top), and of some straps crossing her cheeks and nose, perhaps to help hold them in place. It's not clear if the usual side-straps were used, nor what other materials might be used in areas not so irritated.

For reference, here's the photo it's from, and the same victim #23 from another view. That pattern really is there. I realize there are many features of the eye that makes goggle shapes appear – the natural recess, squinting, can case a similar shielding. But I'm confident these outlines cannot be explained by any of these things.

The second-clearest case is “Mask 2” (victim #31, boy #6). He may illustrate prolonged contact, apparently left upside-down, with goggles still on. We can see the same thin half-ring across the outer top 2/3 up the upper eyelid, and a wider band underneath with deep yellow staining that clearly connects to his mouth and nose, and what looks like red, blistered skin in the same area.

Both those cases display a fairly normal livor mortis color, with a faint purple shift in upper head visible in some views. That suggests their suffocation was fairly quick. After death, the red blood cells, red and blue alike, should settle with gravity to low points in the body. If their foreheads were low, it's a bad sign.

The same is suggested for other victims, like #1 / G1. Counting from the top down, her body was laid closest of all to the chlorine release. She's one of the less clear mask cases (not even one of the 21 singled out); we can only say her upper cheeks might be a bit dark, but I'm lacking clear views of girl victims 1 and 2. But the blood up her face almost surely comes from badly corroded airways, and she was upside-down, with a deeper purple livor mortis centered in the upper head, to a markedly yellow, pale chin. This is not likely to be "contact pallor" (the parts contacting the ground are pressed of their blood and becomes pale). I'd say it's general pallor mortis (the complement of livor mortis), suggesting her whole head at least was upside down for some time after death, letting the discharged red blood cells settle from one half of her face into the other.

OPCW's Lack of Answers, Embrace of the Absurd
To be clear, this unusual stain is a real phenomenon others can see, but one that no one else has offered an explanation for. The OPCW's FFM explained in their recent final report, point 8.90: “Several victims display degrees of periorbital discoloration," which may not be the right word. Periorbital means “around the eyes,” but it usually means right around them - the eyelids, all skin that's inside the eye socket (as in periorbital ecchymosis, which this is not). The oddity here is how this area is clear, while the skin around it (peri-periorbital?), and especially the upper cheeks, is discolored, and even blistered. Helpfully, they did add this:

"8.101 The periorbital discoloration is not associated with any specific known toxic exposure. To determine whether it is due to a physiologic response to exposure to a toxic substance or simply post-mortem changes would require additional steps."

I don't think there is a known post-mortem change like “masca mortis.” The FFM probably did look into it, and apparently didn't find anything. Yet they still had to suggest it might be an effect they don't know about, because - as they acknowledge - it wouldn't happen directly from any known chemical. It probably was caused by some toxin, but there has to be another part to the story, and the FFM could perhaps sense it was a story they didn't want to know in full.

The FFM's report also notes “Many of the victims appear to have wet hair in what seems to be an otherwise dry environment,” Which was “difficult to assess and is possibly due to profound diaphoresis shortly before death.” That's “cold sweats” – a small part of Sarin's SLUDGE syndrome, with most other parts lacking here, and no relation to chlorine. Further, as the WGSPM briefing note: “This does not explain why only the faces and hair of the victims are wet, or why they remain wet after their supposedly sudden deaths which the report assigns to a time three hours before the images were recorded” and notes an ignored and more logical possibility that “victims’ faces were washed after death to remove signs of how they had been killed.” That linked to my article suggesting it was done trying to wash off this “mask.”

And as the FFM noted, the victims must have been paralyzed, basically, to drop dead before they could flee, contrary to what chlorine does. And yet the opposition story was they maintained their faculties long enough to follow a last wish – not to escape, but to wash their faces, only to die next to faucets and soot-coated water basins, with wet hair some 2-3 hours after the alleged attack... because they were also really sweaty? And it doesn't dry in 2-3 hours why?

A bizarre Times of London story explained “the parents had tried to scrub the chemicals off their children’s skin,” and when that didn't work, an activist added “they must have realised it was over so they drew closer together and died." This referred specifically to the Bakriyeh family, and to this scene:

So ... they piled themselves on this rug (green), dragged it over to the shower and tried to scrub their way to safety. Failing that, they tossed aside their dingy rags, a respirator mask, etc. That could explain wet hair, if they died around 9:30 pm, instead of 7:00, as the FFM accepted.

Oh, and as they fled up from the basement with stained faces, with an exit to safety a few steps in front of them, they turned around to the washroom (that last wish) and realized they'd have to take the bathroom door off its hinges in order to drag that rug-full of people in (removed door at right). But after all the effort, all in lieu of escape … they were stuck with those stupid stains, so they gave up and finally died right there. It's as if the fates of Douma themselves saw the whole scene was messed up and instantly gave up on making sense, since they were about to fold up and leave town anyway...people are left floundering in absurdity, doing whatever it takes for this insane story to hold up.

The OPCW seems okay with this, but we should not be okay with that. Also consider in such a way, might a further 150 or so victims just have their own stories botched even worse and simply dropped?

Everything here makes enough sense from a false-flag perspective, considering the crunch of total defeat might complicate things. But the manner of killing seems unnecessarily harsh, and especially in that context, providing goggles to protect the victims' eyes seems a strange choice - and one they might regret now. What's the motive?

The only one that pops easily into my head is to address the opposition's record of showing white eyes over and over to prove a chlorine attack, when it kind of disproves it. This has never been a big issue publicly, but it should be. Privately, activists might worry and endeavor to clarify the previous science is wrong or inadequate; Assad has some special new chlorine with all-new properties; people pass out or drop dead like with sarin, and even on those that die, the eyes don't burn red. Apparently science is optional here.

I don't know what it is, but there must be some adequate reason, or they wouldn't have done it. And again, what the visuals are clear what they did is tie human beings, including children, upside-down and gas them so they died in a slow and painful manner. The part about the goggles is incidental, just one of the added features to this central and hideous crime. We can't be certain just who did this, but we can rule out anyone passing overhead in a Syrian military helicopter.

2B) Strangely Familiar: "Caesar Torture Photos"

The Photos in Review: Another Managed Massacre by Terrorists?
What might seem like a hasty leap to that bizarre theory simply isn't. I already had this possible crime on file, having identified this package of signs before, in fact hundreds of times. The story of where and how it relates traces what might be a genuine arc of interconnected crimes against humanity on an epic scale, claiming at least several thousand lives. And we can get to the largest portion of that right away.

It's not so much in any of the numerous chemical attacks these signs have appeared the most, but rather in the roughly 6,800 face-shot photos drawn from the "Caesar torture photos" and hosted by their chosen procurators, called SAFMCD. At roughly one victim per photo, these show more than 6,700 men and older boys - and one woman (profile post here) - allegedly killed in the prisons of Syrian security forces. These and other photos were smuggled out in August, 2013, by a defector codenamed “Caesar” to protect his identity from his old bosses (but that would be impossible if his story were true) True or not, his story was the basis for a report by war crimes prosecutors, hired by the British Carter-Ruck law firm, paid by the Qatari royal family, to go with the first news of the smuggled morgue photos in early 2014 as showing 11,000 detainees all clearly killed by the Assad regime.

The people shown in these images were mainly (not totally) prisoners. That's how they were tortured, starved, neglected and, in fact, mass-exterminated. But all claims and vested faith aside, my extensive analysis - much of it collected here - suggests they were held and killed by opposition militants in the Damascus area (see Fail Caesar part 6 for Evidence the Victims were NOT Prisoners of the Government). Much about the victims – what we see, what was and wasn't reported, etc. - suggests they could be opponents of the rising Islamist tide, captured soldiers, and civilians of non-Sunni faith or seen as supporting the government.

In this scenario, the killers would dump these emaciated, partly naked bodies in some no-man's land, and the government would have no choice but to collect and bury them. First they'd have to photograph the bodies and link them to numbers, to assist in identifying them as possible, and matching to the right gravesite. This documentation was done mainly or totally in a lot behind military hospital 601 in Damascus, where “Caesar” worked. This suggests the victims were killed not far away – in the Damascus area where, no one can deny, extremists on the opposition side were also capable of killing people.

I propose the 'military intelligence prisoner numbers' the killers had written on the bodies are fictional; officials may have ignored them as deceptive terrorist graffiti, sometimes in the early days ripping off the tape. But eventually those numbers were left alone, and it looks like “Caesar” labored to “verify” them, copying them onto cards included in what I suspect is his own unofficial set of photos – the same ones we've seen.

So it could be a crime of the Islamist opposition, and would be a rather large one to generate so many bodies. Most logically, that would be managed by a single group, leaving the dominant Jaish al-Islam (then called Liwa al-Islam) the most likely. They're known for taking prisoners on this scale and freely abusing them, for broad reach in the rural Damascus area, solid funding to buy prisoners off other groups, ambitious plans and deceitful methods, and strong clues linking them to the chemical events and likely gassings, from late 2012 up to and including the 7 April, 2018 incident.

A Chemical Mass-Extermination of Thousands?
As for why chemical usage helps implicate Liwa Al-Islam in the “torture photos” system ... that's not obvious, since no one from “Caesar” forwards has made more than the slightest mention of chemical extermination. It's all about torture, plus starvation, neglect, beatings ... not gassing. Several have, in fact, labored to give alternate explanations for the clues I'll be relating (eye infections, bleeding gums, all-body purple bruising, etc.)

There's at least one exception to this rule; the photo handlers at SAFMCD did make a video mentioning that some of the “torture” was done with “strange substances.” They show a teenage boy with foam and a cramped-up hand or “convulsive limb” (a genuine but atypical case possibly suggesting a nerve agent - 215-1107-28-2-2013 (3)-264135=7437). The only other example they found was some badly decayed bodies (the rubber gloves and respirators used to handle them are taken to mean these people were dissolved with acid, perhaps). SNHR report (The Photographed Holocaust, October, 2015) labored to explain away the crusted eye mucous as dried bird waste, but also cites in passing that “burning substances like acids” were used.

The poisoning signs I see are different and far more widespread. They appeared first as strange mysteries when I tried to understand the images in 2015. I'd seen many dead bodies, but these looked weird, confusing and a bit nauseating ... often dark purple, coughing blood and other fluids, with messed up eyes, bright yellow crust, and more.

Sometime in December 2015 it finally hit me that one basic explanation – gassing, in variety of types – could account for most or all of those oddities; these “torture chambers” were sometimes gas chambers. Many look quite similar to those folks in Douma because – most importantly – it seems many or most of those in the Caesar photos were gassed while bound and suspended bodily upside-down.

I've brought this up several times already, but for a couple of reasons, I've put off a full overt explanation until now. A fuller one yet is still to come, but this marks my first detailed explanation of this crucial point, to help anchor the even larger story connecting it to the 2018 Douma massacre. Then in a coming Part 3, I can link it with even more, and give some needed overview of what will have been a long journey by then.

I'll be citing photos often by filename (on my end), with no time to format all the links. To see such an entry there are 2 ways: in this example filename:
216-241-7-6-2013 (7)-597258=4288
I turned a 6-digit number red - this number can be used in the search window of any SAFMCD entry, like his: http://safmcd.com/martyr/view.php?id=4288. Most but not all filenames also include the 4-digit number with = following the red number. This is the url ID you can plug into any open page and re-load. Unfortunately, there's no way to search by detainee number, date, etc.

Possible Cyanosis: The victims of suffocation will build up oxygen-depleted red blood cells and gradually turn more purple to blue color. There may be multiple causes; primarily, it's the lack of oxygen getting through to re-charge the cells, but it's not low enough to be fatal yet. And I also gather there's a molecular effect of chlorine once it's in the bloodstream that actively blocks re-charging. Depending on the chemical used, there might be such a secondary effect.

There are many clearer and extreme cases here compared to Douma, with the victim left grape-juice purple over their whole face or even whole body, and strongly in the lips. A large portion, perhaps a third of the victims appear to me blue-shifted to some degree. But an important note: since normal livor mortis is also some shade of purple, the point to call cyanosis is a bit uncertain (to me anyway), And even where you could call it, cyanosis only shows suffocation. The cause isn't defined, but it might connect to the blood and mucous in the majority of cases where they appear.

At right: from the SAFMCD's “sporadic views” folder, what's probably unidentified found body #3864, credited to “Intelligence department,” collected 2-2013 (the right time for that number), displaying deep purple in the face, swollen eyes, and wrist injuries perhaps from rough binding. Below: “unknown branch” meaning, I think again, unidentified bodies 604, 606, 607 from June, 2012: possible cyanosis ... vertically increasing livor mortis ... swollen eyes ... coughed-up blood ... possible burned spots … tightly bound hands …

There's a frequent purple-yellow two-tone face that may be a clue sometimes, but not always, or maybe in part. As noted, normal livor mortis tends to be some shade of purple and, as the above image shows, pressed areas within it will come out pale yellow (contact pallor). But some cases are clear on the relevance of each color. Take 215-376 dated Dec. 3, 2012 (right). He's purple all over with blueberry-colored patches on his upper head, so a clear case of cyanosis. He also has swollen eyes, and something like bright yellow paint from his nose, coating the tip and spanning across a nostril. The patch on his cheek is yellowish but also pressed flat, so maybe just contact pallor. But there's that nose, the yellow ring around his lips, the faint yellow layer on the other side mixing with the blue to make a faintly green cast there... Most of the yellow here is the stuff they cough up, and it's quite similar to what we'd later see in Douma.

Blood and Mucous: A huge portion of those with and without visible blue-shift also cough up blood in large amounts. The most logical presumption seeing that is the man was shot in the stomach, etc. With thousands of mainly just face shots to consider, it would seem unclear. But some also have full body photos published, like 215-3735 (face at SAFMCD) below, left. and 215-1289 (SAFMCD entry) on the right. Both emaciated bodies show no wounds, marks or patches of bruising capable of causing that kind of internal bleeding. But they have degrees on cyanosis and skin irritation, possible eye issues, and massive blood from the mouth, perhaps thickened with mucous, from internal injuries caused by an illness, perhaps, or something they ate, drank, or breathed in.

After the blood, usually, the victim also exudes mucous. There's often a lot of it, thick and yellow, with many strange variations. Illness is too sporadic to explain this well, over so many people and such a time span.  And injuries don't cause this unless they're acute inhalation injuries. It doesn't need to be a CW poison – various fumes and smoke can do it. These thing and also exposure to chlorine, etc. Will cause bronchorrhea, massive secretion of protective mucous in the airways, which causes or adds to suffocation.

So I surmise in such cases the airways were damaged from breathing a substance with corrosive properties, and it's often extreme enough to cause severe bleeding. I don't have any specific guess - it's a huge list including chlorine and many other possible toxins, if enough were used. An expert might be able to narrow down from the finer points of the evidence, which I'll try and point to...

As I gather, the process is tissue damage from the substance (be it excessively acidic or alkaline), perhaps causing blood loss into the airways, then protective mucous in the airways, and combined, they tend to suffocate. In the “torture photos” we often see a layer of blood up face, then mucous from the mouth or nose (see 215-856, - 215-1528 - 215-2131 - 227-536 - etc. ) Shown at right is 215-2137 (gathered 4 June, 2013, from a prior span in late spring): skin tone normal, eyes a bit puffy, massive blood loss, minimal mucous. This may be a strong dose, with a swift death, perhaps from severe lung damage, blood loss, suffocation on blood, and/or mucous. This comes up enough it seems like a clue; often more blood = quicker death, less mucous, less blue.

Many faces that don't display these fluids may have at one point and been washed off. It's hard to say how many, but quite a few clean faces show faint staining, residual blood or eye crust, etc. Two that have been shown off: 227-1043, Jan. 2013 and peaceful activist Ayhamn Ghazoul (215-320 Nov. 2012).

Gassed Upside-Down
Perhaps the strangest part of what emerges from the Caesar photos is the inverse suspension so many clues kept pointing to, as they would do again for the 2018 Douma incident. I'm still not sure if this would speed up the suffocation or slow it down, or what purpose it serves, but the visuals are pretty clear on most people dying upside-down.

The most obvious aspect of this is how, as we've seen in the cases above and as many more show, the fluids the victims cough up tend to pour “up” the face, a bit to one side or the other. This is the main pattern in a solid majority of the very many bloody faces, from whatever branch and whatever month, including most we've seen here. A person on their back, with their head rolled back trying to breathe could have the same effect. But it's hard to imagine so many held that posture for so long, and some fluid patterns suggest the victim's head, at least, was completely upside down. For example, 227-627 is possibly cyanotic with swollen eyes, with blood and massive yellow mucous running almost to the top of his head; it stops at about his hairline, dripping straight down from there. If he were on his back, it would roll at least to the very crown or the back of the head before dripping down.

Further clues include, but aren't limited to:

* As we've also seen with the above, the upper head of these victims is frequently extra red/purple, and the lower face markedly pale. likely because the head was the lowest point (with the forehead lowest of all, logically), attracting the heavy red blood cells (livor mortis), perhaps during death, and definitely for some time afterwards (the separation only begins after the heartbeat stops).

* Extreme swelling of any head wounds (ex: 215-1314 - 227-1023) and the "high" swelling of many eyes (ex: 215-732 - 227-530) might be clues for the same.

* The way hair sticks “up” and stays that way (215-355, 652, 789, 3608, j-353, 227-2125, 251-119, etc.) Most seem to have shaved heads besides being washed off, so it's less clear, but on some victims, like 215-1281 (3-2013), nose hairs and eyelashes have been tugged “up” by the departing fluids and remain that way even once cleaned.

* Not as often in the face shots, we can often see where ankles were tied - alleged prisoner #745 from branch 251 (SAFMCD entry, 2-2013), an extreme case who likely wasn't as old as he appears. An early full-body photo makes it seem they left 745 tied up for a some time, with his feet deformed and rotting underneath crude rope and plastic wrap. In fact it seems likely this poor soul spent some time hanging from these ties, leading to the apparent deformation circled here. (other notes: sunken eyes from malnutrition – no redness? No sign of fluids on face, but blood-stained teeth? Maybe just from scurvy? This one may have starved to death before gassing anyway. Also note he may belong in 215: they're missing a 745 entry at about the same time.)

Some interesting marks on the victims' necks could be from restraints there to keep them from curling up, so their heads remained down in the clouds; chlorine for one is a heavier-than-air gas. Fan-belt “ligature” marks are seen on some necks (famous example: 227-1038 - 227-1043, shown above, was posed with, not marked by, such a belt). Some victims clearly had two tight bands wrapped around their necks, like 215-963 (2-2013). The skin there is burned-looking, and there's a pattern as if he were upside-down and sweating under the belts; chlorine for one turns to hydrochloric acid on contact with water, so caustic sweat might start running down between the ridges on those belts. (shown: a rotated crop).

Something different is likely at work in a case like 227-1347 from 2-2013, an extreme example of general skin burning, here with the look of burning with heat, as by fire. More common is raw, purple and black areas at prior wounds from lashes on the body, scratches on the face, and especially on mysteriously chaffed necks suggest caustic irritation that worsened their appearance. A peeling purple area across the throat is hugely common (a good example, neither mild nor extreme: 215-1638). Extreme cases have shiny black patches, and are often linked to blood pouring out the mouth and nose (216-241-7-6-2013 (7)-597258=4288 - 227-1201-1-2013 (5)-867764=5404 - 227-1206-2-2013 (3)-160449=5415), along with little or no mucous or cyanosis. Another example of this, also showing purple concentrated in the upper head, is 215-1586 (shown), who was identified, perhaps poorly, as Ahmed Abdo Sandiha from Daraya.

Standing Questions, Then and Now
I had a chance to discuss this years back with the late Denis O'Brien, PhD in neuropharmacology, author of the amazing Murder in the SunMorgue (2014 - on Scribd). He was initially skeptical of my new theory, but after reviewing some examples, O'Brien was coming around to agree with my thesis, last time we talked about it – which was long ago, early 2016. We didn't come back to it much before he passed away in 2017, but I don't think he'd mind my quoting a few e-mails (January, 2016).

To start, O'Brien really knew neurotoxins, not corrosive chemicals, nor general pathology. But he had a medical background, and did a little research to assist his review. From a random scan of the photos at SAFMCD and “from what I am reading,“ he reasoned there should be suffocation, and therefore “very evident cyanosis.” But thus far “I don't see much in the way of cyanosis in these photos. There are a few with bluish lips, but for the most part the color of the victims is not too bad.” Their coughed-up blood also appeared “brilliant red” so far, suggesting perhaps a rubigenic poison (carbon monoxide or maybe cyanide), as he fingered for use in the SunMorgue in 2013. (That seemed a problem for chlorine with its molecular effect, which I had suggested with too much certainty, but we're not sure that's what it was).

There are some faces left unusually red in death, in an ultimately varied mix (most extreme, perhaps: ”Anonymous branch” 007 from early on: March, 2012 (tishreen?) ). from early on: March, 2012 (tishreen?) ). But after seeing some directed examples, he revised to say “You're right, some of these do look cyanotic. Others, definitely not. Still others look more like livor mortis or even putrefaction setting in.” He raised some further issues with a gas-chamber explanation (see annex below), some of which we discussed later by phone to the tune of closer agreement. Had we really come back to it, especially like I did after Douma 2018 (that is, if he were around for that), we might have reached an agreement point and teamed up on a book about it that would be wrapping up by now (he was a retired person, see. It's apparently a big help.).

There was, as Denis said, no “one single global answer as to how these people died.” But I think a solid majority can be linked, with due diligence, to a range of toxins and varied methods. Denis seemed to presume there would be one method (because I highlighted and exaggerated the one?) But there are reasons the killers might vary the methods, perhaps to refine them for future use. I still think the largest portion, maybe not by much, vary between normal purple livor mortis to sometimes deep cyanosis – prolonged suffocation was common. Some are in fact the kind of red he remained interested in, while others were violently killed, well into decay, and strange or unclear in other ways. To help narrow it down, I'm trying to identify and pursue what seems to me the larger trend(s) described herein, but all of it merits more study.

Denis and others have brought up the problem of assigning a cause for these signs, when they can each have many causes. So it's most important to clarify here is combination of signs: if they're showing airway damage (blood, other sings), and also eye damage, this combination requires two explanations coincidentally lining up (ex: a gunshot to the lungs and also a severe pepper-spray attack to the eyes). We look for the singular explanation as the logical one, especially if the alternative is each coincidence appearing maybe hundreds of times.

Eye Damage and Lack of it
Eye damage is of special importance here, relating to the lack of it in Douma. Most eyes in these photos are inconclusive one way or the other; most are squeezed shut as if in pain, but often appear unusually “heavy” or visibly swollen, to an often grotesque degree. Other bodies have eyes left open to show they're often bloodshot and damaged beneath the lids.

Some examples with eyes open: 215-1327-3-2013 (2)-446114=7805 - 227-495-1-11-2012 (1)-400173=3794 - 227-1043 1-2013 (posed with but not marked by a fan belt around his neck) - 227-1269-2-2013 (1)-856710=5444 - 215-1209-3-2013 (2)-537649=7488 - 215-1271-3-2013 (2)-520134=7734 - “Sporadic views” 3863-2-2013-Intelligence department (2)-254344 - 215-2143-4-6-2013 (1)-777298=8590

Others have even worse suggested by lids clenched tight over a swollen mystery, often oozing its own blood or orange fluid ... something between the eyeball, the sclera (surface of the eye and of the inner eyelid), and fluids in there – something combines to make it all notably larger in volume than usual. Milder cases could be my imagination, but the majority of closed eyes here look heavier than usual at least. There may still be different causes, but I think we can rule out the swelling from a physical eye injury (like a punch) or a cracked skull, which can cause a bruise-colored swelling of the eyelids and surrounding (periorbital) tissue - black eye or "raccoon eye". But when the eyelids are normal color (or the same abnormal color as the surrounding skin) and yet it's puffed up, that's a bad sign ...

Examples: 227-530-1-11-2012 (2)-885759=4109 - 215-915-3-2013 (3)-921299=7196 - 227-2432-24-6-2013 (2)-655309=6629 - 215-1745-3-2013 (2)-237398 – some of these shown below. Below at left is 227-694, 1-7-2012 (3)-256771=4792 who was one of the many found alive, was given a breathing tube, died anyway. Purple, suffocating on blood, swollen-looking eyes = how many things, really?

But quite a few do not display either kind of eye damage, showing perfectly white eyes despite other signs of caustic exposure. For example: 227-1124-1-8-2012 (1)-653553=5339 - 227-1144-1-2013 (2)-020272=5359 - 215-1156-3-2013 (2)-812328=7507. These cases could challenge the link, or suggest the same plus frequent eye protection. On the given scale, both probably apply, but I was on the lookout for a method, perhaps goggles, from long ago.

Several victims seemed to have fluid patterns with clear patches around the eyes suggesting goggles were used. But on review perhaps none of them proves that; there are different causes for such a clear area around the eye socket, including its natural concave shape, the body's tendency to keep the eyes clear, to close the eyelids and squint, the tendency to wipe them clean when hands are free (which doesn't seem to apply here). The difficulty I encountered here, to me, underlines how clear the swimming goggle outlines really are in the 2018 Douma cases.

On review, just one case stands out as certain: the young man designated 227-1403 (SAFMCD entry), from the March, 2013 folder – a huge folder apparently covering only the majority of March. He wound up with the common burned neck and bleeding airways, but little if any blue-shift. He may have had a short and sharp struggle, exuding up a wave of almost pure blood. But this seems to be after he coughed up a thick, dark brown substance – which is unusual (an unhappy type of vomit?). Looking at the forehead gauze, there are distinct brown stains and yellower ones, so there was some of the usual mucous as well, but the brown stuff is clearest in showing he at least was given goggles, and seems to have been spared the standard eye damage. There's some pinkness, but it's not major.

The fluids on the left here did roll over his right eye, but likely well after the fact when the goggles were removed; one side was still wet, and it looks like the one that makes most sense. If that big curve on our right side is the edge of his goggles, they were a larger style compared to what the Douma victims would be fitted with. But it's odd how the same thing occurred to such supposedly disconnected victims of "Assad's this-and-that" 5 years apart in time, but all appearing as if they were bound upside-down and killed with caustic gas and eye protection. And this is all in or at least near the scope of “Army Of Islam's” elaborate and audacious terror system.

215-931: quite possible goggle lines, larger size as well, but also possible illusion of that concavity. Many other have similar impressions I can see alternate causes for, sometimes to the exclusion of goggles. But they would be rarely evident either way; there's only so many cases of differential staining or other signs to prove such a onetime presence. Prevalence of use: unclear. But goggles were used at least on occasion.

And there are other methods, like blindfolds. Many have unexplained rags around their heads or neck, most often army green in color (227-1012-000 (2)-158272=5201 around the neck, 215-285, 1-11-2012 (1) -652545, in a blindfold position, 215-532-1-2013 (3)_1-038482 elaborate collar). Some have burn-free necks, some burn-free eyes, some unclear.

These three cases might show eye protection wrappings: 227-1181, 227-1183, and 227-1184 came in sometime in December, 2012, it seems, and were gathered later in a “000” folder (for the first two) and 1184 was only grabbed for a later “1-2013” folder. All three show the same blue cloth wrapping, tied in a large, blindfold size. 1184's clearly blocked much more blood, which we can see coating the skin less in a blindfold-sized area, sharply delineated. His cover was maybe askew – and there was a fan belt pressed into his cheek at some point?. But it may have achieved the purpose – white eyes, as with the others.

Burns and Masking
What I've called burns may be and often are prior injuries, like inflamed, perhaps infected lash marks or scrapes, and maybe nothing more. But to me they suggest extra irritation, as would happen on exposure of such a vulnerable area to a caustic agent like chlorine, which there's evidence for anyway.

Besides common neck burning discussed above, there are more acute possibl burns in the face, possibly related to goggles or masking, and reminiscent to some of thoese seen in Douma years later. under eyes, the cheeks, forehead, etc. Shown next is one of 2 photo crops attached to 2 IDs: per VDC he's Mohammad Omar al-Sabani, a fighter with "FSA", while a list published by SHRC uses it for Khalid al-Joukhdar (but also known as “Al-Seik”), presumably civilian, from Dumar. (SAFMCD match: 215-1596, 3-2013 (2) )

Other burns under the outer eyes at SAFMCD at what is, admittedly, a pretty natural place for random scratches: 215-909 2-2012 (2)-987872=7235 - 215-770 2-2013 (2)-713968=4717 - 215-1769-3-2013 (2)-715144=8022 - 215-1771-3-2013 (3)-385380=8112 - 227-2317-24-6-2013 (2)-498374=6162 - 227-849-000 (4)-551772=5038 - 227-1049-1-2013 (1)-321466=5194 - 216-213-4-6-2013 (6)-734027 - 215-1407-3-2013 (2)-286942=7776 (ID Ahmed al-Aytah) - 215-1466-3-2013 (2)-470625=7689

bridge of the nose: 215-952-2-2013 (2)-475217=7285 - 227-805-000 (2)-224459=4865 - 216-228-4-6-2013 (3)-980227 - 215-589-1-2013 (2)-738209

both: 215-325-1-11-2012 (3)-599626 - 215-1606 3-2013 (2)-890154

227-133-1-11-2012 (3)-523552 - 227-1159-1-8-2012 (2)-209398=5318 - 227-1160-000 (2)-752902=5333 - 227-998-1-2013 (1)-149995=5047 - 215-3789-24-6-2013-571109=9936

multiple areas: j-8010 -000 (1)-855383=3508 - 227-1161-1-2013 (1)-955275=5315 - 227-489-1-11-2012 (2)-099132=3788 - 216-245-7-6-2013 (2)-972990 - 216-254-24-6-2013 (2)-297015=4302 - 215-325-1-11-2012 (3)-599626

Then there are faces that have what looks like burned areas with other areas shielded. One interesting case I only noticed recently is 'unknown branch' #550 from a batch of photos dated July, 2013. He's not cyanotic, but did cough up a lot of blood that has a thin, orange character, and suffered a lot of burning, maybe by actual heat, maybe of prior wounds. If there was a caustic involved, then eye protection was part of what he was fitted with here.

I'm not getting a clear sense of what was done to him, other than it seems to have hit him badly at the upper lip (shielded lips otherwise?) and the nose, and/or he bled a lot from the nose, and it stained ... except on the other side of two clear lines running up each side and crossing a bit off-center – like two straps would, like we saw at the beginning with mask 1. Is this the same exact technique, used both in “Assad's dungeons” in 2013 and also by someone way beneath “Assad's helicopters” dropping their “chlorine barrel bombs” in 2018?

The “Caesar torture photos” represent a hell of a lot of death – 6,800 unidentified bodies shown (to more than 10,000 unidenditied bodies suggested) could mean those chosen are the “Assad's victim” looking ones, including some massacre victims and unidentified fighters, but perhaps more than 90% of them are the “tortured detainee” type, and perhaps more than 90% of those were fatally gassed (a lower percentage would show it evidently). By attached dates, it appears some 96% of these unidentified bodies were processed in 14 moths, between June of 2012 and August 2013, compared to just 4% over the preceding 15 months. At its worst point (perhaps being March, 2013), there would be over 1,000 in a month, and at its lightest, still in excess of 500. (see timeline of terror

That's an alarming rate. And the gassing signs come in steadily, as shown running back to June, 2012, and some signs even appear in Caesar photos sporadically from late 2011. It's likely that in mid-2012, “Caesar” and the killers solidified their partnership so they knew they'd have an audience, and this is why they expanded the scope of the show to such a degree. Contrary to his portrayal as a crusader for justice over these killings, Caesar's offer to help launder them might have invited the death toll to expand horribly. 

He was awarded a Nuremberg Human Rights award once, had a "civilian protection" act of the U.S. Congress named after him. I'm aware of these things. If I'm right here, then they represent a sick irony on a grand scale.

So anyway, there are thousands of partial matches for the “mask of death” pattern, or its component signs, in the "Caesar torture photos." There are even some eerily predictive cases like that last one that makes a good visual closing point for this ambitious exercise, which I'll close with another quote from the late Denis O'Brien's e-mails that happens to foreshadow where we'll go in Part 3 (not so long a wait for that one): 

“...whew -- I think I've seen enough Caesar photos. Whoever is responsible, I hope they get a noose. Seems to me someone ought to hang "Caesar" just for being a part of this. 

Is it really fortuitous that he left just days before Ghouta?”

Some of the questions raised by Denis O'Brien in January, 2016, largely addressed, partly not, and some of his thoughts on the victims:

I don't see any commonalities in these photos. Not like the Kafr Batna gang that was very uniform in terms of not being traumatized and having good color over all. There you could draw some inferences based on so many people having the same symptoms. Here you've got what? 6000 bodies coming from half a dozen sites over a couple or three years. I think you'll need a forensic expert to look at each one and render an opinion. I don't think there is going to be one single global answer as to how these people died, which in itself says something about how they died. If a bunch of people were herded into a chamber and gasses, I'd think that on the whole the bodies would be pretty similar and would show the same features, depending on what gas was used. Maybe if these photos were organized so that all of the people who died on the same day in the same place were lined up, you could see common symptoms.

There is one common factor that really jumps out -- none of the ones I've seen look anything like the hundreds or thousands of wahhabi pricks I've seen waving AK-47s from pickups in the last couple of years. These victims are either clean-shaven or have very modest beards, most of them buzz-cuts. All but one of the males in the list you sent fits this description and the one out-lier has shortish hair and no beard. Good head-shots of the workers in the Ghouta morgues are a little hard to find, but the ones I do see also fit this description -- generally clean cut. I can't remember any with the shaggy hair, longish beards and no mustache. SAA soliders are clean shaven or well trimmed beards. It's sort of like being in Amish country. You can't tell the Catholics from the Methodists, or a drug pusher from a narc, but the Amish jump right out. Even the skeletal bodies are pretty cleanly shaven or trimmed. What? were they given razors but no food?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Douma Chemical Massacre: 187 Killed?

Douma Chemical Massacre: 187 Killed?
April 13, 2019
rough, incomplete

Secret Death Toll Revealed?
We start with a scene filmed by Turkish broadcaster TRT world and run in a news segment about a week ago, marking one year since the Douma chemical massacre. "The War in Syria: Suffering continues one year after attack" TRT World, April 6, 2019, Obaida Hitto reporting

Three men are shown, older, bearded, and heavyset, sitting beneath a giant Syrian "revolutionary" (French colonial era) flag (on another wall of the giant tent, the same flag, Turkey's flag, and a fist.) Nowhere is there a black flag or anything overtly Islamist. Two men are in the speaking zone, both draped with the same tri-color flag, black band folded under. Both fiddle with prayer beads as they speak. The subject is the Douma chemical massacre a year earlier, after which these men and others left their native area and moved north to other opposition-held areas.

The TRT reporter Obaida Hitto notes, as everyone knows, "at least 43 people were killed" in that attack. But he also spoke to this "group of civil society leaders" who had fled and were now in Al-Bab, Aleppo (on the Turkish border) and "they say the death toll in Douma was much higher."

I believe I recognize one of the two flag-draped men - an insider with past chemical attacks, running the Douma morgue for victims of the 2013 Ghouta attack. Below, left: Civil Defense Douma Facebook post, linking to this video where he sounds like a preacher, and I heard "Nussayri" - a derogatory term for Alawites).

FWIW the unclear hundreds of civilians killed in that event might have all been captives of the ruling militants in Douma, "Army of Islam" (Jaish al-Islam) … He might've been in that group, and/or Civil Defense Douma (pre-White Helmets), even high up, possibly even the only one I could name, General Supervisor: Mohammed Abu Khalid. (I searched a bit and found no quick answer). Anyway, he's the same guy with secret knowledge of the Douma attack years later. He has the same pattern of gray in the beard, but six years wider, apparently the same face otherwise, same clothing style, perhaps the exact same jacket, and a similar position as a leader and death expert in Douma. 

Add 17 April: Qoppa 999 has the who's who info, as he often does. A few tweets: first, "The other old guy is Abu Azzoun - here with media activist and Jaish al-Islam officer Mofaq Haroun after evacuation, they obviously have good connections." (Haroun is wheelchair-bound) That's a militant nickname, of course, but its something. He's in the same kind of clothes, holding the same beads as in the video, with another old man who looks kind of like Abu Omar Burkhush, but not quite - but then he's named Abu Omar, so these might be the same two "civil society leaders" and he might've put on weight? Next, Qoppa adds "Abu Azzoun is a very active revolution activist who appears in many demonstrations - here the group photo with media activists (taken by Khalil Sa, posted by Mofaq)."  "@walid970721 made a feature video on him (which I don't find atm, maybe he knows more)." Soon he was back with a link to Walid's video where the creator explained: "Those of u follow me may remember this terrorist supporter from Douma. I once added sound effects to one of his rants (see video below) & tweeted about him more than once. The same guy had to go to North #Syria on the green buses & he's lamenting about it now. I have no sympathy." Walid adds: "Here he is in the company of Bouedani the leader of jaish al Islam a day or two before they evacuated from Douma" (short video)

In the translated comments from the long video, Abu Azzoun blames Syria's woes on the Russians, Iranians, Majoos (people of Persian ancestry), and "Assadists" who betrayed the religion of Islam (first) and the nation of Syria (second). This is almost exactly the view espoused by Jaish Al-Islam founder Zahran Alloush, also specifying Alawites ("Nusayris") - and he promised in 2013 to "cleanse" Syria of that filth, "forever if God wills it."). Abu Azzoun threatens "Allahu Akbar on you" (those enemies) twice, closes with Allahu Akbar 3x in praise of Syrian and foreign fighters in the Sunni extremist struggle. Next, he blames "the Shia who came from all over the world ... like dogs." He prays for victory against "all the Shia and all the Nusayris (Alawites) and Russia" and "everyone who stands with the Assad regime" (including a lot of Sunnis, Christians, atheists, and more). Abu Azzoun seems to think his people (Sunni Arabs?) have been in Syria "thousands of years" while president Assad (presumably meant by "this guy") is "a migrant, he's not even Syrian," and has no right to displace him. It sounds like Abu Azzoum would displace or kill most of Syria's people that never belonged, might help if someone kidnapped a bunch, gassed a bunch ... they do this with the help of migrants from all over outside Syria, but ones with the right religion Abu Azzoun praises as "mujahidoon"... 
-- end add

But this man doesn't speak in a quoted context. The other man takes the lead there, and gets to be the only one the report names: Abu Omar Burkhush (clearly not a full name, may or may not be partly true). This "chemical attack survivor" says "we" (White Helmets?) helped so many people they were finally exhausted, suffering secondary contamination because sarin was used, not the accepted chlorine. Chlorine's secondary contamination ranges from nothing to mild temporary itching, or a bit worse if it gets in the eyes. It also does not cause 35 people to drop dead in a single building. It sure as hell doesn't explain what he describes:
"After a while we went down into the bunkers and found everyone was dead. I saw it with my own eyes. 187 bodies. We started moving them out so they could be buried." 

Note: Amin2511 explains the number 187 is not in the spoken audio, where he says, rather, "more than 185." It's the same story, and I doubt Hitto (the reporter) made up the exact number. It must have been explained off-camera, perhaps by the Ghouta massacre manager (Abu Azzoun), or presumably, by the man it's attributed to. So I'll continue calling this the Burkhush count, with a grain of salt that size.

Sheikh Burkhush says he saw this with his own eyes, not anyone else's, and points right at his own eyes as he says it, so as to resolve any confusion. Of course, that means nothing, or suggests he's totally lying (FWIW, he gestures with the left hand, while holding the prayer beads with the right). But in this case, his specificity and his style - and some lingering suspicions of my own - leave me inclined to believe him. Or at least I wouldn't be surprised either way.

Did he see and count all 187, or to about 185 before he lost track a bit? Or did he just see enough to credit someone else's count? Wasn't anyone found alive so there was some aspect of rescue to this? He speaks only of finding bodies, and the removal was all about burying them.

He doesn't mention, for example, this frantic man claiming to be working at one of these sites, finding and rescuing several living people: Khaled Abu Jaafar told Al-Jazeera he went to help some friends in a basement shelter and found a bad scene: "I went up and down the stairs about three times to help evacuate children from the building." ... By his third frantic dash down the stairs, with a wet piece of cloth over his mouth and a little girl in each arm, everything went dark ... "I lost consciousness."

He was bringing two girls DOWN the stairs? Hm... that's no basement rescue, and might describe the central Location 2 with 35 bodies, seemingly none of them in the basement. His story too suggests this was sarin (the victims were paralyzed and had to be carried), but clashes badly with the story from Sheikh Burkhush on other details. It's hard to call a winner here; the stories probably just discredit each other. Yet in their own way, both of these clashing fake versions might reflect some parts of the truth...

Update 4/26: Abu Omar prior sighting: 2013 video by Yaser al-Doumani (v=G7VKRfk5Tc8
) Douma 2013 July 9 Ramadan greetings from Haj Abu Omar Barkhash and Wadimeat Amal ( ابو عمر برخش ودمعة أمل ) - white Shihada flag = Liwa al-Islam? Not sure what he says but he's passionate, possibly threatening God's wrath against someone, etc.

Same death toll hinted at in the first reports!
I have I have Andrew to thank for the tip on this, in comments under this post on the FFM's final report. My first thoughts on hearing Abu Omar's claim, before I even noticed who he was hanging out with:
"The specificity is spooky. 187 is a pretty good hard number to put on the final toll SEVERAL people hinted at in the first days before it settled at a lame-seeming 43 dead. For a final act, (Jaish al-Islam) should have aimed for solid triple-digits, well over a hundred, but not pushing too far, and nowhere near that stunt of claiming 1,000 dead all at once. I thought the reports up to app. 200 were going to settle there, and I still suspect they gassed that many and just never phoned it all in." 

At the time, I bothered to catalog a number of early claims that seemed confident of death tolls and estimates climbing past 100, 150, and topping out at ~180 and ~200 (both sounding rounded). I just dug up and added a few more I missed that zeroed in closer to the new number, with several claiming 190 killed, more than 190 or "nearly 190."

It wasn't a bunch of nobodies spreading random rumors, but some of the more influential opposition organs (not the SOHR this time) who were confident in putting forth death tolls well past what was finally accepted. The first level of this was a claim of 70-85 dead and growing, reported so widely some still claim that attack killed 85+. One good source that mentions both these numbers: ""Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds still suffocating," Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets, told Al Jazeera," while "Abu Jaafar says at least 85 people were killed" ..."

The same and others went on the report specific points along a steady climb to just about the same 187 we hear about now.

White Helmets/Civil Defense Douma: White Helmets say over 100 died
Civil defense in Douma: death toll "has risen to 150."

UOSSM: predicts death toll "well over 100"
Tawfik Chamaa, UOSSM "said 150 people were confirmed dead and the number was growing. “The majority were civilians, women and children trapped in underground shelters,” he said."

SAMS/Sahloul: "Latest estimate of death ...is 180 mostly women and Children." (see below) 180 is widely repeated, with many but not all citing this tweet. It stands as the next most common alternate death toll besides 85+, and it tops out only a bit higher.

I'm not sure about these tweets - original claims not easy to find (pulled? fake?)
- ...to 161 https://twitter.com/L0gg0l/status/982735416200781826
- ...to 185 https://twitter.com/RealestAhole/status/982781109816750080
And who were these activists?

local authorities: "at least 190 civilians" , 
Orient News "over 190", 
ArabCenterHR: "nearly 190" (tweet deleted? it was there yesterday. I thought I could go back for the link for this closest match to 187, but noooo)
Al Bawab News: (and hardly anyone else) perhaps rounding up and exaggerating to claim "more than 200." Others have said around 200, etc.

No one I noted reported the number creeping any higher. It stopped around 190, before it crashed inexplicably back down to ~43.

This is, of course, eerily close to what this "survivor" refers to. And it makes perfect sense strategically, per the thoughts I raised; deep into the hundreds but nowhere near a thousand, not so pushy as to even ask for a two, but getting close, and easily ranking as CW death toll #2 in the whole conflict. Breaking 100 has been elusive, done I think just twice before. They'd want to shatter that usual ceiling with at least 150 dead, and better yet, about 180-190, or just 187. Yes.

But it was dropped. Why?

The White Helmets settled on 42 because the fumes remained so bad for days, maybe getting worse. They had killed x-number people, then someone else got up close for a early rising estimate, but then the fumes got worse and no one could get up close again? On 8 April, maybe a day after the event:

"The Syrian Civil Defense group [White Helmets] documented 42 fatalities but was impeded from searching further by strong odors that gave rescuers difficulties breathing, said Siraj Mahmoud, a spokesman for the group."

By the next day, there was more finality; April 9 everyone agreed there were more than 42 killed, or even more than 43, but no one knew how many more. 

"due to conflicting reports, and difficulty gathering data," the UOSSM had thought 70 or more died, but then by April 9 decided could only confirm the White Helmets' 42. There would be more, but it seemed unclear how many. 

SAMS Apr 9 7:38 pm in Syria
"Updated death toll ...SAMS has verified 43 people killed in the attack, including 35 identified, and 8 unidentified."
A week later, the Guardian would report (17 April) "Dr Ghanem Tayara, the director of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM) … said he thought the death toll was higher than previous estimates of between 40 and 70."So those stood as the "estimates" (a common estimate, and the confirmed number), but his specialized knowledge left him betting on those higher numbers, despite the illogical lack of evidence.

So everyone agreed their number was low, and more than 43 were killed. But none of them, that I've caught, ever updated to say how many more. The given reason doesn't make sense. How was someone was able to credibly estimate up to 140 deaths that no one could then verify? It's an open mystery

One possibility is the numbers were being handed out by one centralized group controlling the deaths, and they stopped talking at some point, for some reasons we could only guess. That left just the ~43 bodies that appeared, as an incomplete answer to the expectations they had raised, and then just left it that way for the following year. 
Sahloul and Burkhush on the same script?
Special emphasis on 180: 2:14 am: Dr. Zaher Sahloul, onetime president of the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) tweeted that the "latest estimate of death from #DoumaGasMassacre is 180 mostly women and Children" https://twitter.com/sahloul/status/982758520738205696

There's no suggestion of an expected rise, just a more exact count. Was that really just some error? Was he just rounding down the original toll prior to the story change? Abu Omar Burkhush says he didn't just estimate but saw an exact-sounding 187. 

Also note Sahloul passes on that the attack used sarin, agreeing with the details Burkhush (and many others) reported, rather than chlorine (as accepted). Adding to this: "The medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) meanwhile also said that a chlorine bomb hit Douma hospital, killing six people, and that a second attack with "mixed agents" including nerve agents had hit a building nearby."

And Sahloul was clear that the attack happened at 9:00 (not 7-7:30 as accepted by the OPCW's investigation). His helicopter with the sarin didn't even take off until more than an hour after the now-accepted attack time, at "exactly 8:30 pm." I imagine if he recalled the time, Burkhush would tell you it was at 9pm, maybe exactly then.

This estimate was on hand for Sahloul just five hours after the time he claims for the attack (about 7 hours after the accepted time). Burkhush says he saw the 187 bodies right away on entering the basements "after a while" following the attack. 

These seem like twin reflections of a certain narrative that was put forth but not accepted. All those others cited above seem to have been getting the same updates in a story that was primarily deleted in the end. Who put it forth, who decided to drop it or drop support for it, and why?

Did they just make up 140 additional deaths that never happened? Or did they actually kill that many, issue the build-up to it, and then ... have some kind of logistics problem so they decided not to show or report those? What would that be? Unclear (but a guess is lodged below), and generally it's unusual to report a CW attack and then drop or delete it. But there's some precedent; most recently to Douma, there was an apparent plan to kill over 50 in Hamouriya on 5 March, but it was sidetracked right away by who knows what, so it came out split; the men were killed then, and the 28 women and children were reported as choking, then all OK and safely "evacuated" ahead of government conquest, and then maybe killed - or listed, and vaguely - only two days later. (see here)

Trying to place this on the map
(a little rambling, sorry)
Back to Abu Omar Burkhush: Claims aside, we've never seen more than (most of) the accepted 43-50 bodies. 35 were claimed at one locale (referred to by OPCW etc. as Location 2), we can verify at least 34 of those, and a few others (at least 2 additional children) are seen along with the 35 at a morgue, to go with the accepted death toll of about 43, maybe 46 or 48. But no one else is shown in situ, where they (allegedly) fell from the airdropped poison, and the total number of them should be about 8, not 150.

So we have a problem with all these other alleged bodies: when videos and pictures fail to show them, and claims that briefly accounted for them stop, and settle on only 43-50, the natural conclusion is that useful propaganda claim was a lie.

Maybe they died, only to go unseen and unclaimed, if it's in the alleged chemical attack zones in east-central Douma… Only two chlorine bombs were reported, shown, and then examined by the OPCW's Fact Finding Mission (FFM). At the two tested sites (Location 2 and Location 4), there was much to suggest chlorine release, but no sign of sarin, when there would have been if it were released so recently.

At Location 4, I don't believe any fatalities were even reported. "Ahmed" told Russian news media how he missed the break-in and planting of the gas cylinder, as he was hiding deep in the basement. But he did note his chickens "upstairs" were just fine, and doesn't mention any human fatalities nor bodies nor any claims of them. (ACLOS

Location 2 had the 35 bodies, or perhaps all 43 or so

And the OPCW final report heard that besides Location 2, bodies of chemical victims were found: "inside basements of neighbouring buildings across the area, on rooftops and on the streets." Rooftops? Only two rooftops were hit and had chlorine released, neither with a fatality mentioned. From there, it sinks …

The FFM also heard about six non-bodies who were taken to Point One for treatment and died there. Let's say there was just one body each in a minimum of two "basements," just one on a roof, one in the street (pres. not at Loc. 2), and six hospital deaths. That's 10 added to the 35, for about the complete reported death toll. But one of each is kind of arbitrary, so a higher death toll is suggested. There's no hint how much higher it might be. It doesn't seem to be an issue they dwelt on much.

Here's a map I made of some claims in the OPCW final report. It's still a bit unclear to me where these additional 8+ bodies would be, but it should be down to this area …

In that area, one cylinder noted as dropped, all its chlorine pouring down into one building, to supposedly explain the 35 dead there. Some would roll into the street and disperse to nothing on the breeze. Again, this is just chlorine. A stinging eye is the worst it'll cause, up to a block away perhaps, if the wind is right.

But then some people told the OPCW's FFM about a whole other chemical bomb no one else reported or showed (that I caught), which landed in front of their own home, just 50-60 meters away from the studied Location 2 (noted on the map above, but direction unclear - somewhere inside the circle marked in orange at 250m from the medical "Point One"). The FFM was never able to check on this, and it sounds probably made-up. But allegedly, there's a third chlorine tank, presumably, and an offered reason why chlorine (by smell) was released in the open.

Those witnesses survived, but there should be bodies in a basement or two in this area, since the FFM heard and accepted the claims that the gas could be smelled across the area, and also pooled fatally in whole other basements, albeit "neighbouring" ones, not ones across town.

Also it was strong enough to the east as well as to be fatal in the span between the tunnel entrance and the place these bodies were apparently planted after being gassed to death somewhere else. The FFM heard how anyone who went there died, but didn't give a number as to how many found that out and died in that area. I guess that was mentioned in the warnings? "Fatal concentrations predicted by the tunnel entrance. Stay the hell away, folks."

Actual wind: …about what the OPCW decided by betting on Darksky.net's predictions. Not a reliable method, and they have the temperature wrong, but from the SE, blowing to the NW is about right. Here's the actual readings at Damascus Int'l Airport (12.5 mi/20 km SSE of Douma), at least according to Weatherunderground.net:
7:00 47°F, wind 6mph from the SSE
7:30 48°F, wind 5mph from SSE
8:00 46°F, wind 5mph from SSE

Chances are it was a bit different, but not by much, up in Douma, so any gas would (most likely) spread mainly to the northwest or NNW. We need east and/or southwest ... So no, these claims don't map out well. The fair placement for the third bomb, to maximize the chance of it making sense, would be SE of Location 2, so its gas could blow right in the door of Location 2, sink down to the basement, to … even matter since everyone ran to and died on the upper levels … You try to help, but it's no good.

Perhaps: the local terrorists released something in the open, from wherever makes sense to explain any claims that are actually true, They might do this to underline their earlier messages to residents: "hide inside, in the basement, away from your windows, and not on the roof either, because of the bombings. Stay out of the street, especially these couple of blocks, and do not witness (in the dark now anyway) these bodies we're going to haul up to Location 2 and start arranging inside."

Was it somewhere off the map?
Mr. Burkhush mentions bodies only in basements. Maybe he meant primarily, etc. Everyone claims to have been in a basement, sheltering often in big groups, at the time of the attack. It is the logical place to find bodies in an attack with a heavier-than-air gas. But the only bodies we've seen are at location 2, between the 2nd and 1st floors, the stairwell, and on the street just outside the entrance - so maybe one or zero of them could have been in the basement (unless, perhaps, there were more than 35 there, as some claim). These are seen being pulled out around mid-day the morning after, but there's nothing like 187 pulled out of numerous sites, and no bodies removed from any basements. So the scene he describes does not seem to have happened - at least, not in the area of the alleged attack.

If he saw this, and again he may have, it was somewhere else, probably off the map of considered locations above. It would be linked by tunnels to the same tunnel opening up next to Location 2. (on the map above, that curve to the medical Point One will also have at least one side-branch somewhere in there, connecting to other tunnels linked to more militarily useful locations.

Maybe there's a place just outside Douma (away from prying eyes), maybe some sizable facility operated by Jaish Al-Islam, for the fatal gassing of people they've kidnapped. Seriously. We'll all get this someday, but already I can assure you they must have such a place or places. It might happen in part of a known place like Tawba prison, but I suspect it's somewhere more obscure, like an old factory or a repurposed slaughterhouse, and was probably flattened and torched right after this last job on 7 April, 2018.

Such gassing could done there in multiple "bunkers" as sheikh Burkhush says, or just one space, where it's easier to count (or already know) how many there are. He would just say basement shelters, since he knows that's where they're supposed to be found later.

The visuals suggest the victims, including women and children, were bound, perhaps upside-down, and fitted with goggles, before they were gassed with a caustic agent that left them coughing up yellow mucous that poured up their faces, staining the skin all around the goggles, but not inside the goggles, where their eyes didn't even turn red. It does sound crazy, but it's the visual reality that brings it up and leaves so few other possibilities... (see Douma's mask of death, part one). It looks wrong, and that's probably why someone washed their faces again just minutes before the first video around 10 PM (so what we see is mainly stains that can't be washed off). This embarrassment might offer the reason the rest of 187 bodies might go unseen - maybe they turned out looking even worse.

Basement Shelter Claims
(rough section, not even sure how to organize) most witnesses for FFM were sheltering in basements... (see map, bottom text block). Bodies (2-140) were said to be found in the basements of other buildings.  ...

Andrew's comments under this post on the FFM's final report, bringing up some points I need to brush up on.

Andrew: Possible total of people in the 3 basements in that street? Supposedly ~75 in the next door basement and unknown number in the 3rd. 

But, had the activists another ~150 dead to film, more videos would surely have appeared. The same for the 'hundreds' injured, all from that same area but only a relatively small number are filmed at the nearby main hospital- the obvious place for casualties to go to. 

If the neighbouring basements were ~100 people, it would also mean quite a large number of potential rescuers/relatives?/people who would surely be concerned about their friends and neighbours next door. Yet at 10pm there doesn't seem to be anyone there but bodies left on the floor, activists and White Helmets. 

sources …

Location 2 basement had (app. 50?) before 35-47 of them died, and a few escaped to tell a story.
(two shady witnesses agreeing it was 47 killed there alone, to 52 present  nhttps://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-04-17/first-the-chlorine-then-chaos-and-death-in-syria-attack)
That basement is just 35, probably, for death toll, and you suspend the "survivors" from the count. Would the others be all-dead numbers, or include other "survivors" we also never heard about? Unknown. Keeping it easy, we could have 35 + 75 + unknown = 110 + (maybe another ~75 one for about 185 total?)

If they were gassed in another location, it could be multiple "bunkers" as Burkhush says, or just one space, where it's easier to count (or already know) how many there are. He would just say basement shelters, since he knows that's where they're supposed to be found later.

I doubt the other basements were ever staffed with the bodies to go with that story, but they were killed, prob. in A basement, and a story went out, but lacked for evidence support and fizzled out. Seems worth reviving it, and then seeing about some follow-up.

By chance did you assemble your points on the subject somewhere? I have a love-hate relationship with re-inventing the wheel, but I gotta note the hate ATM. I have too many wheels on the burner, back burners, wheels on fire, you know. 

I just liked that part. Anyway, somewhere in this section ...