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Monday, November 5, 2018

"Douma Hostage Massacre" Victim Matching

November 5, 2018
rough, incomplete

(to be expanded/clarified)):
It seems a lot of people don't want this story revived, but oh well. Once in 2012, Syrian Islamist terrorists were caught in perhaps their most obvious false-flag massacre of the whole war. Competition for that is fierce, so maybe not, but it's pretty damn obvious. We started a page at A Closer Look On Syria at that time for the somewhat poorly-named "Douma Hostage Massacre" (now in revision/improvement). This was one of the first incidents we covered after we formed to better explore the Houla Massacre and similar then making the news.

Here, a claim was lodged with gruesome video proof, of 16 local men in the Douma-Harasta area just northeast of Damascus slaughtered by Assad's forces. The men were bound hands behind their backs, had their shoes removed, their throats widely sliced open so they were half-decapitated, and the bodies dumped at the hospital, and documented by truth-loving peaceful activists. The Local Coordinating Committees reported for 17 August: "Assad's force committed massacre of 16 people. ... slaughtered detainees by Assads militia … Regime's force committed yet another massacre of 16 people ... found handcuffed and slaughtered with knives."

But it turns out the victims were Assad's forces, perhaps kidnapped from home, murdered by the foreign-backed militants who call themselves "heroes." Harasta-based Capitol Shield Brigade, and specifically their Battalion of Musab bin Omar, allies with Douma-based Jaish al-Islam.

That required no work on our part but to verify it and relate the ready-made results of the talented German blogger, researcher, artist, etc. Ursula Behr aka Urs1798. She made the matches in question almost immediately after all the relevant videos came out, and alerted parties inside Syria, leading to a segment by pro-government Addounia TV making the kind of claims they often make - terrorists are were killing state servants in cold blood and selling the results as crimes of the state. This time at least, they were able to do it with more or less undeniable visual proof. (YouTube video of report now deleted, I'll try and track this story back down, maybe soon...)

Ursula Behr may not be her real name - it sort of says Bear Bear. She's AKA my Facebook friend Manuela Hochsteadt who now "lives" in D├óra, As Suwayda', Syria, with the epic paintings of Syria's defiant fighters, leaders, and regular people resisting what she saw as … well, I never spoke with her and don't have time to dig up quotes, but I presume we were on the same page until she recently passed away on or around 9 October. Terminal cancer did it, but while she was in Syria, which looked "like heaven," she said on her last wish visit with her husband, where Syrians got to see her paintings on public display. On her request, she was also buried in Syria, actually in the Latin cemetery of Damascus' al-Tabbaleh neighbourhood. https://sana.sy/en/?p=148652.

Partly in Ursula's honor, I felt compelled to make better use of this early scoop on Islamist brutality and deception in Syria than I did the first time around.

The original videos were linked and catalogued at ACLOS back when. I haven't checked all of these, but mostly they've been deleted long ago, some pulled by the authors in what seems like embarrassment. Some channels wer deleted, and some of those may have deleted their videos anyway.

But "body video" as referred to here is one I found still online, can be checked in its original context, for the moment:

Translated title: Slaughter of detainees in the area of Al-Shifounia - Douma
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKqjqmrVbQU (age-restricted, graphic, inhumane presenters)

Captives video:
This was posted by the same people somehow and a few others, but only a couple of days later … (or actually I need to review that). Most copies are now deleted. This posting works, as I just posted it from a long-ago saved copy buried on my old computer.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUuK5-wKxA0 (not graphic, not age-restricted: already tested by a false-listing quickly corrected)

The resolution is I think a bit worse than the original, but comparing to URS's stills, it was never much better. Note it's compressed horizontally. In most of my stills, I stretch it arbitrarily just to look better and/or give more text space. In this view at least I tried a mild color adjustment to get truer whites. You extract a little yellow. Here, per the translation Amin2511 helped with, are the 16 men as they introduce themselves, in that order.

(it's hard sometimes to say who's talking as names are heard, with the low resolution - usually the speaker's head bobs a bit. The first one was hard to decide, but logically, it's the senior man in front. Farouk Ismail is a big guy, and when he speaks, it booms. And his head bobs a bit at the same time, just after the man next to him seems to say Osama Salim. After a few goings-over the order became clear: Amin did his own review and I did my own, and we agreed.) 

Filming date not clear, but likely Aug. 17, or shortly before their execution, possibly a day or so earlier. (bodies are stiff with rigor mortis when seen, so dead less than 24 hours, but more than just a few - most likely around 10-16 hours.)

there was a battle reported on 16 August by the LCC: "Harasta: Fierce clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the regime's forces near the vehicles department, with losses among the regime's forces." This might be where the Capitol Shield Brigade might have captured, as said in the captives video, several vehicles/equipment, and also these 16 men... but they are in civilian clothes, and at least 2 of them were already held about 2-3 days earlier, but the rest might be new. 

Area map: from labels on Wikimapia, this is the area in question, where men were held captive by area fighters, where men who look the same were killed by someone and found by the same rebels.
Harasta is the brigade's home base. Douma/Duma is said to be where the victims were found or from or taken to. Al-Shifunia is also given, perhaps to mislead. The armored vehicle base is the likely site of that mentioned battle.

The Matches
I'm aware each of these matches is not 100% certain, and even the collective total isn't quite. But it is a very strong match taken as a group one, despite whatever triumphant nonsense the naysayers come up with. They'll say this is obviously bogus, in fact the dumbest thing they've ever seen anywhere, and type out laughter sounds. But it's not. It's hypothetically wrong, like maybe a 1-2, maybe 3% chance of being wrong.

Now … I wouldn't even try for face-by-face matches with such poor quality captives video. I'm barely even looking at noses and eyebrows here - just not enough to go in in any 2 cases - the close-ups of the 6 offer enough detail to help, IF there was anything visible on the other end to match it TO. But mostly, there's not. A few general clues do come through, but not much, and they're just cited as secondary supports.

The work here is done by the victims' varied, non-military clothing. Again, case-by-case, none of the items worn or even combinations is that clearly distinct. Well, in two cases it actually is. But 4 consistent matches are only consistent, all for build as well as clothing. The straightforward, evidence-based conclusion here is these six men probably are six of those 16 last seen in the care of the local militants.

The only explanation I've heard is that these videos show two different sets of people in some kind of coincidence that isn't even presented as bizarre. It's supposedly natural that two groups of 6+ men where each has a doppelganger in another group, held by the other side - in the Harasta area in the days right around August 17, 2012. We can be sure the ones held by rebels were set free, and the set of doppelgangers held by "Shabiha" would be ruthlessly killed like this. But as the reader can see below, the combination of matches pushes the probability of coincidence to near zero.

Six bodies are seen of a reported 16. Some, like the douma-based VDC, revise to just 12 found, which is convenient as we were (are?) comparing 16 bodies to 16 captives … So only these 6 are seen, but they do swear there are more. (there is the morgue scene I need to study, which might include others past this 6, besides at least 2-3 from this 6)

The 6 matches, numbers for introduction order above (and time given), but listed by strength of match in my reading.

#7 Hassan Ismail, military recruit, 0:41
1:43 in body video

The most evident match by clothing, one can only point out Coca-Cola made, like, thousands of those shirts. And a lot of people wear blue jeans. Quite a few in any one area might wear both together right before someone captures two of them, at a time when quite a few people were being kidnapped or detained/disappeared by one side or another or both (all disputed).... By other details, he's not as clear as he could be. Consistent but vague hair, clean-shaved chin, appears about the same young age, no features seen well enough to say either way... He should have a mustache, with two halves and nice clean middle. And he might, but all that blood makes it hard to be clear. No - he's got that. But then a lot of abducted people in such Coca-Cola sweaters and jeans combos probably do...

It's only natural 2 men that consistent in appearance happened to wear the same shirt with jeans, and would both get captive by 2 different sides in the Harasta area in the days right around August 17, 2012. Right? But what's this? It happens both guys were held along with some other curiously consistent guys, almost like some two entire groups that are parallel universe versions of each other

#6 Assaad Dakhil, military recruit, 0:40
0:12 in bodies video

Slender build, mustache, some extra hair on top, loose-fitting black undershirt, distinct white shirt w/broad collar, black decorations (pocket stripes, dark logo/shape on right), odd silver button. The tear in the back is neutral evidence, as the back is not seen for the captive, and the tear cold have happened later. I mean, he was just murdered, might have resisted, etc. And he's got consistent but vague dark pants too.

And in this case, we have a better view of the same man shown in a different lineup by the same captor (see ACLOS page for full view and original video links - no copy saved, just the still used for that image). Here's Mr. Dakhil and his consistently decorated 2-sizes too-big shirt over the same kind of 3-sizes too-big black undershirt, 3 days before he became a "Douma youth" slaughtered by "Assad's thugs." This is just about as distinctive a clothing combination as on Mr. Ismail. It stretches credulity to propose 2 different groups in such similar circumstances in the same days and area would both feature two such uniquely-dressed men.

But hey, maybe. And if so, the rest of this compound coincidence probably wouldn't change your mind, and you're mind isn't aligned well with 3-D reality.

#3 Nimr Dawood, warrant off. 1st class, 0:33
2:00 in body video 2

The most distinctive thing about this guy is his build and short stature, besides that somewhat unique neon sky blue t-shirt. Seen by himself on the ground, the likely matching victim is hard to gauge for height. His face has a consistent sort of rectangular shape. And his hair seems consistently buzz-cut short. And he wears that color a t-shirt, consistent pants, and does that all alongside those other guys, and alongside these next few as well...

#5 Farouk Ismail, policeman, 0:38  
0:50 in bodies video 
clothing less clear: collared shirt appear almost salmon color (pale orange-pink), compared to white (w/pink, and blue highlights?) out in natural sunlight, but that's easily explained by the lighting difference (video has a slight yellow tint), and maybe partly reflective material. Here the tall face, low hairline with gray, and perhaps dark/deep-set eyes and stubbly cheeks combine with the shirt, and grouping with the others, to suggest this the same man.

#4 Osama Hassan, warrant officer first class, 0:35
0:02 in bodies video

If he were just seen alone, there wouldn't be very much to go on. Short hair, a bit of a lean build … he almost seems to lack the matching mustache, but that's not clear enough to call a mismatch. Both wear a long, horizontally striped shirt with a narrow collar. Poor video quality makes stripes appear arguably different, lighter or differently-spaced, or a different base color. As noted, the video light is tinted a bit yellow-orange as well, so it's more white than it appears there. Different spacing: hard to tell real stripes from digital artifacting at this point. All we can say is some kind of fairly narrow horizontal striping is there. That plus darker pants and grouping with the others combine to suggest this the same man. 

#15 Ali Jomaa
or maybe #16 Yusuf
or someone else...
0:56 in bodies video
A dark or black shirt, young clean-shaven face with unclear hair is a vague description fitting prisoners 15 and 16. Apparent white circle logo on the shirt, app. left of center, points better to #15, but #16 has a light spot too, if fainter. 3 white stripes on the sleeve are distinct, but the detainees both have arms behind their backs, making that invisible. Not a clear match at all, but that's the weakest of six, for all six possibly placed in that group of 16.

The shirt is a much better fit for Gomaa; a faint blue hue perhaps vs. definitely back in the captives video, dark blue on the dead guy, plus it seems a tighter collar and clearer white emblem than #16 has. Seemingly lighter-colored pants help.

An interesting thing with this one - what could be an extra, less-clear apparent wound across the back of the neck suggests they tried a full beheading with this man, but found the spine too tough to hack through. So they just cut open the easier front half, as they did for the rest. But then maybe it's just blood in a crease.

Update, Nov. 11
the order of strength listing was set as I started, and with some review, would now change. I'll leave the list as is, but just note FWIW I now consider them in this order:
Asaad Dakhil (even more unique clothing matches - what a shirt)
Hasan Ismael (top two remain nearly tied, barely swap places)
Nimr Dawoud (good match, same assessment as before - if the body could be shown to be an extra short man, we could have almost a 3-way tie)
Farouq Ismael (build-face-hair clues are as good as clothing here, a decent match, promoted)
Ali Jomaa (not as unclear as I thought, not Yusuf, promoted)
Osama Hasan (shirt unclear, other points unclear, demoted - see below)


Add Nov. 11 from a post in the works, one argument raise against a match:

...the apparent difference in stripes on the shirt worn by Osama Hassan vs. the man he might be. Rami thinks it's a spacing issue, but to me the spacing looks right, just the dark stripes have fuzzed to almost nothing in the poor view, and the color appears arguably more different than it should considering light differences). That's probably a simple lo-res video-compression and optics issue, but it might be more significant.

Still, the shirt issues and the lack of any other obviously matching features, with even a mustache match or mismatch unclear, would raise a serious questions about that ID if his was a lone case. I sure as hell wouldn't match those 2 bodies as one based just on their own visuals, nor rule it out. However, he's one of the 4 quite-possible matches in the same group with the Asaad Dakhil and Hassan Ismail doppelgangers, again with both groups being prisoners of someone, one to each side, in the Harasta area on or around 17 August of 2012.

Even if that IS in fact a different man (seems fairly possible), at least those clearest two simply have to be the same men in both videos. There's no reasonable way around that. You don't get to say if one body is coincidence they all are. Rather, if even one body is one of those prisoners of the local militants, the presumption is all of them were, even if the rest have no matches in that video of 16. At one match, the conclusion wouldn't be very strong. But here we have 2 that clear and undeniable, and 4 others of varying strength. We can be quite sure these are all detainees of that militia, and probably all from the same batch they showed.

So … is this 6 guys held by gov. forces in that time and area, and just coincidentally so similar to 6 of the 16 guys held by the opposition side in that same and area?  No, that's not very likely.

I'll probably have more to say here …

1 comment:

  1. Adding by comment, to check into - the senior police officer - did he live to be quoted in news stories years later?
    "May 5, 2017: Brig Gen Abd Al-Bari Abdullah, head of Vehicle Management ...Is he the same one?"
    perhaps thinking it shows a fake thing with some actors using real names but kept alive, or the like... From what I know, pure coincidence sounds unlikely. Rather so.


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