Bellingcat

Friday, 8 June 2012

Syria - The Qubair Massacre - Evidence Gathered So Far

After blogging about events in Qubair earlier on in the week I thought it would be worth gathering what little evidence has been collected from Qubair so far.  Due to it's small size and isolation there was very little evidence gathered at the time of the massacre, and since then UN monitors and journalists have been unable to reach the location until today.

This extremely graphic video (with English subtitles) is what appears to be the earliest video from Qubair.  It shows the bodies of over a dozen victims, including young children and women, some of whom have been burnt.

UPDATE June 9th Here's two additional videos that appears to have been filmed in the same location judging by the carpet, one, two, and a third video filmed in an unknown location.

I'm unclear exactly where that video was filmed, as the timeline of events in Qubair is still unclear.  According to witnesses the town was attacked by tanks, then shabiha entered the town and started killing and burning buildings.  There were then reports that the shabiha took bodies from Qubair and dragged them around a nearby village, and at some point returned to clear up the rest of the bodies.  The question then is where and when was the previous video filmed?  Did the shabiha abandon the village, then return later to clear up the bodies?

UPDATE June 9th - According to HamaEcho the above video was filmed in a nearby village and the "man who uploaded it is from the Nuami family so I assume in Ma'arzaf village".  It appears that after the killings took place people from a neighbouring village gathered at least some of the dead, but it's unclear if all the bodies were moved at that point.  That might explain some of the later reports of a civilian pickup truck arriving after the massacre and taking the bodies away.  HamaEcho added "some local residents said there was too much gunfire to take all the bodies out."

This video filmed at an unknown time has the cameraman examining the debris throughout the village and entering buildings, but appears to show no human corpses, which suggests it may have been filmed after the village had been cleared of bodies:
Update June 10th Syrian Scenes has now posted a version of the above video with English subtitles, which you can view here.

Before the UN and reporters from the BBC and Sky News arrived at Qubair on June 8th witnesses began to describe what they had seen, such as this video in Arabic

Update June 14th The above video has now been translated.

Another witness spoke to Reuters by phone
"There was smoke rising from the buildings and a horrible smell of human flesh burning," said a man who told how he had watched Syrian troops and "shabbiha" gunmen attack his village as he hid in his family olive grove.

"It was like a ghost town," he told Reuters by telephone, asking not to be named because he feared for his safety.

"After the army fired on one area, security forces and shabbiha would go inside the houses. I heard gunshots inside three houses, then I saw them come out and burn them," the witness said.

"Most of the time I couldn't hear anything over the artillery fire ... By 8 p.m., they were finished."

"After the shabbiha and tanks left, the first thing I did was run to my house. It was burned. All seven people from my house were killed. I saw bodies on the stairs, the bathroom and bedroom. They were all burned."
On June 8th a convoy on UN vehicles, along with Paul Danahar from the BBC and Tim Marshall of Sky News, both UK broadcasters, arrived in Qubair.  Paul Danahar Tweeted from the scene:
We went down into a valley & we've headed up towards a handful of small squat buildings. One seems to have a hole blown out by an RPG.

We are here. In front of a burnt out building is carcass of a donkey inside the buildings are gutted. The UN have not found any people yet.

In front of me there is a piece of brain, in the corner there is a mass on congealed blood. This is a house in Qubair. #Syria

The largest of the two houses on the hill top in Qubair has been gutted by fire. The stench of burnt flesh is still strong.

The flies found the evidence of the Qubair massacre before UN got there. They buzzed & swooped around what remained of the tiny community.

The first house had been gutted by fire but the stench of burnt flesh still hung heavy in the air. The scene in next house was even worse.

Blood was in pools around the room. Pieces of flesh lay among the scattered possession[s].

Butchering the people didn't satisfy the blood lust of the attackers so they killed the live stock too. Their carcasses rotting in the sun.

The only clue to where the bodies of the people may have gone are etched into the road. UN said they were tracks made by military vehicles.

Whoever did this may have acted with mindless violence but attempts to cover up the details of the atrocity are calculated & clear. #Syria
He also gave a number of audio reports describing what he had seen.  In this one from BBC Newshour he describes a "scorched earth policy", and they spoke to a man from a nearby village who says after the events took place "a civilian pickup truck arrived and carried the bodies away".  He was also told by witnesses that sticks were used to children, which can be still seen at the scene, and it appears the villagers were caught by surprise.

In this next audio clip he says "villagers have told us that men came into this village, they have sprayed this place with bullets, we can see that some of the houses have been burnt out, one of them looks to have a RPG hole blown out the side of it."

Paul Danahar also made this video piece for BBC News, covering much of what he described in earlier audio interviews and Tweets.

Update June 9th Paul Danahar also produced a longer piece from BBC Radio 4's Today programme, where he gives provides more details. He says he was approached by a neighbouring village who told him the killings were carried out by people from a nearby Alawite village, and the victims were Sunni Muslims.  The witness said "At 2pm the village was surrounded by tanks and army, and shabiha came from neighbouring villages and killed them all.  Only this man left, they thought he was dead.  They are loyalists to the regime.  They have taken the bodies, and they are dragging them in their own villages."

Tim Marshall reported this for Sky News:
Those villagers that are brave enough to speak to us are desperate to tell their stories - but also not to be identified.
They claim that the army made them remove the dead from buildings and bury them yesterday, although this cannot be proved.
And adds this to the end of the report
The length of time since the alleged massacre took place has provided ample time for any evidence to be cleared away.
And for every eyewitness that blames the pro-government militia, there is another accusing rebel forces.
As for proof of what happened in this hamlet on Wednesday - I don't think we will ever get it.
Update June 10th Deborah Amos of NPR was also with the UN monitors when they visited Qubair, and added further details.  She said
You could see low shots. And some of the witnesses who did step forward say that is where the children were shot.

These were low down. You could imagine them crouching before they were killed. There were dead animals in the dirt there. Buildings were scorched. A couple of buildings had giant what looked like shell holes, big holes that sort of blew out the sides of these places. So whatever happened in this village, it was pretty horrific.
When we were still out on the road into the village, a man drove on a motorcycle and says his sons and his brothers and his cousins had all been killed. He was the first one to give us a number at about 78.
And he said it was pro-government militias from neighboring villages who came in to do the killing. There were fresh graves dug right behind the mosque in the village. And these young people said to us what happened is the military came in on Thursday and said, you will bury all of the dead before the U.N. gets here. And they did.
So, there was no bodies to see. That forensic evidence was lost. And the investigators, you know, said that is going to be a problem. It's going to be hard to sort out how these people were killed without being able to see the bodies. And they're already buried
It should be noted Paul Danahar Tweeted this about the above witness
A man called Ahmed has come up from the village who says he witnessed the killings. He has says dozens were killed. #syria
He has a badly bruised face but his story is conflicted & the UN say they are not sure he's honest as they think he followed the convoy.
Illustrates how [hard] it is to get the truth here in #Syria and how tough the UN mission is.
In addition to the reports published on their websites they also posted a number of videos and images from Qubair, including these three posted on Jon Williams of the BBC's Youtube channel


The UN also posted a video of their visit to Qubair
And a number of photos were posted by Paul Danahar and Tim Marshall
The scene inside the gutted house in Qubier where the stench of burnt flesh was still strong
Dead live stock outside the houses in Qubier
Dead farm animal. Shot. Qubier. Syria.
Burnt building. Al qubier. Syria.
Burnt out house qubier syria
Paul Danahar also uploaded video phone footage
Video from the house in Qubair #Syria where I found the remains of people among their possessions yfrog.com/5dkv5z
Video from inside one of the houses in Qubier in #Syria where massacre too place on Tuesday yfrog.com/4769bz
Update June 11th HamaEcho posted a series of sometimes graphic images on Twitter:
The massacred Qubair farm, .
All the houses in Qubair farm look like this. Smashed and covered in blood, some are burnt.
Qubair massacre - bodies being prepared for burial.
Qubair massacre - Child's head is destroyed.
Qubair massacre - Young baby killed by Assad's shabiha militia.
As far as I can gather this is the majority of evidence gathered so far, but as always, if you believe you have photographs, videos, or witness statements I've missed please let me know @brown_moses or by email brownmoses@gmail.com

Related Posts
Syria - The Qubair Massacre
The Head Of The Investigation Into The Qubair Massacre Defects To The Syrian Opposition

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