This morning I was sent an email directing me to links to 3 videos posted on LiveLeak. The same videos were also posted on YouTube, with the following description
September 15. Kurdish Peshmerga killed three Syrian terrorists on border. They found cell phone in pocket. Night bombing video there. Terrorists on video wear gas masks. Video was shot August 21. One terrorist name it Storm operation.The videos are shown below
0:01 …….Assad’s dogs in Jobar by two “Ababeel” rockets, Wednesday 21th August 2013.
0:04 (someone else) Go back Abu Muhammad (a nickname)
0:01 …….Assad’s Shabeeha in Qaboun neighborhood August 21th 2013 by Ababeel rocket
Wednesday August 21th 2013. Operation “Reeh Sarsar” …. Targeting Assad troops in Quaboon
(The operation name in English is Cold Wind Operation)
The men in the video claim to be Liwa al-Islam, and the many flags in the video are also marked Liwa al-Islam. In the videos they are shown to launch the same unusual munitions (I've dubbed UMLACAs) used in the August 21st sarin attack.
Obviously, this is meant to be proof that Liwa al-Islam were responsible for the August 21st attack, but there's a lot about it that seems dubious.
First of all the video quality is awful, so it's very difficult to make out a lot of details. It's also rather odd it's so dark when August 21st was a full moon, and there's no lights in the city visible. Apart from that, there's three things the videos seem designed to really push, that the UMLACAs are being used, it's August 21st (repeated on each of the videos), and it's Liwa al-Islam. They don't just say they are Liwa al-Islam, but everything is draped in Islamic black standards with Liwa al-Islam written on it
A look though YouTube channels used by Liwa al-Islam, here and here, doesn't seem to show videos where they've draped black flags over the weapons they are using, as seen in these new videos, and the new videos also don't appear to have the Liwa al-Islam logo anywhere, which they do seem to like plastering all over their equipment. It's also a bit odd they'd cover everything with the logo, yet film it using such a poor quality camera.
It's interesting that they are also using a D-30 howitzer, a weapon that's not been identified as being used in the attack, yet they still feel the need to wear gas masks around it (apart from the cameraman, who can be heard clearly, unhindered by a mask in all videos), and there's no sign of the BM-14 multiple rocket launcher that has been linked to the attack
The videos were also uploaded to brand new YouTube and LiveLeak accounts, something they have in common with previous dubious videos, including this video claiming to show a rebel group using chemical weapons to kill a rabbit (reposted here to another channel)
It's not the only thing the rabbit video has in common with the new videos. In the rabbit video it's stated at 6:44 that the name of the group is the "Reeh Sarsar" (Cold Wind) Chemical Battalion, with the flag on the wall showing the same name. As I noted in the above transcript, the third video calls the Operation "Reeh Sarsar" (Cold Wind), exactly the same name as the group in the rabbit video.
Update Liwa al-Islam has issued a statement in response to these videos
In the Name of God; the Most Compassionate; the MercifulUpdate Enhanced versions of the videos can be found here.
“Thus was the Truth vindicated and that which they were doing was made vain. Thus were they there defeated and brought low.” – the holy Quran
Further on statement no. 75/34-13, on the massacre by chemical weapons in Gouta on August 21, 2013, we state the following:
The terrorist Assad regime has fabricated videos showing people wearing masks and firing D-30 artillery and rockets. Voices in the video state that the incident took place on August 21st. The Assad regime has put a banner on which was written, in a strange way, the name “Liwa al-Islam”. These fabricated videos were circulated online and handed over to western media in order to incriminate Liwa al-Islam. The position of Liwa al-Islam is summed up in the following points:
“Might belongeth to Allah and to His messenger and the believers.” - the holy Quran
- Those videos were not published on our official channels. They are thus forged and completely fake.
- Liwa al-Islam does not have the kind of artillery shown in the videos. Only the Assad regime has this capability. Furthermore, this kind of artillery cannot in any way carry warhead that might be filled with chemical weapons.
- Only the Assad regime has chemical weapons in Syria. Assad admitted to that by agreeing to turn over his stockpile of chemical weapons to the international community. The UN team report, moreover, confirmed the rockets used in the attacks on August 21st were launched from regime-controlled areas.
- In the targeted areas in Gouta, there was a battalion affiliated with Liwa al-Islam. Ten soldiers of this battalion were killed and around 50 were injured.
- The regime has also fabricated a video showing members of Liwa al-Islam beheading soldiers. We stress that this is a mere cheap lie. Liwa al-Islam denounces this kind of behavior, and it is not part of its policy to execute detainees.
- Liwa al-Islam pledges to continue the fight to rid the country of the filthy terrorist regime. We will not be weakened by videos faked by those who have the blood of innocent people on their hands and those who used chemical weapons against innocent civilians. We will continue the fight until we bring the criminals to justice. Liwa al-Islam emphasizes that any political solution that does not involve accountability for crimes against the Syrian people is completely unacceptable. The world has forgotten all crimes by the Assad regime and focused only on the use of chemical weapons. When the international community makes a deal with Assad to eliminate his stockpile of chemical weapons and then hands him a certificate of good conduct, which puts him in a position to freely continue killing with other means, it becomes a partner in Assad’s murderous crimes.
More posted on the subject of the August 21st attacks can be found here, and other posts on chemical weapons and Syria, including extremely informative interviews with chemical weapon specialists, can be found here.
You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.