Bellingcat

Monday, 16 September 2013

An Examination Of Videos Claiming Liwa Al-Islam Were Responsible For the August 21st Sarin Attack

This is an updated version of an earlier post.

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

Transcript:
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) 

Transcript:
0:01 …….Assad’s Shabeeha in Qaboun neighborhood August 21th 2013 by Ababeel rocket 

Transcript:
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 Merciful
“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:
  1. Those videos were not published on our official channels. They are thus forged and completely fake.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
“Might belongeth to Allah and to His messenger and the believers.” - the holy Quran
Update Enhanced versions of the videos can be found here.

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 brownmoses@gmail.com.


92 comments:

  1. at least i can tell u from speaking way in videos i think its fabricated,anyhow how we will make sure this videos recorded on 21 august ?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We prepared a high-quality version of the videos:
      http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/09/liwa-al-islam-videos-improved-quality.html

      Delete
  2. Interesting. Very.

    Also, was there any CW sarin(GB) detected anywhere at the M14 site? I didn't see any in the data, but might have missed something. And the M14 rocket wasn't tested?

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  3. In the one where you can see the mystery rocket, it looks legit, not being an expert. The fins do look a little sparse, and the WH is hard to make out.

    Overall, it is a very big production if a fake. Fakes that only govs do. But it had a certain feeling of authenticity. The lack of back and forth conversation seemed odd. Again, no expert on customs or anything.

    Can't wait to see where this goes.

    ReplyDelete
  4. why a poorly filmed video showing Jabhat al-Nusra using the exact two weapons described in the UN report would appear online the next day

    Because russian Foreign Intelligence Service, that's why, would be my guess.

    /that doesn't mean they're not as manipulative and/or fake, as so many other videos are
    //but you seemed to believe the others, so...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting video and I look forward to see what a close, objective analysis can yield. One minor comment: absorption of sarin through the skin requires liquid sarin (LD50 of sarin is 1700 mg, virtually impossible to attain with gaseous sarin). Absent liquid sarin, a gas mask provides adequate protection.

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  6. Jobar and Qabun are in the Ghuta.

    Liwa' al-Islam is part of SILF which is part of ESL. They are not Jabhat al-nusra.

    They are (also) based in the Ghuta, the same place they are supposedly filling of chemical agents.

    The following is one of their videos.

    It is from the Latakya area, 21.8.2013, "responding" to the "Ghuta massacre"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9XORqCTifg

    This is their youtube account

    http://www.youtube.com/user/lowaaAlislam?feature=watch

    The Russians accused Liwa al-islam on 23th of August.

    As you can read here, on the Iranian/Asadian "Al-Mayadin".

    http://www.almayadeen.net/ar/news/arab_press-5oxpp7Yq_0yq6KIjAGVf4Q/%D8%AC%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%BA%D9%88%D8%B7%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%A7-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%A9-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AE%D9%8A-%D9%84%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85

    That's my help. Have a nice day.

    Lorenzo




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Few Jihadist groups,

      Al-Nusra Front
      Ahrar al-Sham Brigades
      Liwa' al-Tawhid [al-Tawhid Brigade]
      Ahrar Souriya [Free of Syria]
      Liwa Habab al-Shahba al-Islami [Islamic Brigade of Habab al-Shahba]
      Al-Fajr Al-Islamiyya
      Movement [al-Fajr Islamic Movement]
      Dera' al-Ummah [Shield of the Ummah]
      Liwa' 'Amadan ['Amadan Brigade]
      Al-Islam Brigades
      Liwa' Jeish Muhammad [Army of Muhammad Brigade]
      Liwa' al-Nasser [al-Nasser Brigade]
      Liwa' al-Baz [al-Baz Brigade]
      Liwa' al-Sultan Muhammad [Sultan Muhammad Brigade]
      Liwa' Dera' al-Islam [Shield of Islam Brigade]


      Delete
  7. Sorry. I posted with a very "old" web ID... you can find me here:

    https://www.facebook.com/lonzero

    ReplyDelete
  8. correction:

    the name of the rocket he said not "Ababeed" its Ababeel, ( which mean in quran flocks and its related to a birds )

    And sent against them birds, in flocks, Striking them with stones of Sijjil (baked clay).

    ReplyDelete
  9. - The men in the video are calling the rockets "Ababeel" (Similar to a name of one FSA brigade working in south Damascus "Ababeel Horan")

    - They are calling the operation "Al Reeh Al Sarsar" (the name of a fake battalion "Al Reeh Al Sarsar Chemical Battalion" appeared in another fabricated video claims the battalion was doing CW experiments on rabbits using Turkish-made with brand "Tekkim" chemical substances, "Reeh Al Sarsar" fake battalion had only their famous rabit video which has been taken down by YouTube and after 1hr re-appeared again on SyriaTruth channel, a pro Assad channel, then taken down again by YouTube then re-appeared on several channels both pro and anti Assad's.

    - The Allahu Akbar in this video is funny, it's also worth noting that it's the only jihadist phrase repeated throughout the video, there is no dialog in the video except one phrase "بعد ابو محمد" (one man asking a man called "Abo Mohammad" to get back)

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    1. they are not fake!!!

      this is the FSA captured the chemicals bottles and they ride them location, also them leader his name is nadim baloosh and his partners from FSA they left them union with his militia and said we don't want to be part of this chemicals case after his rabbits videos

      this the chemicals captured :
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgsYh3O_sA4

      and this the other video:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QXdDH46LPU

      here he is talking about using the chemicals if SAA attacked his area:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoiVkcGwAKE

      if not in this part it will be in part 2 of that video

      Delete
    2. and this the last video for him after he escaped:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoiVkcGwAKE

      Delete
    3. November 2012 video "FNN Syria Spoils of war seized by the Ababeel Horan Brigade from the Air Defense Battalion in al Ghouta"
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAKyoC5o7cY

      Delete
    4. I'm planning to look into the "nadim baloosh" story, I've seen many videos talking about him from both sides. I know many people connected him with the rabbit video. This needs more investigation.

      I just mentioned the rabbit video here because they called the operation "Reeh Al Sarsar", beside the name similarity, there is no other connections between this video and the rabbit video so far.

      Delete
    5. there is a connection between them, look at the chemical bottles on the table in the first video it clear they are the same with the rabbit videos and also in his interview he talked about the rabbits test, just try to watch all his videos and it will confirm his relation to the chemicals in latakia and his relation to alqaeda also his old relation to the FSA which they are now enemies and they are trying to kill him as they said he killed one of them leaders and this video when they captured his main hide:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC5Sgx-KS5w

      however i don't think this chemicals related to the 21th attacks in any way but still need more facts and investigate about

      there is a small evidence can connect both stories but still need prove about it, the connection between them is that before the 21th attacks in Damascus there was a strange attack on latakia city from FSA and some of alqaeda groups together and its the same area where this guy nadim baloosh fighting in after the attacks of 21th the Syrian government said that those ppl who was dead on the TV they was taken from latakia after killing them, well i know nothing so far can prove this before knowing the real ID of the 1400 ppl who no one know about them any thing so far

      i just really hope that the UN guys when they come back they should investigate about how many and who was the dead women and children and to confirm how they get killed?!!

      Delete
    6. Do you really wanna discuss the Lattakia children story here? Sorry, but I'm not going there.

      Delete
    7. sure not and i said it there is no prove about it but the attack was strange and the time also specially when you saw ppl have no problem with killing kids from both sides then every thing can be true, but again, nothing proved so this can be just ignored till prove come ( me not sure it will come )

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    8. me neither not sure it will come.

      Delete
  10. My comment is on the first video and all of it is circumstantial but bear with me:
    1) The camera man seems intent to filming the Al-qaida flag more than his friend who is actually loading the cannon.
    2) I found it a bit odd that he started filming from far far away and then gradually started approaching his friends!.(reminded me with the opening seen of "Sound of Music" :)
    3) All of them are wearing brand new Al-qaida headbands?! Like no one forgot to wear the headband?

    ReplyDelete
  11. So care to unblock me? after all i was asking questions.

    ReplyDelete
  12. There are 1000+ Jihadist groups, secret services from the West, Turkey and Gulf, and all of them can have the C-weapons.

    ReplyDelete
  13. this chemical materials made by turkish company. it's nama is tekkim

    http://www.tekkim.com.tr/en/profil.php

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ababil-50, or-100?

    Ababil, the given to a whole slew of Iraq weapons?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Here is a picture of the unknown munition. It is a fuel-air explosive which is a duplicate of an American weapon from the 70s.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_images/130828_0_slufae.jpg

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  16. I must say you seem a bit biased in this report. We're all just trying to figure out what happened - don't be afraid to support evidence that goes against your previous statements.

    Having viewed hundreds of fake videos in my life, these seem pretty authentic. It's not 100%, but I'm somewhat convinced.

    The doubts you mentioned are not very strong in my opinion:
    1. Moonlight is irrelevant for this quality of camera.
    2. Based on the UN report, the M14 currently seems unrelated to CW.
    3. I really didn't feel the UMLACA was 'pushed' on the viewer. Seemed to blend in pretty naturally.
    4. Wearing gas masks near the Howitzer makes perfect sense given there are other CW munitions in the area.
    5. I agree the flags are a bit too much, but it's reasonable. Liwa
    really seem to like insignia and many of their pictures have a flag/head band/etc. I quickly checked 2 of the videos you linked, and found a flag on a canon here (2:12): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F9e_K1NoRU

    Usually fake videos seem to be 'too easy' to analyze. Definitely not the case here: They don't mention sarin at any point. The Howitzer is completely unrelated. The mention of Reeh Sarsar is not trivial - only a handful of people would make that connection, and most Psychological Warfare experts wouldn't take that chance.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Btw, two videos at night with NEW mobile phones:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT6fjCMF9bo
      Watch the lights in distance (and it's a city) and the no-light zones. A galaxy S3!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sq_12GtZtzg
      Another one recording pyrotechnics. That's a Galaxy S2

      I insist: full moon light argument is so weak.

      Delete
    2. The moonlight argument works either way. If the phone has a hard time picking up lighting, why were the banners so well lit?

      Delete
    3. There is obviously a strong light shining from the side, as evident by the shadows. Possibly from a vehicle.

      Delete
  17. I believe the longish unidentified munition to be a fuel-air explosive. Is death by chemical weapons or fuel-air explosive any different? The fuel-air explosive is about 2-3 times the explosive power of a conventional bomb. In any event, its both a gruesome death.

    As for the M-14S munition. Lets look at the facts. Has anyone seen either the Syrian Army or the opposition forces field a launcher capable of launching the BM-14. My understanding the launchers were last produced over 30 years ago and many are not serviceable at this point in time. Many of the launchers were left in Afghanistan and the Taliban were seen using them in the 90s. The letters on the M14 munition are Russian while there is no lettering on the fuel-air explosive munition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, but you wouldn't use fuel-air weapons for area bombardment. Their power you refer to depends on being fired into an enclosed space: in the open air they're nothing special. You either fire them in a direct role, or using a guided munition. But their use is to clear buildings, not neighborhoods.

      Also, being pedantic, the Taliban almost never used the 140mm rocket. As you say, they don't make them any more. The only reason they'd be in a military's inventory now would be for their chemical weapons capability.

      Delete
    2. I'm sorry, but you wouldn't use fuel-air weapons for area bombardment. Their power you refer to depends on being fired into an enclosed space: in the open air they're nothing special. You either fire them in a direct role, or using a guided munition. But their use is to clear buildings, not neighborhoods.

      Also, being pedantic, the Taliban almost never used the 140mm rocket. As you say, they don't make them any more. The only reason they'd be in a military's inventory now would be for their chemical weapons capability.

      Delete
  18. There is an article on Global Research published on 13 September - days before this video was released - that implicates Liwa Al-Islam in the attacks.

    It also notes that Liwa Al-Islam escorted the UN inspectors, provided them with patients to examine, and showed them rocket sites to examine.

    If Liwa Al-Islam were the bad-guys here, a lot of the UN results can be easily explained.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/syrian-chemical-attack-more-evidence-only-leads-to-more-questions/5349673

    I don't say the Global Research report is perfect, but it certainly raises reasonable doubt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Global research just makes up most of the stuff it publishes, and many of its claims are absurd - 25, 000 opposition fighters grouped for the battle around Jobar? If the rebels could mobilise a force like that, or the regime could wipe out a force like that, the conflict would be over.Then they claim that a liwa from Zamalka was responsible for the attack on Zamalka! Even its grasp of geography seems erratic - it says:" The Jobar entrance is also the sole route for reinforcements and supplies coming from the Saudi-Jordanian-US intelligence base near Jordan’s major airbase and military facilities in al-Mafraq (from where the eastern route to Damascus starts) But al-Mafraq is due SOUTH of Damscus.

      Delete
    2. Lol Global Research? A left-fascist website and conspiracy monger. Your credibility is now all suspect.

      Delete
  19. I'm working on getting in contact with the Kurdish armed groups who would have been responsible for putting these online, if they were the ones responsible. Watch this space (blog).

    ReplyDelete
  20. As I understand the narrative that underpins these videos - drawn mostly from the Global Research article Charles refers to above:rebel forces including Liwa al-Islam were being pushed out of the Jobar-Qaboun area by the SAA and as a desparate measure they fired ordnance with chemical agents attached at regime forces. A couple of problems with this: regime media was reporting 4 days later that SAA operations against the rebels in this area was ongoing; even if we allow for some toing and froing, it seems unlikely that there would be clear nightime targets for rebel forces to strike in this way on the 21st. Moreover this is a heavily built up area, so there is no clear area of countryside from which they could be firing at Jobar (Qaboun in a bit different - but Qaboun was hardly affected by the chemical attack). Its more likely they would be firing FROM Jobar. In any event it seems impossible that weapons launched from either site could have ended up in Mouadamiya.
    Regarding the video - on my screen its extremely unclear, so I'm open to correction, but: the only shot I see of the artillery piece shows a howitzer set up at a trajectory of about 30 degrees; yet the projectile when launched seems to be behaving more like a ballistic missiles with an almost vertical trajectory. I know howitzers can fire with high trajectories - but I'm not sure this angle is feasible: and any way high trajectories are used to fire from low ground to high ground, which would not be the case here. I think the shot of the firing of the projectile is almost certainly a fake edited in. And if that is...
    Finally - Liwa al-Islam is a local unit drawn from the Rif Damasq towns and operating in that area - what were their fighters doing on the Turkish border clashing with Kurdish groups?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first video is of the D-30 howitzer itself being fired, not a rocket. You can hear the breechblock being operated before, the sound is distinctive from the rocket launch sound you hear on the other two videos, and the rising dust pattern is typical of D-30-type artillery. I don't know what that streak of light, it could just be a strong light and a shaky camera, but it's not a rocket launch.

      Gas masks are a good way to hide one's face, too, just saying. The other two videos are more interesting, the first one is really just a few guys firing a howitzer at night.

      Delete
    2. The first video is of the D-30 howitzer itself being fired, not a rocket. You can hear the breechblock being operated before, the sound is distinctive from the rocket launch sound you hear on the other two videos, and the rising dust pattern is typical of D-30-type artillery. I don't know what that streak of light, it could just be a strong light and a shaky camera, but it's not a rocket launch.

      Gas masks are a good way to hide one's face, too, just saying. The other two videos are more interesting, the first one is really just a few guys firing a howitzer at night.

      Delete
    3. Happy to accept your superior technical knowledge: but doesn't the trajectory look high? I understand that the D-30 can use rocket-assisted projectiles - is that is what is likely involved in the 2nd & 3rd videos or is it something else?

      Delete
  21. Funny how you bash those videos as soon as they are released, but you are still promoting the "Smoking Gun" video as evidence even though the source of that video has been caught lying twice about it.

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  22. Never heard such lame Allaho Akbar - no enthusiasm behind it and so disjointed. And voices are gruffy older men as opposed to young excited adults.

    The filming and camera is the worst to come out of the rebels. Obviously they videographer is trying to hide something.

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  23. Regarding the video of the hapless rabbits being poisoned: based on my experience as a chemist, the rabbits were killed by Hydrogen Cyanide. This is a poison gas that is readily prepared in even the crudest labs by simply combining an appropriate salt (e.g., sodium cyanide, sodium ferricyanide, sodium ferrocyanide) with a strong mineral acid (e.g., hydrochloric, sulfuric, nitric, phosphoric).

    In the video, we see two rabbits in a glass cage along with an Erlenmeyer flask. Next, someone pours a colorless to faint yellow, transparent, viscous liquid into the Erlenmeyer flask. Immediately, visible fumes emerge from the top of the flask, spill out over the top, and continue to rise. Also, the contents of the flask become a dark blue/black color. Based on this theory, a cyanide-containing salt was in the Erlenmeyer flask to which the liquid--likely either sulfuric of phosphoric acid (based on color and viscosity)--was added. Kids with chemistry hobbies do this experiment all the time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5NuqpdYDhE Note the color of the mixture as cyanide is being generated: it's similar to the dark color seen in the Erlenmeyer flask with the rabbits.

    After the fumes are generated, we see the rabbits calmly inhaling the vapors. Next, one of them defecates. They appear to become nervous, then lose coordination, become panicked, and then pass out shortly afterward. Here is where I am relying on more speculation and less experience.

    Two possibilities immediately present themselves: nerve agent or cyanide. If it were the former and the toxic fumes were generated by combining two substances, then it would be a binary agent. Nerve agent-forming binary reactions produce a slew of irritating, acidic vapors alongside the nerve agent (e.g., Hydrogen Fluoride in the case of Sarin). The rabbits would have panicked much sooner. While the rabbits did defecate and have convulsions, they did not do so in ways consistent with acetylcholinesterase-inhibition (e.g., arched back, outstretched limbs). See the following video for an example of a rabbit poisoned by VX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXUeLwAit3Y
    Furthermore, nerve agent vapors would not immediately gush out of the top of the Erlenmeyer flask, nor would they be visible.

    The tell-tale cyanide symptom, though, is how quickly the rabbits fainted after they became panicked. Cyanide interferes with cells' ability to use oxygen. Lack of oxygen leads to unconsciousness and death. With their oxygen supply thus removed by cyanide poisoning, more rapid consumption of oxygen (i.e., by panicking) leads to more rapid loss of consciousness: just what we saw.

    So what about all the chemicals displayed in the beginning? I saw Potassium Permanganate, Perchlorates, Sodium nitrite (among others). These are oxidizers used to produce explosives. Chemicals relevant to nerve agent synthesis would be (e.g.) phosphorus trichloride, phosphorus oxychloride, isopropanol, hydrofluoric acid, etc.--none of which were on display.

    This may be technobabble but it is relevant. This video purports to show that Syrian Rebels have the capability to use chemical weapons. I argue that it only shows they have the capability to produce hydrogen cyanide on a lab scale--not Sarin or any other nerve agent on a process scale. The chemistry and expertise involved are completely different and not interchangeable: cyanide requiring little more than Mason jars, Sarin requiring special grades of stainless steel or teflon.

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    1. Very useful post: its my sense that this is true in one way or another of all of the "chemical weapons finds" - they simply don't map on to the charges. Part of the problem is that the earliest accusations were linked to a different narrative: from Khan al-Assal on the accusation was that the rebels were using chlorine-based agents and the chemical finds were linked to that (although even then some of them didn't seem to fit). Then the charge suddenly switched to Sarin, and the fit got even more dubious.

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. Btw are there any explanation given for the traces of Hexamethylenetetramine? Isn't that indicative of improvised explosives?

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    1. "Isn't that indicative of improvised explosives?"

      Not necessarily. Hexamethylenetetramine is not even an explosive, just a fuel. However, it is the key precursor to RDX, HMX, and HMTD. The first two are common military explosives. The latter is an explosive organic peroxide manufactured clandestinely.

      If I recall correctly, Russia said Hexogen (RDX) was used as an opening charge for the chemical projectiles. This isn't a smoking gun in any direction.

      Delete
    2. Well that is different projectiles entirely as those are suppose to look like the rockets produced by Bashair Al-Nasr. I'm pretty sure neither RDX, HMX or HMTD is used in the Syrian army when it comes to rockets and explosives neither should Hexamine alone or as fuel be used there when the rockets are solid fuel and has an HE-core used to disperse and ignite the fuel in the warhead. I get why lots of the precursors of Sarin is found, especially if it was crudely made, but that would instinctively speak against a professional CW-agent or stock that was stored as two components, so I don't quite get it but I'm sure it depends on the quality of production. But that is not what I was bothered with or wanted to ask about and question but why Hexamine was found virtually every were, which makes you wounder how contaminated the sites are? It could of course be used as a solid rocket fuel, but It's not obvious that would fit a professionally made rocket. When it comes to the chemical makeup of the agent then Diisopropyl would raise some questions, which of course would fuel Russia's theory too. Would be interesting to actually see the Russian report.

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    3. We may be speaking past one another. Can you provide a reference about hexamine being found everywhere?

      " I get why lots of the precursors of Sarin is found, especially if it was crudely made, but that would instinctively speak against a professional CW-agent or stock that was stored as two components, so I don't quite get it but I'm sure it depends on the quality of production."

      Residual precursors/binary components do not indicate crude production. The products of a binary reaction are going to be a cocktail of the active nerve agent, solvent, residual precursors, and side products. The product could be purified but this is really optional. It's time consuming and simply may not be feasible in the middle of a battle.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. Hexamine is short form for Hexamethylenetetramine, it was found by the UN team at the sites they included in the report.

      A binary agent would be synthesized and heavily processed, and if from the army it would probably have been stored in the binary form in their stocks. OPCW really needs to examine the sites first before we can say how Syria's chemical agents are produced and stored. Russians identified Diisopropyl fluorophosphate as something that shouldn't be found in industrially made Sarin. Being former producers they and the US as well would know. It was also found in some samples in Zamalka.

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    6. RDX;I believe that somewhere in Syria there is an ammunition plant that manufactures RDX based high explosives. This Syrian made RDX will probably have unique markers in its chemical make up that can be traced. HINT; just like that little number on the M14 rocket motor, these markers should lead you to exactly the plant in Syria that made this "non-existent Syrian RDX".

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    7. jody

      Unexploded warheads are known to be found of this rocket, so you could sample the HE-core of it if you really tried to find out what it was.

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    8. I already know the answer about RDX in Syria. I am just pointing folks in the right direction and they can do the leg work.

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    9. Syria don't need to produce the RDX themselves of it's used, they are known to have tried to acquire it abroad. As an arms supplier to Syria Russia should know pretty much what they do with RDX over there.

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    10. I could tell you a long story about RDX being made in Syria but if someone really wants to know they will figure it out. I will say this; they have been making RDX for a long, long time in Syria.

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    11. I had not heard the part about Diisopropyl Fluorophosphate (DFP) found in soil samples in Khan Al-Assal. That is indeed interesting if it is true. I'll have to dig through literature again to find a way that DFP could arise as an unintended contaminant in Sarin production. To the best of my knowledge, this should not happen.

      However, a DFP/Sarin blend is a distinct possibility. DFP is simpler to produce than Sarin, but still requires similar equipment to handle air-sensitive chemistry and fluorination.

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    12. Yeah, I think it's interesting that it is present at both attacks. It's one of the key reasons why the Russians argue that it's not from the Syrian army.

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  26. You haven't mentioned the Amer Mosa Video.

    This was first uploaded at 04:00 21 August 2013 - even before some of the alleged missiles were fired at 05:00. It specifically says the missiles shown were gas missiles.

    Amer Mosa appears to be an Islamist. His YT channel has now been deleted and the original upload vanished. However there are multiple copies on the Internet from the 21st and onwards.

    The original video was titled (roughly) "(The moment of firing rockets charged chemical Ppleras on East Gouta God and yes you, O Bashar agent) "

    The earliest copy I can find is at

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi-Xy__8vjg

    How an Islamist observer can know that these are gas rockets before the first casualties are found is beyond me.

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  27. First of all I would like to congratulate you for your site, it has been most helpful - thanks. As for the vídeos, I'm no expert and I hope I am not repeating anything but here are my obs: definitely D-30 -122mm cal so no relation with Ghouta whatsoever. The filmaker is clearly not using a gas mask, his voice is crystal clear on all 3 vídeos - he may be a harcore jihadist and not affraid of dying like the others...or there are no CW at all. Their bahavior is not consistente with being in a war zone controlled by the Republican Guard: seem to hang around after firing their weapons and chanting instead of bugging out. And the lights on from the truck is a tell tale.

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  28. The second vídeo (24s) seems so show a rocket with two stabilizers, the UMLACA has 4, right? And in the vídeo there is not extended engine pipe as in the UMLACA. Also it show a what seems to be a populated area north of the filmaker but the weapon seems to point west - which is never shown. Between the 2nd and 3rd vídeos (21s and 1.41 respectively) it seems the angle of the weapon is different with the later being more ballistic like.

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    Replies
    1. How on earth do you know what is North or West?

      I think you are just making this up.

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    2. I was saying that the city (or whatever) was north of the position of the filmaker when he was standing by thw D-30, whereas the gun was pointing to the left (west).

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    3. Correction, the ''UMLACA'' not D-30

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  29. In the 3rd vídeo (4s) there's a white rectangular shape structure half-covered by a jihadist flag (seems like a cab to me). At 17s it is clearly that there are 2 rockets ready to be fired. Based on all of these characteristics isn't this a Falaq-2? Twin launcher on a white cabin truck? Given that the direction as I pointed out wasn't consistente with the poupulated area and all the other stuff it seems to me that this a Syrian Armed Forces faked vídeo. Any comments? Thanks in advance and keep up the good work.

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  30. That statement is dumber than these suspicious videos.

    The "only Assad has this or that weapon" must be one of the stupidest contributions to this debate. The "rebels" looted from the Syrian army or received from abroad everything from pistols to armored vehicles and from MANPADS to helicopters.

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    Replies
    1. No gas mask for the film-maker, the D-30 does not seem related to the UN findings, the UMLACA stabilizers don't look the same as the ones found, the weapon seems to be pointing in the wrong direction, the vídeo was found in the north whereas Liwa al-Islam operates around Damascus, the UN says the direction of the firing came from near the 104th Brigade but the terrorists don't seem concerned at all with the fact or with a counterattack/pursuit...it seems fake to me. So why not this being the Army firing a Falaq-2 e trying to blame Liwa for it?

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    2. It is clearly no Falaq-2 missile being fired. Neither are UMLACA unique to august 21. They were introduced months before at least.

      The video were allegedly found on a person trying to cross to Turkey. Liwa al-Islam has a base of operations in Turkey they even get weapons from them and it's a transit country for these extremists, they also have affiliates in the north so that in of it self is nothing to take note to. They have been known to be in Turkey, and in border towns. It's clearly a cell phone film, the question is just by who and when it was shot.

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    3. Can you speculate on what kind of launcher that is? Is it truck-mounted? I confess my original thought was that it was some sort of trailer apparatus, but the twin launcher configuration and what seems to be a white cabin made me think of a Falaq-2 and it wouldn't make to much sense towing a RL to a government-controlled área (as the UN claims it was).
      What do you think of the stabiliseres and lack of engine pipe? And we never see the warhead. Just the a metal pipe. Seems odd.

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    4. It also seems odd the way those vídeos were captured. Everything about the vídeos are: ''yes we are Liwa and did it.'' It seems the intention was clearly to show the attack and make no mistake about who did it. But they never downloaded the videos. Why not? That terrorist in particular that got killed at the border was walking around a souvenir that was never to be seen? Was the vídeo to be smuggled to Turkey? It's not like they don't have easy access to the internet -there are even some claims they downloaded vídeos of the victims way before the attack itself.

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    5. I can say that it is not a Falaq-2 rocket being launched, those have no fins at all as they are spin stabilized and wouldn't be seen in a video like this as they would be inside the tube, the launcher might be similar and that it is a white truck means nothing we have already seen launchers of this type on various trucks in various colors and various numbers of launch tubes as they are not an new entry into the war. The maker of the Falaq-2 seems to advertise a three tube launcher, but it's fully optional how you want it. Obviously most UMLACA's would either be FAE or HE. The Falaq-2 would probably be a much more potent weapon too as the warhead is larger. Falaq-2 or the FL2-A missile is the type of bomb that would take out an entire building collapsing it into a pile of rubble. The blast radius would be huge.

      Obviously if the video is real then it was the fighter who was trying to smuggle himself across the border, not smuggle the video for it to be published as that was likely for internal consumption only. Your claim that they wouldn't operate or travel in the area are dubious to begin with. They would basically die if they tried to stay in one area forever and would have no supplies or weapons. Those do in some capacity come from Turkey according to members that have spoken to journalists. Obviously the fighters themselves probably has that travel route to begin with, and fighters like these aren't local to Ghouta, neither would they feel safe anywhere in Syria when they are not fighting.

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    6. As I said before, I'm no military expert and I’m just trying to find out what the hell happened at Ghouta.
      I named the system on those videos as the Falaq-2 as it seems similar to this picture:
      http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=202925&d=1371783871
      What is this called? Do you think this is the same type of system used on the Liwa al-Islam vídeo?

      There is also a video depicting what appears to be the SAA using a weapon similar to the one used in Ghouta:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjNsfMILdjY
      What is this system?

      On the videos, the rocket seems to have a twin fin and no extended engine pipe, which is quite different than the UMLACA found on the scene. That’s way I say this video is not about the Ghota attack (that and the D-30).

      I didn’t claim they couldn’t and didn’t move around. Just saying it seems odd the way the all thing went down – which is still unconfirmed, right? Have the Peshmergas replied to this, btw? Do they confirm the story?

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    7. Nothing? As the system isn't used outside Syria there is no known name for the system, or an exact makeup of all the components of the system, which definitely differs some when it comes to the launchers. Even the image you link shows two different type of launchers on two different type of trucks in two different colors. The one fired by government troops that we see a bit closer differs from the other two too. Some of these type of launchers have been firing the Falaq-2 missile some hasn't but has fired the variant discussed at length as the 350mm+ system blamed for CW-attacks. It has been dubbed as UMLACA in this blog and has a large warhead, much thinner rocket-body (motor) with stabilizer fins. Those are what is fired in the video, not the rocket (333mm) in the Falaq-2 system. UMLACA normally has an HE or FAE-payload. Having a fill port means you could put essentially anything in it though. But the army has guided missiles that are suspected to be able to utilize CW-warheads so it's quite a simple system.

      There is no "twin fins" in any video or crashed debris. So I seriously don't know what your on about there. The Liwa al-islam video that suppose to portray a chemical attack uses a missile that does indeed look like the UMLACA and matches it as far as the video can tell. You see the rocket/engine and tail fins.

      Obviously the phone would need to be in unbiased hands and forensically examined if it exists to be able to determine anything. The video does indicate it was shot on a phone at least, so the question is just by who and when again. If we don't know that it doesn't matter how much YPG confirms the story or not. That someone might travel with such videos isn't what stands out here. It's not odd that they clash or that they look through pictures or videos of opposing groups. You might question who and why someone put it up on liveleak, but you still need to answer who shot it and when to know if it was staged or not.

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    8. Who makes the system? The Syrian Army itself? Could the rebels have stolen one? Is it the case of the Liwa al Islam vídeo - a stolen system? Could Liwa build one such system?
      As for the twin fin...The second vídeo (24 seconds) seems so show a rocket with two stabilizers. It seems quite different from the UN pictures.
      You're right: there's no telling when the vídeo was shot or where (could be anywhere).

      Delete
    9. No the video doesn't show that. It only shows two (one in the part 2-video) missiles with the same stabilizer as the ones found on the ground since last year or so and detailed by the UN team in the report. What it shows is another variant of the launcher with two launch tubes. They seem to fire three missiles at least. The tail fins match the UN findings. Exactly how do you think the image showing a tail fin with a "ring" at the bottom and six fins differ from the UN report? It's the same rocket, and that is pretty much the only thing one can discern from the video. We have no idea how the stock for these weapons look like but we do know there is a couple of different payloads in the warheads, we can only discern that they are used in different parts of Syria. Not if any has fallen out of control, and it would be way worse if something like Falaq-2 fell out of control normally any way it's not the kind of weapons the Israelis has been trying to bomb.

      Their now declared deterrence might look a lot different. They don't use the most heavy or advanced systems on the rebels, some of the systems used are quite advanced though, and the rebels definitely has a lot of 122mm and 107mm rockets.

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    10. In your opinion: is this legit Liwa chemical attack or a fake SAA one?

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    12. How would anybody know for sure? The US isn't even confident at that level and they have a huge layer of politics pointing them in a certain direction. The UN findings don't say and aren't adequate to place blame. Munitions it self from a couple of sites when there was dozens of missiles suspected of delivering chemical agents in just one of the areas don't show the whole picture or who is to blame. All it has shown is that some of the rockets and fragments dubbed to belong to the UMLACA has come into contact with Sarin. Munitions on the battlefield it self isn't proof of anything, and the rockets are known to carry HE or FAE warhead/payload, people being poisoned by them has come much later than the weapons it self as well as people testing positive which is new when it comes to an investigation that published anything at all publicly rather then being referenced. It's quite an awkward system for chemical agents but simple enough of a design. You could put anything in there and have it disperse over a large area. Government or opposition forces found with the same type of weapon don't mean they did it or not did it. You would need to trace down the exact Sarin batch to know, which would also point to some of the people involved. Syria's program will be dismantled and assessed, as well as any chemical capable payload delivery system, that is warheads.

      Didn't you see the resemblance immediately in the videos? There is just about enough detail to match the description or images of other known events with the system involved.

      It's a cell phone video of the actual weapons being fired at night, it's not a good weapon to fire at any time anywhere near populated areas. Even without chemical agents. If you like to take out rebels something like 220 or 240 mm rockets, or even 122mm would probably be better than odd systems like this, or guided munitions for that matter. Obviously ground forces and battle tanks are important when it comes to clearing out terror gangs which has fortified themselves. But terrorists with heavy weapons will get heavy weapons in response. FSA might not have much of the spoils and foreign supplied weapons but other groups have. Anything that contains the situation would be good. Giving fuel to the extremists by virtually promising to kill the heads of a legitimate government wouldn't be good for stability in the neighboring countries. Neither is Syria run in a way where it would collapse without a few of their top brass. When it comes to the chem attack responsibility you would need to find the actual individuals responsible regardless of which side they are on. They are murderess traitors either way.

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    13. Re: "The tail fins [in the disputed video from Liwa al-Islam video]match the UN findings" and "Exactly how do you think the image showing a tail fin with a "ring" at the bottom and six fins differ from the UN report?"

      Using this photo capture (from the'enhanced Liwa video), to my eyes the tail fins do not match at all with the UMLACA fins. The major difference is that in the video there is a gap/cutout of the fins.

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    14. Several more freeze-frames from the Liwa video (this time taken from the full MP4 via Youtube, Part 2). The captures clearly show that the Liwa armament had differing fins than those documented by the OPCW.

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  31. @Petter. I am not aware of Liwa al-Islam having any operations or "affiliates" in the north. They are an independent and Damascus based unit. Do you have any sources to suggest otherwise?

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    1. Huh? They are affiliated with SILF which is active in the north and journalists have interviewed members (Liwa) in Turkish border towns like Reyhanli. Regardless of were they like to kill people they need support and supplies, they need rest and they need new fighters. YPG and other Kurdish fighters are present near the border areas in all of the north that the government don't control. So that would be nothing to disregard of it self, it's not because their closeness to the regime they would be mentioned as the source. Turkey is pretty much the only way in and out of the country for terrorists now.

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    2. @Petter. I stand partially corrected: it appears Liwa al-Islam did sign up to SILF 6 months ago: but I see no evidence of any operational integration. They are described as operating in Damascus and Rif Damasq, and their main alliances are with other Ansar al-Islam elements in that region. I can see no reports of the presence of LI fighters in Turkey or of any engagement with the YPG. If you have such evidence then just post a link or give some details and we can resolve this discussion quite speedily.

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    3. There are a few sources, a few I can think of and show right now is:

      http://www.gmfus.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files_mf/1369937607Zaman_SyriaReset_May13.pdf

      And this videos of Liwa al-islam fighting in Aleppo, http://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/syria-aleppo-safira-via-markito0171-long-video-of/

      If your arab speaking you can find out much more. YPG has clashed with ansar al-islam, other affiliates of Liwa have too. But note I didn't claim anything about how the claimed capture took place. It's a transit route too.

      I don't know why this is the question you people has an hangup with. The details are good enough for it to both be real and for it to be made up in propaganda purposes, it's not the weak spot of the story. If you are to believe the regime then there are foreign fighters in Liwa al-Islam too. They need contact with the outside world regardless to coordinate everything too. It's not that easy to wage a war that they can get everything by contacting suppliers on the phone.

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    4. What is the weak spot on the story then?

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