Bellingcat

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The “Hizballah Execution Video”: Confirmation of Shia Militia Involvement

A guest post by Phillip Smyth of Jihadology.net.  Videos and images should be considered graphic.

Figure : Photo of those executed by Hizballah and posted to social media.

On October 8, 2013, the news website, NewLebanon.info released a video claiming to show members of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Shia Islamist Hizballah, executing what appeared to be wounded men they pulled from the back of a van. The slain men were reported to be Syrians, possibly captured rebels.

The video caused controversy with the public and activists alike in Lebanon, Syria, the broader Middle East, and the West. Hizballah has been silent on the issue, but one spokesman said the organization would address the issue. Despite accusations Hizballah had pulled-off the killings, along with audio recordings demonstrating the executioners with Lebanese accents talking about Iranian Revolutionary religious concepts (an important underpinning for Hizballah’s ideology), there was still enough plausible deniability available for Hizballah and other Shia militia groups to argue they had no part in the killings.

Nevertheless, after analyzing Shia militia social media pages, I did come across the proverbial, “Picture worth a thousand words” in relation to the execution video: A photo featuring the same men who had been killed in the grainy execution video, were in fact the dead men in another photograph. This picture was uploaded to a prominent pro-Shia militia Facebook page which promotes the “Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyah” (“The Islamic Resistance”). This term regularly describes Iranian-backed Shia Islamist groups with militia apparatuses established in Iraq and Lebanon. It was also of a higher definition than the video recording. Adding to the photograph’s credibility was the fact that it was posted on October 1, 2013; Seven days before the video was released.

One of the dead men, the first to be dragged from the van in the video and wearing visible red boxer shorts is in the photograph. Another man, in a white T-shirt covered in blood, was summarily executed in the video. For the photo, he was placed in the pile of the other dead. The man in the striped sweater was taken out of the van at 0.48 and was then shot in the head twice. His destroyed cranium is easily spotted in the photograph and the video.

Figure : The man in the red boxer shorts. (video capture)
Figure : The black shirted man lying dead over the legs of the man in the red boxer shorts. (video capture)
Figure : The killed man in the white blood-stained T-shirt. (video capture)
Figure : The dead and executed men lying in the same position as the hi-res photo above. (video capture) 
When one follower of the page asked why such a graphic image needed to be posted, the admin responded, saying this would be the fate for anyone who wishes “to abuse Sayyida Zaynab”. Another outspoken member of other pro-Shia militia Facebook sites responded that the dead bodies were the result of, “self-defense”.

The admin for the page claims to be located in Tehran, Iran and the page he administers says it is based in Iraq. The administrator is also a prominent poster of graphics which promote the cause of Iraq’s Kata’ib Hizballah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, and Lebanese Hizballah—all Iranian-backed suppliers of foreign Shia fighters to Syria. These graphics have been widely circulated in these circles, suggesting a more formal link between the administrator and these organizations. 

After processing around eighty Facebook pages (posts from August 15th-October 23rd ) which promote pro-Shia militia in Syria material, only this Facebook page posted the photograph. When measured against more directly controlled Assad groups on social media, the same photo could not be found. Most interesting was the lack of any type of watermark which would demonstrate the photograph was taken from another website or source. 

However, photographs of the executed had circulated elsewhere prior to the release of the video and to this particular photograph posted on Shia militia social media. On September 23, 2013, the same dead men were part of a post placed online by Bousla.net. At that time, it was claimed they were part of the Salafi rebel organization, Liwa’a al-Islam, and were ambushed in the rural East Ghouta region outside of Damascus. Furthermore, it was reported in the article that elements of Liwa’a Zulfiqar, a Syrian based Shia militia whose fighters primarily come from the aforementioned groups in Iraq, and work in conjunction with Lebanese Hizballah, led the attack. Elsewhere, on LiveLeak, the pictures were republished and it was added that the executed individuals were, “near jordanan border the place where the cia saudi arabia and jordanian intelligence finance and train rebels [sic]”.  

Figure : Three of the photos published by Bousla.net which clearly showing the executed men in the video.
Most intriguing about the video and photo posts in news media (as opposed to social media), were the two sources to which this material was leaked. Both market themselves as “independent” Lebanese (as opposed to Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, or other Arab outlets) news providers, have little original content, and do not have much of a share of an already packed Lebanese media market. Ironically, Bousla.net, the original poster of the images of those executed in the video, published a piece claiming the video was a fabrication and that Lebanese Hizballah had no role in the killings. Bousla.net also drew no connection between the original photos and the video.

Figure : The banner photograph for the Facebook page featuring the execution photo in question. The title reads, “Al Muqawama” (“The Resistance”). The logos for (left to right) Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Lebanese Hizballah, Kata'ib Hizballah, and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada are shown on the poster with the golden dome for the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is shown prominently in the left.  
The dates these photographs were posted, their higher resolution (when compared to the video), the source(s) which published the information, and the utilization of the same bodies, conclusively establish that a Shia Islamist militia—most likely involving Hizballah, was behind the killings. The publishing of the photographs and the leak of the video of the killings further symbolize a new and carefully coordinated social and traditional online media campaign to show Syria’s rebels that Iranian-backed groups will resort to brutal means to win in Syria. 

11 comments:

  1. I have visited your blog and I think that the Culture content could be of interest to our web site visitors. Great work and love to visit on your blog again and again. Keep posting nice information.
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    ReplyDelete
  2. I suppose the terrorist groups you propose should be in control of Syria haven't committed any crimes at all during this last two years? Which side is continually kidnapping countless Red Cross workers and Christians including bishops? How about the UN personnel that have been seized? How can you support the same thugs and murderers who have totally destroyed Libya? How would you react if these people decided we needed a change of government here in the UK? You need to do much better than this latest attack on Assad , even the BBC aren't promoting you any more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh great. Some more whinging about the blogs agenda.

      Like i said to you last time; instead of systematically responding to this fairly detailed analysis, you post some rant on the agenda of the blog?

      It seems your kind of people aren't very good at responding without going on inane rambling tangents.

      Delete
    2. The anti-democracy lobby are nearly as annoying as the spammers.

      Delete
  3. Brown Moses ought to be Brown Bread. Your efforts to publicize anti-Syrian propaganda are well-known. In any case, our army is annihilating your savages, beheaders and cannibals. So much for your stinking rodent heroes.

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  4. That title is so misleading. It can be read as "Confirmation of the Shia Miltia's Involvement" when the only sort of confirmation is that it was likely A Shiite militia that acted.

    Given that the "who" here is so important - suggest changing title :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. The negative comments are very well organized, but largely amount simply to droning out unwelcome news, or nit-picking.

    They certainly do not match the habitual care and detail of this blog's content.

    Since it's not technically possible to derive or fake up higher-resolution still images from lower resolution video, separate source images of what are clearly the same victims would be compelling evidence in most courts of law. Although what they prove of themselves is that there were two different cameras present, or that one camera was used in two different modes, they reached the public domain by different routes with separate narratives supporting the author's conclusions.

    In a way, all the bollocks posted in these comments by the Hasbara is useful, because we need to create and perfect the techniques needed to determine and expose the truth in the face of considerable opposition, trolling, spamming and the Hasbara, before civil conflict emerges in larger and more important theatres than Syria.

    ReplyDelete
  6. why don't you investigate about the other side which they are clearly killing the Prisoners cutting them heads and eating them hearts!!!!

    if you dare you show this movie to your blog followers and study it and ask your self, ppl like those in the movie how they should be treated????

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3ZSmWnUtLo

    watch it , spread it and let the ppl know what in there and who we are fighting, if you like this ppl and supporting them then you can take them to your country and keep them there!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pretty certain I was one of the first sites to write about the Abu Sakkar video I believe you are referring to. Also, that video you linked doesn't appear to work in the UK.

      Delete
    2. well if you are calling them abu sakkar then in the video there is a hundreds of abu sakkar who are ppl in UK not allowed to see them!!!!

      also all the smartness you have and you r saying that this link not working in UK!!!

      then USE HOTSPOT SHIELD man... lol

      Delete