Monday, December 14, 2015

Suspected Tree Farm Reveals Houla Massacre Deception

December 14, 2015

I think the first concrete debunk we made with the Houla Massacre was this exposé of shoddy journalism in service of regime change by the BBC. It was first published in shorter form at the CIWCL site, June  19, 2012, here re-written a bit and updated to reflect the years of research in between
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Shortly after the Syrian government made official their refutation of responsibility for the “Houla massacre,” the ever-diligent BBC unearthed "Satellite image clues” to refute them with a "suspected artillery site." Once reported by the Beeb, this claim was bound to be echoed forever by the credulous. But the first time it was said by a supposed expert, it was a bunch of crap.

First, there were the clear activist reports of prolonged shelling, generally thought to mean heavy artillery only the army was thought to possess. It was after this chased away rebel defenders that the Alawite "Shabiha" militia moved in and massacred entire families. But ... The UN’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI), in its “oral update” report of June 26 noted “much of the damage appeared to be caused by mortars, including large caliber mortars, heavy machine guns or light artillery.” The first two rebels had at the time, and the last one only possibly, but it's attached with an "or." So well-armed rebels could easily explain all the damage at least as well as army shelling could. 

Further, the damage afterwards is not random like distant shelling would be, but rather precise damage to security posts and the homes of pro-government and Shia convert families, and a deliberate massacre of civilians somehow rendered defenseless.

But the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner presented images suggesting masses of artillery had moved in the area, leaving “tell-tale tracks.” “All the images were taken on the morning of Saturday 26 May, within hours of the massacre ending,” he reported. One is to presume that’s relevant, and shows things that hadn’t been there on May 24, and were put there by the events of the massacre day. 

They called on military analyst Forbes McKenzie, a former military intelligence officer. He pointed out, in the forested area labeled “H,” what he “believes are the caterpillar tracks left by a mobile artillery battery that fired on the civilian houses.” McKenzie told the BBC: “This would be standard Soviet bloc tactics, firing from woods and then withdrawing.” 

It took about one minute looking and five thinking to put that claim to rest. Google Maps public imagery (at the time of writin, June 2012) shows the same tracks already there at a different, earlier time. According to Goole Earth, the imagery was taken on February 22, 2012, three months before the attack. I'm not sure why Mr. McKenzie failed to catch this.

It is possible these are artillery tracks, where cannons are routinely driven all around the forest here, almost up to each and every one of the trees. Evidence that happened on May 25 in particular, and that these cannon fired on Taldou that day? Zero. 

We can’t even say these are cat tracks. They seem rather to be worn dirt roads, but in an unusual pattern - organically dense like veins. What they seem to be, in fact, are access roads in a tree farm, used to plant, tend and harvest each of their little sunlight factories when the time is ready.

If we could be sure heavy weapons were used, from this vicinity (as the Beeb noted, it's near an army checkpoint), this location is as good a guess as any. But the only spot specifically blamed as the main shelling origin - and much closer to the area in question - is the "Water company" base at the crest on the southeast edge of town (position G in the BBC graphic at right).

But of course nothing in the damage proves who did it, while motive and some witnesses point to rebels, and our video research has by know shown beyond much doubt they overpowered the town's security posts just before the massacre. Only the Water co. base withstood the assault. The other four bases were overrun, the evidence suggests. Here's our better and more relevant map showing massacre sites in relation to these posts. The white ones in the north are the two the UN's investigators agree were overrun by rebels. Wi disagree on 2 of the other 3.

Rebels took over Taldou on May 25, 2012, and the government still hasn't gotten it back. But they held onto the water co. post at the edge of town, maybe just to hwlp prevent a move south on the Alawite villages there. (Above, the Beeb shows two "reported Shabiha militia positions" there, where rebels say the killers came from. But there's still no evidence for Alawite Shabiha coming in from the south or anywhere, and some evidence for fresh terrorist mercenaries moving from the Turkish border area to just north of Houla, between May 22 and 24, already slaughtering children along the way)

But we can finally see (at right) tank or artillery tracks at the right spot visible by March 9, 2013 (next new images to be published by GeoEye/Google Earth). There were no such tracks visible in the Beeb's day-after images.


As for the BBC's site H: It's right on a main road, but has some tree cover. It is miles from town, so range issues come into play. It would suggest big guns, little good use against a terrorist takeover. But maybe the regime did pound the town with heavy cannons that day as well, the kind that leave tracks, and they were based here. But again, UN's investigators also felt the damage looked like "heavy mortars, heavy machine guns or light artillery," with nothing about heavy artillery - and they were trying to implicate the government.

And again, these are preexisting dirt roads in a tree farm, so you can't tell if artillery had driven on it. These tracks could have hosted a dirt bike rally there that day, or done nothing. The BBC's expert's decision was pure imagination, wishful thinking from the blame-Assad crowd.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Joshua Landis Proves He's Not Weak

I Hope.
December 8, 2015

My Take on Landis
Dr. Joshua Landis is the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and a professor at the University of Oklahoma, and runs the respected Syria Comment blog. He's not an overt partisan hack but a real expert in the region, with an Alawi wife from Latakia. But he's been put in a tough spot these last years to provide credible analysis in a raging sea of disinformation, under pressure to be both truthful and anti-government. Do you want to go down as the expert in and apologist for old Syria if the rebels win? Or tough out the criticism or worse for voicing support to the government until their eventual victory? Or do you want to do like most high-profile supposed experts, and demonize the regime and demand its collapse, lionize all rebels possible, and go with that flow?

He seems to have taken a mostly-ambiguous middle course - calling Syria's government a "regime" and crediting a majority of its alleged crimes, but offering more realism and nuance than most who do that, and criticizing the rebel side more than most would. He's seen by many who support Syria as a gatekeeper, who guards his "credibility" with the mainstream, using selective expertise ... There is this aspect, and previously it's about how I saw him. But I'm not in the mood to check that record or dig for many examples now, just the one below will do. But he's also seen by others, for example by Tony Badran, as the "Professor of Propaganda," "To read Landis’ commentary about Syria over the past half year is to track the development of Baath propaganda." Or, alternately, Ba'ath propaganda follows the truth more than he'd like to admit, as does Landis.

Badran's complaint was from late 2011, and indeed Landis solidly challenged some early lies like the shooting of soldiers in Baniyas on April 10, 2011 "for refusing orders" (see my coverage of it featuring his, and note he even "liked" my tweet about it). And he's kept a relatively even keel in the storms of disinfo since, surely pelted from both sides to trade some of his credibility for stronger support to one side or the other (and I'm guessing this was 10:1 from the opposition side).

Recently, since Russia has opened its own air campaign in Syria, he's issued comments (like in his interview on RT) taking a stronger line against the ongoing regime change campaign/anti-ISIS effort,. Now that it can be compared to Russia's anti-ISIS campaign, which hangs on supporting, not destroying, the government there... As he named it at Syria Comment, Regime-Change without State Collapse is Impossible in Syria. And for those who don't know, state collapse is a bad thing (see Iraq, Libya, and now much of Syria).

Houla Blind Spot: Time to Correct it
In between, Landis is lacking in what we have - detailed event analysis to see through some of the bigger lies, like the hideous massacres blamed on "Assad" and his "Shabiha" militia. It's these, from the earliest Homs massacres to the Ghouta alleged sarin attack and beyond, that ensure decent people would have a hard time ever accepting that kind of "regime" to continue existing.  Obviously, after all this, "Assad" (meaning ??) has to go.

And so these stories underpin the continued destabilization of Syria. They'll do that truthfully, untruthfully, or probably some mixture. Do "we" really know the true mix? Rebels blamed the government for the Dec. 2012 Aqrab massacre, the first Ma'an massacre right after that, besides so many others, which were clearly their own crimes (to the extent they even happened, which people remain vague about. But they happened.). Other massacres, they just never reported (Latakia, Aug. 2013, etc.)

Landis was/would be able to easily see through those three lies (one by omission). He knows Sunni extremists (and not just the boogeyman ISIS) kill civilians, especially Alawi ones. For example, in this early 2014 article, Landis countered the prevalent claims of regime-ISIS cooperation, pointing to plenty of other groups who commit atrocities like the recent (second) Ma'an massacre.

That's right on, but he screwed up by following that with:
None of this is to deny sectarianism exists on the regime side, as evinced by sectarian massacres perpetrated by forces fighting for the regime, whether by Alawite irregular militiamen (the Houla massacre) or foreign Shi’a militiamen (the Nabk massacre in rural Damascus province...
I haven't really studied Nabk, but should have - that's around the same time as the Adra massacre, and pretty nearby, isn't it? Must be Iranians, maybe in both cases </sarcasm>. But this is our specialty, imperfect but quality work dissecting massacre marketing claims - not all, but many.

I asked him some months back to have a look at our Houla research, but the response was vague and seemed like an attempted permanent dodge. I was tempted to right then declare him weak, but more review led me to think maybe not. 

Again, our findings - which add to other evidence brought by other witnesses, journalists, and researchers, comes from a careful study of the most reliable, evidence - video. The rebel-supplied videos (most of them presented as proof of the government shelling attack) do little to prove much on a singular basis; naturally, they would try to avoid showing too much of the truth. But taken as a whole they show enough of the picture to be pretty clear what's going on. We see rebel fighters firing guns and RPGs towards the clocktower, qaws, and water co. posts (see map), clearly on the offensive and not the retreat, and we see the clocktower and MIHQ posts and the hospital burning and belching smoke by sunset.

In context, this means rebels took over the exact massacre area, immediately before the massacres happened there. These massacres happened at no other time than when rebels took over. The reasonso few get that disconnect is they've never heard that rebels took over. Rebels never told us about that, and they're the only people in Syria "we" believe. Luckily, they provided a few videos that - with careful decoding - disprove their own case. 

Here's the map showing security posts and massacre in relation - white security posts are acknowledged as overrun by UN's Commission of Inquiry investigators. What's new/contested is that the next two orange posts seem either overrun as well, or circumvented. Pink dots are reported massacre sites, red dots ones we can verify by video evidence (there were more than this, but the rest can't be mapped yet). The yellow-green letters indicate where different videos were filmed.

Now consider the competing narratives compared to this:

Rebels/activists/"survivors" version: Rebels were in charge of the whole "village of Houla" until the army chased them out of the Taldou part on May 25 with shelling that started at mid-day. Some claim there were limited clashes before this, but no mentioned victories. They had to run away and leave the village undefended. Then the Shabiha moved in and massacred apolitical Sunni families for clearly genocidal reasons, before they withdrew, leaving over 100 bodies behind. Rebels came back and documented the truth.

Government/other witnesses version: Rebels ran all towns of the Houla region except the southern half of Taldou, still lightly held with five security posts. Rebels attacked these on May 25 starting at mid-day, overran most or all of the posts, killed and captured soldiers, and then massacred pro-government Sunni and/or Shia convert families. Also, they attacked the Alawite village of Shumariya to the south that same night, killing ten (a different group of rebels did that, though). They used the Houla victim bodies and false witnesses (largely their own family members) to blame the government and demand foreign intervention. After this day, rebels did control all of the Houla area, and do so until the present day.

The map alone, from UN investigator info mainly, shows how the rebel story was never anywhere near as credible as people (including the UN investigators) made it seem. They wound up blaming the government, but had to admit along the way rebels launched a successful offensive that day, and overran two posts, but no more. Rebels never mentioned that. And when we examine the video evidence compared to those orange security posts next to the red and pink dots, it gets downright creepy... 

The challenge: Dr. Landis should endeavor to analyze it or at least encourage a team member or some readers to have a look at the report:


Someone else on the Syria Comment team might do the actual analysis, but in the end, I'd like a Landis opinion. A mention on Syria Comment might even be warranted.
.
- The core video evidence is all that really matters. If time is limited, ignore the last sections and focus on the "exhibits" - who's shooting, where, when, what's burning, etc. Other issues are fair to critique, but not as a replacement for reviewing the video record and our reading of it.

- The relevant work is video analysis, geolocation - someone experienced is best, but anyone can do this, compare video to satellite images and see if it is or isn't a match, challenge the time readings, implications, our reading what's happening at that place and time, etc.

- The important question mark over the June videos we decided show event of May 25 might be worth challenging. That counts as a core video issue (should they even be included? We think so and explain why). Other side-issue relating to the video readings are equally fair game and totally relevant.

- In the end, I need to hear what's wrong with our case, what's right with it, what now seems to you the best supported narrative? We started with very different views, and after re-visiting it, who should change viewpoints?

- No set time-frame. Done the best way, it could be a bit of a project, preferably with a team.I'm not threatening a weakling write-up, just hoping to see a response.

- Format: open to suggestions, but to start I offer the comment space here.

Someone should make the best effort they can to find a real error, and maybe if they can't find one, to say so - endorse this battle-tested work, and help it move forward from neglected to relevant. This is supposed to be the age of the citizen journalist and blogger-investigator, open-source intel and "geolocation." And you aren't supposed to have to be a Brown Moses type to matter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An Iranian Hand in the Houla Massacre?

August 11, 2015
(incomplete)

One of the more widely-read pieces on the May, 2012 Houla Massacre remains this piece in the Guardian I haven't explicitly tackled yet: Houla massacre: US accuses Iran of 'bragging' about its military aid to Syria  Chris McGreal in Washington Tuesday 29 May 2012 16.51 EDT
Victoria Nuland, the state department spokeswoman, said that Iran's hand is clearly visible in the killing of more than 100 people, including scores of young children, by a Syrian militia group, the Shabiha, which closely resembles an Iranian militia, the Basij.
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"We took this action (expelling Syria's ambassador) in response to the massacre in the village of Houla – absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children, women shot at point blank range by regime thugs, the Shabiha, aided and abetted by the Iranians who were actually bragging about it over the weekend," said Nuland.
This accusation of a clear "Iranian hand" in the massacre might sound about like the picture at right, minus the question mark; the Mullahs in Tehran directly and knowingly assisted in sectarian slaughter like the rebels allege happened in Taldou that day. But the argument - and the Guardian's reason for attaching "Houla Massacre" to this report about general military aid - is kind of roundabout.

The actual accusation, which accompanied the expulsion of Syria's ambassador, was that Iran was helping Syria in general with boosting its local paramilitaries now called National Defense Forces. The derogatory nickname for these - "Shabiha" - does not mean "thug" as widely believed, or anything exactly. It's apparently derived from the militia's original name, Lijan Shabiya, or Popular Committees (sometimes called Local Committees, I think) distorted maybe to imply "ghosts" or the act of tearing a person apart (see here). And they are not an Alawite death cult as widely claimed, but of whatever faith the locals are, and secular in operation. After the Iranian-aided boost, they became the more official and capable NDF we see today fighting and often dying in the field. 

The purely Sunni and largely foreign rebels hate the "Shabiha" and from 2011 forward have blamed them for a slew of horrific crimes, most notably this Houla Massacre, creating a mythical, cartoon villain version of the real militias. This is the version Nuland is talking about.

It's never alleged that Tehran helped directly in the operation of the massacre itself, just that they sent their barbarity over to take root as its own Syrian version, with continued general assistance, and that led to the killings. The State Department analysis, as passed on by Nuland, found similarities between the "Shabiha thugs" and the Iranian Basij militias. But if "the Basij and the Shabiha are the same type of thing," as Nuland says, that does not mean they're definitely organized by the same people. Models can just be copied, or naturally wind up the same, as with adaptation in the wild.

But there was a more concrete sign of a connection alleged: The Guardian piece continues:
Nuland further implicated Iran by drawing attention to the timing of a claim by the deputy head of its Quds force, Esmail Ghani, that it has played a "physical and non-physical" role in Syria, and that if it were not present "the killing of citizens would be greater."

Nuland noted the timing of this, coming over the weekend immediately after the killings in Houla. This "Bragging" just then could have one of two non-coincidental reasons, depending how the evidence pans out:
1) They were excited to be involved in the genocide against Sunnis and hoped to help expand the killing (the implication of State's allegation)
2) They were excited to help the local militias prevent more destabilizing terrorist massacres like that, in their allied nation of Syria.
The quote included "if (Quds) were not present "the killing of citizens would be greater."" Well, that's not option 1) unless they're talking in code, as State probably meant to imply. These were candid, intercepted calls? And that's the juiciest quote they could find? Sounds to me like they're talking, honestly, about option 2, expressing worries that wind up being the ones supported by the best evidence.

It turns out rebel-supplied video evidence of the events of May 25, carefully analyzed, contradicts the rebel-supplied narrative on which all the Shabiha blame is based. Opposition sources said rebels were in charge in the "village" of Houla (but were really in charge of most of the 3-town area), but they ran away under regime shelling of the "village." This let the local Shabiha, mostly from a few nearby Alawi (Alawite) villages, march in to murder random Sunni families. This is the version Nuland referred to.
Taldou, security posts vs. massacre sites

But the scant video shows no government attack, and instead shows that Sunni rebels shouting Allahu Akbar attacked security posts on the day of the massacre, overrunning the last government-held part of the Houla region. This was the southern half of the southernmost town of Taldou, and it was immediately before the lamented families were massacred in southern Taldou, behind that erased line of protection. (see The Battle for the Houla Massacre, report with all lodged challenges and updates, here).

So who would be best positioned to carry out a massacre there on that day? Maybe the same folks who wound up with all the bodies after? That would be the anti-government forces, FSA and probably al-Qaeda, supported in myriad ways by the United States and its allies. With actual video evidence, not just words, ... well I wouldn't say Washington's hand is clear in this massacre of whole families in Syria, but... that would be way way closer to the truth than blaming Iran and the defenders they were supporting.

Taldou defenders, Iranian-backed
Any proto-NDF Popular Committees fighters involved in the battle for Taldou would be local defenders who, like their colleagues in the Army, were unable to stop that unprecedented rebel assault. In fact the guy in civilian clothes laid out here, with some soldiers killed in the Battle for the Houla Massacre, might be one of them. (Source: ANNA News video, Taldou, May 26 - composite view)

We don't know for sure who the civilian victims really were, but the more credible witnesses and sources - the ones who mentioned the rebel attack rebels themselves deny - have a prevailing explanation. According to them, the victims were of 2 types, one being Sunnis (mostly named al-Sayed) accused of rejecting the rebellion, being in the military, or having a family relation to a member of parliament (secretary Mashlab, just sworn-in).

But the major part of the victims were former Sunnis who converted to Shi'ism That was the extended Abdulrazaq families, with intermarried others totaling as many as 90 of the 100+ civilian victims (see here for that little-known tidbit). The most credible version says they were Shia (Shi'ites), members of the same majority religion in Iran, of which Assad's Alawi faith is a localized offshoot. Sunni extremists hate Shi'ism worse than anything, and faith traitors who would willingly embrace it.
 
So ... 
"We find it interesting that it was on this very weekend that the deputy head of the Quds force decided to take credit for the advice they're giving to Syria," she said.

No one could deny it was likely the Houla Massacre that spurred Ghani to this discussion. On the weekend following a great loss of civilian lives, of coreligionists no less, massacred by rampant Sunni extremists, they were overheard discussing how to boost local defense forces to stop further massacres. This is Nuland's idea of shady timing, but they "brag" only that if they and their help weren't there, "the killing of citizens would be greater."

State suggests that's code for wanting to kill more. But it's far more likely Nuland and so many others are seriously talking in an established code when they go on about saving lives. The Houla Massacre had to give Victoria Nuland a hard-on. This bleeding of Syria - by destabilizing terrorist events just like that - is essential to the script, and she knows it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Three Years After Houla: Lessons Remembered, Forgotten, and Never Known

May 26, 2015
(last edits May 29)

It's now been three years since the once-pivotal "Houla Massacre" of about 110 civilians in the last government-held part of the al-Houla region, on May 25, 2012. To this day, our work (the research by A Closer Look On Syria (ACLOS - overview post), the two reports from that in 2013 and 2014, this site, and related articles) is still the best reading of the evidence anyone has ever assembled towards understanding the event. With my improvements, the Wikipedia page is not quite as horribly misleading as it was (still planning on other revisions). And nearly a year after I published the challenge space, still no errors called out even where I sought it out. Many can still claim they've just never seen this but no one can claim it's been addressed or debunked.
 
Yasmeen Adel Abdulrazaq, with 2014 morgue photo at right
To mark the date, I will finally upload to the CIWCL site Houla Massacre Victims, 2014 Morgue Photos (graphic), 30-page PDF document collecting victim photos from a short-lived opposition site on Facebook (PDF direct download link). The family-grouped names, with name-linked photos, was a bit of a treasure-trove of (alleged) information I cited in the 2014 report and in later findings on this site. I finished this PDF, and meant to publish it, back in January. But now, about a year after they were published on Facebook and some months after they were pulled back down, I've made sure these images and attached notes can still be seen and used to help understand the crime.

For newbies, I could re-cap what we've been able to establish. But that's summarized somewhat in the long comment below, and explained in more detail all over this site. I guess a link to Houla Massacre Primer could help for anyone really behind.

And I'll check around to see if any liars or sadly mistaken folks are exploiting the anniversary to push further punishment of Syria's people and the government they rely on. Upon looking, I see Gareth Bayley, UK Special Representative for Syria, is doing that. He penned an Orwellian little piece called "Remembering Houla - Why Sectarianism Cannot Be Part of Syria's Future" May 25, 2015 - at Al-Arabiya and/or Huffington Post - and also on the FCO blog
Three years ago today, a massacre took place in the Syrian village of Taldou in Houla, in northern Syria. According to the UN, 108 civilians were brutally murdered, including 34 women and 49 children. More even than the death toll, the clear sectarian nature of the killings sparked an international outcry. The UN and twelve other countries, including the UK, expelled Syrian diplomats. Three years on, as we look to Syria's future, we mustn't forget the shock and horror of that day, 25 May, 2012.
... (highly slanted and inaccurate political boilerplate to support his upside-down point)...
Final point. Let's keep firmly focused on the need to bring perpetrators of massacres like Houla to justice....
Of course, continuing on the Islamist rebels' fictitious script like this jackass and so many other propose, is putting the perpetrators in power over more and more of Syria's people. They're still in charge of Houla, the first prize the "world community" handed them in thanks for the massacre.

Knife allegedly left behind by Shia (Shi'ite) killers at one of the Houla Massacre sites. Inscription may say "we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Hussein" - the UN's investigators mention this being brought to their attention by rebels who happen to be, or work with, Sunni extremist propagandists.
So I'll also mark the anniversary with a hefty comment there (at the Huffington posting), and also here in case it disappears.
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In the months after the massacre, Mr. Bayley's government along with others was encouraging the rise of a Sunni extremist "prinicipality" in the desert between Baghdad and Damascus, to "Isolate" the "Assad regime." Now he goes on about that terrorism-beleaguered government as the purveyor of the sectarianism leading to ISIS in just that area. Considering what we've heard about the Houla massacre and the like, it makes some sense. However, we hear total nonsense and Orwellian inversions of the truth all the time, whether we recognize it or not ... 

Saad st. RPG incident
I for one am all for remembering the heck out of the Houla Massacre. What we're supposed to forget is that we never did really figure out what happened - we just decided. Gen. Mood's missing report with conflicting stories just went quiet, as everyone heard the other story anyway and blithely dismissed it. Rebel "terrorists?" "What lies!" Not everyone knows this yet, and lucky for people like Mr. Bayley, the Houla Massacre was done immediately after a rebel victory taking out 4 of Taldou's 5 security posts, as careful video analysis all but proves (please see my report The Battle for the Houla Massacre and the associated challenge space that sits empty). The UN's probe (CoI, led by a Washington policy think-tank director) managed to fudge the rebel victory down to two bases, but did so with inadequate reason. These overrun posts were in some cases across the street from massacre sites. 

In that context, government loyalist claims - that rebel "terrorists" had murdered government-supporting Sunnis, relatives of the parliament's news secretary, and former Sunnis who converted to Shi'ism - make more sense than most would like. In fact, in lining up with the video evidence of a rebel victory, it becomes the leading theory. It carries far more weight than do the illogical and inconsistent stories from rebel-supplied "witnesses" and "survivors." Consider: everyone cites the UN and the rebel witnesses, but they disagree; the CoI mentions half of the Battle for the Houla Massacre while the "survivors" deny it altogether. It seems the CoI was fudging between the truth and the rebel lie, carefully coming out closer to the lie side.

It's an un-realized scandal, the whitewash of the rebels' Houla Massacre. And we don't know who drew the blades here. Jabhat al-Nusra - the first beneficiary of the West's pro-Islamist strategy in Syria and Iraq - in an early form is quite likely. This al Qaeda group now runs much of the north of Syria, getting regular help from the "White Helmets" Mr Bayley lauds. He presumes since they're a Western PR stunt they must be pro-freedom and equality like they say, but the "White Helmets" often wave the black flag behind which JaN (aka not-ISIS) executes government loyalists and Alawites at will. And so in all corners of Syria, Sunni extremist sectarianism is increasingly a part of Syria's future as British/Western/allied policy works like intended - that is, the more and more Syria as a sovereign nation ceases to exist.

Thanks for allowing this contrary view to be aired.
---
(shorter version also at al-Arabiya in 2 parts - but these don't appear and bizarrely, links to the article always say 404 not found error - you have to search it and click the link from Bayley's page to see it - at least I do. Can anyone else try? Click the link http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/05/25/ or paste into a new window and you get 404? Same exact url you see once you do find it) (a couple day later: still did not appear - only one comment, also critical. I left a third saying "I submitted a comment in two parts, the second one ending with a thanks for allowing a contrary view. They weren't approved." Headed "thanks for nothing?"
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I also have some thoughts coming (not ready yet) about the recently classified DIA documents showing conscious plans to foster an Islamist menace between Syria and Iraq - what eventually spawned ISIS/Daesh and before that and some hope after that, spawned al Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusra - and how this strategy sits in the timeline: after the Houla Massacre but before the emergence of JaN and its captured chlorine and "kitchen sarin" - and before the escalating string of chemical massacres leading up to the Ghouta alleged Sarin attack of August 2013 that supposedly killed over 1,000 civilians and nearly got the rebels a direct foreign military intervention.

Also we could say it's to mark Houla that I'll re-mention a recently revived investigation of some finer points of the Ghouta Chemical Massacre(s) (the hub for that) and a recent re-publication of al-Bayda massacre findings - for a powerful Houla-Ghouta-Bayda triumverate. These three primate massacres are arguably the three most called on in support of eliminating the "Assad regime." And to varying degrees (high to extreme) we have reclaimed all three - besides many others of less influence - from slavery to rebel lies, and set them on a better path towards truth and maybe even justice. That hasn't been widely noticed yet, but it's true.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Houla Massacre Images that Weren't (Graphic)

January 10, 2015
(modified from ACLOS)
last edits June 2, 2015

Everyone knows the photo at right is not from the Houla Massacre as the BBC had briefly said, but from Iraq, following the exhumation of a mass grave in May, 2003. Did no one even notice this shows several times the reported number of dead bodies in Houla? It was quickly called out and redacted to a different photo. The photographer who captured that image, Marco DeLauro, told the UK Telegraph on May 28 “What I am really astonished by is that a news organization like the BBC doesn't check the sources and it's willing to publish any picture sent it by anyone: activist, citizen journalist or whatever. ... Someone is using someone else's picture for propaganda on purpose.”

From there, we'll focus on more horrible images, without professional photographers involved, that still have people fooled. Some of the most appalling violence displayed by other activists as part of the Houla Massacre, especially that done to children, is genuine; torn-off jaws and hacked skulls at least happened to kids that day. But some of that worst of the worst imagery in that category was added with more recycled images.

1) Mohammed Family: The "Examiner" for example includes in an emotive slideshow a particularly horrible (graphic!) scene, captioned: "A family, all victims of the Houla massacre." In the video on youtube, you can hear the cameraman from the Free Syria army break into tears (courtesy of Days of Syrian Rage Facebook English Facebook page unless noted)" Actually, that's from from a mini-massacre in the dark days of Homs, January 30, 2012. This was in the Karm al-Zaytoun district of Homs city, they say say. Father, mother, four young children, mutilated, apparently tortured before death.

2) March KaZ Victims: One room full of men, women, and mangled children turns out to have been already aired after the March 11, 2012 Karm al-Zaytoun Massacre, same district as above. These extra-gruesome images have been used by both sides to blame each other for the Houla Massacre, and wrongly so (eg Vox Clamantis, Oweiss-Reuters, see below). A girl with her eye shot out/brain protruding, in a pink coat, is the most famous victim. If she's in the spread, it's from this massacre, with fascinating research backing it - see the link. Rebels are heard calling the KaZ victims "sheep" on one video, and it's said they were herded to one apartment in batches to be slaughtered.

3) Khaled al-Fares, May 17: VDC lists 10 Homs martyrs on May 17, including 5 from Houla (sub-town not specified). One is the executed pharmacist discussed here, shot or hanged, the rest killed by "shelling" A woman, a man, another man named (as given)  Mohammad Al-Faris, and his possible son, Khaled Abdulkarim Al-Faris, age 4, mother's name Nafia. Of the "shelling" victims, only the last has, or had, supporting imagery.

Video of the martyr video 1 (unavailable) - video 2 (private) - from elsewhere, another video (unavailable) - another yet at Daily Motion is still viewable, and could be the same child with shirt still on - dated May 17. It looks like his throat has been massively torn, and he lived long enough to stuff his hands in the wound and get that dismayed look on his face, which can be seen clearer in a set of two photographs.

This image is what Alex Thomson must mean when he says a local man showed him video on his cell phone, “of two children, their throats slit so deeply they are virtually decapitated.” There are two famous photos of Khaled, looking almost like two different children. As once seen here, (now gone - still at this Kuwaiti forum post) there's also a photo where he's rolled over - he's got a serious wound in the side and middle of the back, plus little nicks all over from exploding fragments, maybe, and then the throat elimination.
 
The alternate views of Khaled Alex Thomson may have
taken for a second child
These moving images have been re-used many times since for subsequent Syria massacres, and according to this Urdu site, exposing efforts to use this to blame Shia killers in Pakistan, in November 2013, and sow fresh discord there. One wonders if it was used to rile up or inspire the Houla Massacre perpetrators a week later, as they tore the jaw-necks off at least two kids to a similar horrifying effect.

This Houla local talking to Alex Thomson should know the video is from a week before the alleged Shabiha assault. Little Khaled did have a possible relative - Osama Fares - killed on the 25th in the Houla Massacre (first listed as killed by shelling, later changed to field execution - unlike Khaled), possibly on the militant side, possibly not. But Khaled was not slaughtered May 25, but on May 17, less likely by "shelling" than by, say, a claw hammer. We do not know who, in rebel-held al-Houla, would have done this, nor why.

Oweis Double-Whammy: Reuters' Khaled Yacoub Oweis got all the horrible ones, as if he needs any help short-circuiting logic in favor of emotive regime-blaming. He cites three extra-grisly videos, one of which sounds like a May 25 video ("Saad Street RPG Incident"). The others are exactly the two above:
Other footage and pictures posted on the day of the killings showed a child with its throat slit, with what appear to be burn marks near what may be an entrance wound on the upper rib cage.
That sounds like Khaled al-Fares. A Houla kid, but killed a week earlier and not to worry, by "shelling," not "Shabiha."
Another showed a girl, apparently shot in the right eye, blood soaking the right side of her clothing.
There's a similar-looking girl in Houla, but covered. The blood down the right side clarifies he's talking about the famous pink-coat girl from the Karm al-Zaytoun scene. Oddly enough, the report citing that photo for the wrong event was titled "Families herded "like sheep" to die in Houla massacre." - when - and this is worth repeating here - rebels are heard calling the KaZ victims "sheep" on one video, and its said they were herded to one apartment in batches to be slaughtered. Despite the event mismatch, the title and one cited picture wound up lining up pretty well.

Another Double-Whammy: Lebanese forum A Separate State of Mind shared Houla victim photos that inluce the KaZ scene (third row, middle) and Khalid (fifth row, middle). The picture to the left of Khalid is also questionable, but hasn't been pinned to anything else yet. Their second batch of photos seems to be all legit.

Add: Government loyalists do it too. This picture of what appears to be a boy from a loyalist family, from a video, has been widely pushed as a victim of the Houla Massacre. It was even considered by the UN's CoI (see June, 2012 report) as evidence for possible rebel guilt over the events of May 25. However, he's a victim of an April 5 Houla Massacre, about 6 weeks too early, as early postings and contemporary records bear out. The stricken home is geo-located in Taldou, east of town center. Rebels blame the government side for this as well, but clues suggest it was the rebels who killed this loyalist family. An uncle of the Farouq Brigade's Abdulrazaq Tlass (a leader of the May 25 attack) was killed in fighting in the "Houla countryside" at this time.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2014 Report: Main Challenge Space

Post created July 6, 2014
last edits February 12, 2015

July 20 Note: The report is now available and discussion could start anytime - but no rush. Have a read first.
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Here I start my call to challenge the CIWCL's new report I just authored:
The Battle For The Houla Massacre: The Video Evidence Explained (and the rest reconsidered)
(PDF direct download/view link - 60 pages but digestible and with lots of
pictures and extras - download page with short summary here).

This post will gather links to specific arguments/challenge points, suggested by myself or readers, and gather the best challenges and note any corrections thus forced. I anticipate correcting a few things myself, but hope that others will join in.

Especially helpful would be anyone from the millions of people pre-conditioned to discredit the report's findings, but patient enough to actually show why one should, rather than just presuming it. It's a sacrifice to get specific and run the risk of being specifically wrong. I ask people to now take that risk, as we are with this report and other research.

July 12: Challenge Approach
I'm open on just how to approach this, but this is my first thought:
1) Readers who read the report and think they have a serious challenge - or even a question - can first do so here, in a comment.
2) If it turns out interesting enough, that and the related discussion could then be copied or even moved (you can run out of space here!) to a new post where it's related, with space below for further discussion on that narrower subject.
3) Each of these would be given a link in this post and brief notes as warranted. Any corrections we consider sufficiently justified will be made, noted, and become their own parts of the investigation thereafter.
4) If you're not sure you have a point but think you might ... it's a question. Go research to find out, or ask me. Ex: "this part ... sounds like it can't be right. What is that based on? You cite "x" but I don't get how..."
5) A better idea on approach would be a better idea. So bring that too if you have one.

July 20 Ground Rules: 
I hope to get people from different perspectives commenting and debating here, and over an emotive topic (and maybe off onto related emotive topics) So ... let's keep it on or close to topic. Attack the argument, not the arguer. Swearing is fine, but let's be respectful to each other, try to find even small agreements when possible, and stay constructive.

Serious, engaged efforts are preferred, obviously, to the kind of self-amused drive-by "duh-bunking" I've encountered so often when engaging with mainstream "skeptics," mindless defenders of the status quo (some call them "government plants," but I think "corporate media vegetables" captures the essence better).

December 12, Broad Response Invitation: Six months in ... to help get things moving, you can mention
- a typo or suspected error you spot
- statements of agreement or disagreement (specific)
- suggestions (NOT soliciting new source material unless it's a video and you've checked it against all those cited and know it's new - let's not clog the comments with reposts and guesses - I doubt it will be an issue)
- questions (like how we decided on a point), etc.

The best comments will directly discuss videos we cited and the content of them.

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Special Challenge Spaces
* Eliot Higgins: Brown Moses on the Hook
If anyone else feels inspired to really review in detail and would like extra space, well there's plenty here now but that will change. I'm open to giving you your own post with fresh slate like Mr. Higgins gets (probably without the snarky set-up). First request should be made in at least one initial comment below.
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Collected Updates:
C1 July 21: because I already know it's needed, a space to review Abdulrazaq-Abbara-Clocktower Connection? re: page 34 in the report.
C2 Dec. 12: (minor)page 41, left-hand graphic: the orange arrow should point to the smaller building just south of the one indicated.
Otherwise, none yet as of December 23 (just started really trying about a week ago).
C3 Feb. 12 2015: I challenged my revised time zone decision. It was right to reflect DST, but that was on top of a wrong time zone, an old error that got set in stone. I thought Syria was in UTC+3 with Iraq, but it's in UTC+2 with Lebanon. I'm embarrassed that underpins most of my/our Syria research. All times given, from sunset across, back down an hour, with minor effects on narrative lineup.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Victims: Other = Abdulrazaq

December 29, 2014
last edits January 9, 2015

One of the more interesting findings we (CIWCL-ACLOS) can add to the record of the Houla Massacre came late in the investigation, inspired by patterns traced beneath the May 2, 2013 al-Bayda massacre. A year after Houla, a crime of similar size and even greater barbarity hit a small Sunni village near coastal Baniyas, and was followed the next day with another hideous and more murky massacre in Baniyas itself.

One seemingly minor fact was the single victim Sheikh Omar al-Biassi, a retired Imam who was a known government loyalist and critic of the rebellion. Rebel sources acknowledged this to some degree, but managed to make it seem irrelevant. However ... our research on opposition victim records showed only about 70 reliably-listed victims, to the claims of nearly 170. Of the 69 currently listed at the VDC (it was once 70) 23 are named Biassi (diff. spellings), Fattouh, or Fattouh-Biassi. A further 37 have three other names of families that can be shown to be intermarried with the targeted Biassis. That's 60 victims, out of the cited death tolls of 62, 70, and less reliably 165 and 169. That is, virtually the entire verified part of the massacre is of people with illustrated, apparent relationship - by blood or marriage - to the government-loyalist retired imam.
* http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Al-Bayda_Massacre#The_Imam_and_his_Family
* http://ciwclibya.org/syria/specificcommunites.html
* http://www.globalresearch.ca/media-disinformation-and-coverup-of-atrocities-committed-by-us-sponsored-syria-rebels/5350325

In Houla too there was some reason the two main family groups were singled out. Allegedly, the Sunni Al-Sayed families were picked for being government supporters (related to the new secretary of Syria's parliament, careers in the police and military, non-defected), and the Abdulrazaqs for failing to support the rebels, plus according to some, converting to Shi'ism. The opposition is short on reasons, just pointing out that the victims all were just as Sunni as anyone, mildly anti-government to neutral or passively pro-government and no threat to anyone. Mainly they were just Sunni people, in a Sunni town, massacred by Alawites from just down the road and that had a clear enough story arc.

And perhaps because the alleged indiscriminate distance shelling is important to show the government and its artillery were involved, there was always extra emphasis put on the few victims who appear to have died randomly from that.

The original reading has the listed victims in 4 groups with massacred Abdulrazaq families (app. 60-62 names) being the largest, and the Al-Sayeds category roughly tied with Other/unclear civilian, at about 15-20 each, with the rebel fighters (about 4-6) last, and defending soldiers not even mentioned, of course.

An original list at ACLOS of "other" ignored a few possible rebels to note possible massacre victim family names: Kurdi, Abbara, Al-Sweiee/Alsoiei, Ismael, Harmoush, Zegahi/Zikahi. Scattered clues eventually brought together suggest all of these names - as well as Moussa, Bakour, Hussein, and Arouq - are of families intermarried with the alleged convert Abdulrazaq clan. Some were married right into and died in those homes, some apparently were targeted elsewhere over the relation. It may be there was nothing random about any of the death toll, aside from the actual battle casualties. As explained below, these - when read this way - expand the Abdulrazaq portion of the massacre by 22-23 victims, for about 80 total of the now-best-reading death toll of 110 civilian victims.

Sources: Full citations not ready at the moment. An early rundown by FSA "activist" Akrama Bakour (a very possible perpetrator in the massacre) traced out some of these connections in his early account to the BBC (see here) The rest come from correlating different opposition lists and records, especially the "2014 list" no longer available at its original spot on Facebook. The names as listed by family, compiled in this PDF. The photos it once came with, we'll see...

A generally coherent picture emerges, with some patches of greater mystery and some links tying in clusters of victims being fairly solid. Names that seemingly connect and how:

* Kurdi, Arouq, Hussein +9-10 victims, listed as executed: Akrama Bakour said that Shabiha first "entered the neighbourhood," meaning Saad Street, "and met a shepherd at the entrance. His name is Mahmoud al-Kurdi, and he was with his daughter-in-law and his four grandsons. They shot them, killing them all except the daughter-in-law. She was shot in the thigh and belly area but she is still alive. They then entered the house of Samir Abdul Razaq," which he then clarifies was intimately related to the Kurdis. Besides those named Abdulrazaq, Samir lost "his daughter-in-law Halloum El Khlaf, six months pregnant, with her son Ala'a Abdul Razaq, and Samir's sister-in-law Khaloud El Khalaf, and her daughter, Rahaf Al Hussein - but her daughter Zahra Al Hussein was shot twice but survived."
Khlaf, in all other sources, comes out Kurdi: VDC and the rest list Haloum Hussein al-Kurdi (baby son Alaa is named Abdulrazaq in the lists, so not "other"), Rahaf Hussein, and Khloud/Khalida al-Kurdi.
"Samir's wife was hit with the back of the rifles but she fainted and is now still alive," Bakour continued, ending the Kardi segment with. "Also among the victims in this house were four kids whose father is Fadi al-Kurdi." The best reading is that Fadi al-Kurdi's kids are the same as Mahmoud's "four grandsons" (Omar, Mohammed, Mahmoud, and Mustafa Fadi al-Kurdi), and just mentioned here twice. Otherwise, the second set of four Kurdi kids is missing from everyone else's lists. That's 8 "other" name victims.
Missing from this tally is Mustafa's wife, Zainab Arouq (retained "maiden name") widely listed as a victim, and, according to the 2014 list, listing a Fadi Mahmoud family (his dad should be named Mahmoud) with only two boys, and a 9-year-old girl also named Zainab, and shown in a photo. This may be one of the missing boys re-branded, rightly or not, or another victim not listed before (with two brothers missing here) That's 9-10 names.

* Al-Sweiee +4 boys, executed. These boys aged about 9-11 were always listed, noted by the VDC as having a mother named something like Amama, not listed as a victim. But the 2014 list includes her, as Omamah Abed al-Rahman Abed Al-razaq, 32 years old, married to Bassam Khaled Al-Sweeai (absent, survived) and mother of the four listed boys (Jaber, Hazem, Hatem Bassam al-Sweiee (or Alsoiei) and a Bassam or Bassam Jaber al-Sweiee. That's 4 related "others" and a previously-unlisted Abdulrazaq victim, at least per that source.

* Ismael +2 two women executed: Both of these are clearly married-in women who retained "maiden names." Haloum Ismael, 52 years old, married to Abdelrahman Khaled Abdulrazaq, two adult children Salma and Mahmoud listed as killed with them. Safeera Mouhamed Ismael, 27 years old, married to a Feras Abdelrahhman Abdulrazaq (the above's son?). Two boys age 5 and 9, Hamza and Abdelrahman, werebkilled with extra brutality per the photos with the 2014 list original posting - skull sliced open, jaw torn off. Safira is rare for adult female victims in being shown, with a bloodied face.

* Harmoush +2 One executed, one shelled: Two adult females named Fadia Harmoush, but with different middle names, have long been listed as Houla Massacre victims. One is given in the 2014 list as Fadia Abed Al-Hakeem Harfoush 35, wife of one Ouqba Meysar Harmoush, her maiden name missing. Killed in unexplained shelling. Location unknown. Only the name makes it likely she's related to Fadia Ashraf Harmoush, 25 years old, married to Shaalan Abdelkhalek Abdulrazaq but with the usual maiden name, with 4 kids aged 3-8 killed.

* Zegahi/Zikahi/Moussa +2: The "rebel defector" mentioned two members of this family killed in rebel shelling that seemed accidental even to him. One fighter, firing on the military intelligence HQ on Main Street with a "bazooka," missed and hit the house "next door, killing two members of the family Al-Zegahi, which, as it is said, just have been sitting down and peacefully drunk tea." VDC lists only one who might be killed here, a young man Raed Ishaq Al-Zikahi, but listed as field executed. The other: a wife in an Abdulrazaq home. Previously just Badriah Qadour Moussa, unclear execution victim, age 36 with 5 kids. The 2014 list has Bedreih Abed Al-Kader Al-zukahi, 45 years old mother of the Feisal Shafq Abed Al-razaq, with five children aged 10-14 (as given) and killed with extra brutality. So does Moussa someow translate to Zegahi? Raed's case supports that: one list had a victim Raed Ishaak Moussa dying in his place...

* Bakour +1: Raghda Saed Bakour is listed as the wife of surviving Ayman Abdulrazaq, and mother of five massacred children aged 18 months to 17 years, at least two with skulls sliced open.  

* Abbara +2-?: VDC and most full lists of 108 or so victims include both Ammar Abduljawad Abbara and Mohammed Shafiq Abarra age 27 - both killed by shelling . FSA fghter Akrima Bakour told the BBC one Mohammad Abbara along with "his daughter Amina and her family of seven" were "killed in the massacre" as well as a Mohammed Shafiq Abbara There is an Amina Shafiq Abdulrazaq listed, married with kids named Abdulrazaq. This suggests she married an Abdulrazaq man and, unusually, had that appear as her name rather than the usual here (see above). Was her maiden name Abbara embarrassing? No Mohammed Abbara old enough to have daughter with kids is listed by anyone else. The VDC gives both the Shafiq-named people (Safira and Mohammed) as married with 5 children ... if it were the same five, that would be a family of 7 total. But the 2014 list with family breakdowns says he was married to no victims, and she was married to a Mohammed Refiq Abdulrazaq, not deceased, and only one daughter died with her (Bayan Mohammed Abdulrazaq).
  In short, a lot almost lines up here but remains confused. Any link to the Abbaras remains speculative, but supporting it we have Bakour's listing that excludes the Al-Sayeds, and so seems to focus on the Abdulrazaqs and their relations exclusively. The surrounding name suggestions, and otherwise unexplained "family of 7" all further suggest that was a pretty good guess.
  The Abbara clan would seem wealthy land-owners: the rebel defector mentioned in passing "the house on the northern corner of the square belongs to the family Abbara." In fact,  Wikimapia labels (not 100% reliable) suggest they own most of the land around the center of Taldou aside from the mosque. These show a Daoud Abbara owns the seven buildings around the clocktower post's northwest corner referred to by the defector. Further, they say his grandfather owns the open land and some homes to the southwest of the clocktower, and other Abbaras own buildings just west of these. (see here) As for those killed, which he did not specify as including any Abbaras: "The families were wealthy, but the bandits assumed them as traitors, because these families have never supported the armed rebels through donations."

Furthermore...
VDC list, all shelling and shooting victims, civilian: 7 total, missing a few others. Yousef (shelling) and Bakour (shooting) are likely rebel fighters after all. The other 5 are listed as dying just from "shelling," which should be fairly random. - Mohammad Shafiq Abbara Shelling Ammar Abduljawad Abbara -Yakoub Hussein Abdulrazaq - Fadia Abdul Hameed Harmosh - Fatima Ahmad Abdulaal "She was martyred during displacing because of the shelling" Only Fatima escapes a clear implied link; four of those five random deaths are seemingly related to the Abdulrazaqs - one of them apparently is an Abdulrazaq.


Yacoub, and that actor guy from the strange videos - note how
they don't put any one name on here. 
One post of the 2014 Houla Massacre Facebook page mentions the Saad Street RPG Incident we've studied, and the four seemingly dead men on the street there. This source names all four, intriguingly; Yacoub Hussein Abdulrazaq and both Abbara men, along with Riad Ishaak al-Zegahi. Riad is the one with blasted legs (best fit for a shelling victim, listed as executed). The one who seems to be alive and playing dead is in Yacoub's place: there are photos labeled as him showing the living faker - with his apparent blood-pouch thing still unopened - and other views showing a different guy who appears dead, also labeled as Yacoub - see inset) The other two are given there as the Abbaras (Mohammed being the head-blasted guy, Ammar the chubby intact one - not as middle-aged as I thought, once seen close up).

  The rebel defector said "The second family, who was killed by the bandits, lived in the northwest. Even there, the family Abdul Rasak has a house, and this family has become a victim of the bandits." Perhaps that's Yacoub, and he's from north of this point. Mr. Zegahi may be from Main Street by the intel HQ, and the Abbaras are likely from around the overrun clocktower post. This group may be all the scattered/northern adult male relations of the Abdulrazaqs, mostly listed as random shelling victims. As they appear, they were killed elsewhere and dumped here at the head of the road down which the remainder were being killed. Then they were scooped-up and driven south to be formally integrated into the gathered victims and displayed that way.

So... 22-23 "other" entries that may not be "other," in a civilian death toll of 110 or a bit lower (some of those, like Omamah and young Zainab, were never on those lists). Variously, 57-62 Abdulrazaq names already appear, so we have a total of 79-85 Abdulrazaq-related victims, a clear and overwhelming majority. That plus the 15 known al-Sayed relatives is just about everyone, and only two female victims (Fatima Abdulaal and Dalal Abbas) remain clearly civilian and not clearly linked to one of the target families.

So much for "random shelling," and for random targeting of any and all Sunnis. As with the later Al-Bayda Massacre we started with, the body-scooping rebels claim they just found the victims that way, killed by Shabiha-types, for no other reason than being random folks in a Sunni Muslim town. But beneath that bland brush-off, the details in both cases show a very targeted focus on certain families within these towns. And these are the ones with clear or alleged pro-government sympathies and/or a religious inclination the Sunni extremist rebellion disapproves of. The rebels offer no good reason why Shabiha single out these particular families over and over, and just hope that the world keeps blithely ignoring this recurrent pattern of brutality and deceit.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Abbara Victim Photo Mysteries (Graphic)

January 12, 2015

Yet another newly-identified clue come from the fascinating, and now-unavailable 2014 Houla Massacre Facebook page. There's one victim they didn't include in their list of 105 victims, but set aside in his own post for "Gheiyath Abed Samad Suliman - 28 year old. The first martyr at Houla massacre - Died during tank bombing at the Town 25-5-2012" This featured two photos, one with a man looking intact, if hit in the head with a rifle butt, perhaps, and the second one showing a man with a head largely crushed.
The clear conclusion one is led to is that Mr. Suleiman's head was somehow smashed apart after he was dead and in opposition hands. However, a cursory look at the photos shows these are two different men with different faces and hair, different skin tone, facial hair density, etc.

Which one is Suleiman and who is the other man? Well, the first face doesn't look familiar from anyone else. Neither does the second one, really. But that gray-brown blanket with green trim does look familiar. I only just now noticed this and made the connection. It's clearly the same type, if not the same one, seen here:
A photo released at the time of the massacre, matching one of the 4 "Saad St." victims, not included at the 2014 Facebook page, but clearly of the victim they name as Mohammed Shafiq Abbara (below, stretched from original).
 
He was first seen, I think, on that same blanket as supposed Mr. Suleiman. And upon review, the victim on it in each view seems to have the same type of chin and hair cover, lower lip offset as, and longish hair, as far as can be seen.

What they seem to lack is consistent head damage. As we've seen him so far, Mr. Abbara's face stops at about the eyes. He does not seem to have enough forehead remaining to match.

Is it possible all in that top view is present in all views, just looking better once tucked together? If so, that's it, we just have another view, falsely attributed.  I haven't reviewed the videos yet, but it seems possible ... but also unlikely. I cannot really see the bottom view here unfolding into the top.

If not, what could happen to an already busted-up body to worsen it to this degree? Dragging from the back of truck for bit might do it. Another RPG blast, perhaps. If anything was done, it was after that first photo and before he was seen on the street with no blanket, around 7:15 PM, fully damaged. The other blanket photo is presumably after that scene, since they first found him just killed without it. but ... wouldn't it be interesting if both blanket photos were from before 7:15? Was the first image, apparently taken in the dark with a flash, taken this early, well before sunset? Perhaps, indoors with no electricity (there was none, someone cut it at the time of the rebel offensive). But at the moment, I'm not sure. Anyone else have a thought on this?

And as for the blanket - it's got a lighter border with Arabic writing in it. It's been said some rebel views show saying National (Watani) Hospital, a place rebels never admit they got to. I couldn't make it out, but this is the only blanket I've noticed with any writing. The hospital is well south of the place this guy was seen, further yet from the place he likely lived (near the clocktower), and on the other side of defenses that seem active for some time. So maybe all blanket images are from later on, and the intact face thing is just an illusion.   

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Pharmacist Explained?

January 9, 2015

from http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Al-Houla_Before_and_After_the_Massacre#Medical_Personnel_Killed

Both pro-government and anti-government sources agree a pharmacist was murdered somewhere in al-Houla sometime around the massacre of May 25. An older woman told ANNA News after that event "police positions were attacked. All the soldiers were killed, then they attacked our villages, torched a hospital in Al-Houla. Bandits killed our pharmacist next to the pharmacy for the fact that he has treated a wounded soldier." She makes it sound a bit like that was part of the 25th's violence, but it is set aside, after mentioning the hospital, and amidst talk of numerous attacks: recently "the number of terrorist attacks increased." So it's quite possible she just refers to a recent event.

So, a week earlier, opposition activists posted this video: Homs, houla 17 5 2012 martyr pharmacist Khaled almsfa who aghtalth the hand of treachery (translated). The opposition VDC lists a Khalid Mustafa killed this day in Hula by "shooting." Videos cited: 1 (same) 2 (private, was probably the same) But they say Mustafa is not his real name: the video description adds "martyr pharmacist Khalid al-Barrak البراك known as the ((Khalid Mustafa) which اغتالته Assad's gangs, just because he reach the wounded." Same premise the woman mentioned, but not the same killers. (same video given as "Pharmacist, martyr Khaled Abarrak" per LCC/Uruknet daily report)

It shows a younger or at least fit man, deceased, in rebel hands. The quality is poor and dark, but we can see that his neck has a band of extreme red all around it. It's not cut, just burned raw maybe, as if by friction. That's not shooting; some kind of hanging is implied.

Another posting of the same video suggests identity problems: Houle, Yet another unidentified corpse found on the road murdered by Assad's.17-5-2012 video gone, but another of the same name was posted Aug. 10, but with 17 5 in the title. This is the same 0:39 video, one posting available in here with English subtitles. These say he's unidentified, despite the title in some postings.

Now consider May 2012-05-18, Syrian Crisis Updated by the (not pro-rebel) Syrian Center for Documentation, via Voltairnet archive. The following day, they report as recent news "Armed rebels kill Mustafa Al-Hijjo and hang him on a tree in front of his house in Al-Hwleh area of Homs countryside."

If his house and his pharmacy are the same, this is how the woman described it. She just said killed, not hanged, but the rebel video shows a hanged pharmacist. The name Hijjo seems to be the one sometimes rendered Hajjow = حجو. The VDC shows no one of that name dying at this time; if they listed him at all, it's as Khalid Mustafa. So it seems likely this is all the same man, named Mustafa al-Hajjo, ironically re-named at death Khaled (immortal) Mustafa. Then maybe to clarify Mustafa is not part of his real name, they give his actual real name as Khalid al-Barrak - immortal and blessed.