One Cylinder – Two Attacks
Date of alleged incident: 20 November 2016
Date of report: 11 July 2019
In this short investigation, I will look into a historical case from November 2016 in Aleppo when the same “chlorine cylinder” was used in two separate “attacks” 24 hours apart. The first of which is even more suspicious looking than the second and yet this was the one geolocated by Bellingcat.
I stumbled across the incident as I was in the process of uncovering how Eliot Higgins used an image of an alleged chlorine cylinder from an alleged attack on December 2016 to claim another alledged attack in March 2017. To add insult to injury the December 2016 claim and photo of the munition was written about on his website, Bellingcat. This, from a man, trusted for his investigative skills. Worth bearing this instance in mind going forward.
According to Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert, the (first) incident is alleged to have occurred on the “Al-Bab Road District” of Aleppo at around 16:30 on the 20 November 2016.
Incident 4: Al-Bab Road district
Location: Al-Bab road district near Al-Helwanyeh roundabout, Aleppo city
Date: November 20, 2016, around 16:30
Reported casualties: no information
Claimed chemical: chlorine gas
Alleged perpetrator: Syrian government
He links to several videos of the alleged impact site, one of which is from the “Aleppo Media Center (AMC)”,
It’s supposed to show a man by the name of “Othman” who, according to Christiaan, “claims to be a lawyer and activist working for the Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability”. Othman, was straight to the scene when he heard the attack happen and took possession of the chemical bomb for safekeeping (as you do straight after one lands). But I’m sure his dust protector will keep him safe.
Othman, who claims to be a lawyer and activist working with the Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability, says that a helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder near the Al-Helwanyeh roundabout. He went to the location of impact to document the attack, and said he found a cylinder which is 1 meter in length and 25cm in width. The back of the cylinder was exploded, as a whole of around 50 cm indicates, Othman says. A logo of the Al-Baha Company for Caustic Chlorine Industry (BCC) can be seen on the cylinder. There is also a warning written in English on the cylinder that it contains gas.
Interesting to note that Othman was also “an activist” for the “Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability” who themselves were also onsite to record the impact location.
Was this just another example of a random cylinder resting on a road minus impact crater and fragments? Or is the video suggesting the corner of the building was brought down by this cylinder? It is not clear and so far none of my searches have thrown up any mention of this alleged attack that didn’t draw a path back to Bellingcat and Christiaan’s article.
Christiaan, like Eliot, doesn’t question the evidence being presented but in true Bellingcat fashion moves on to describe how “The Bellingcat Investigation Team geolocated the video”. Geolocation they did get correct, this time. But why go to the trouble of geolocating an alleged chlorine attack without addressing the total lack of any substantiating evidence of the claim? That’s akin to going to the trouble of locating a murder site without any evidence of a murder. Pointless.
I believe it is being suggested, as the placement of the cylinder points to, the cylinder was dropped from a helicopter, hit the side of the building and came to rest at the foot of the rubble. I checked the historical imagery from Google Earth to see when the damage was first noted.
The yellow pin denotes Bellingcat’s geolocation and the red pin red, mine. I’ve placed the pin where I believe the cylinder is lying on the street. You will note the side of the building collapsed. The date of the imagery is 21 June 2016. There’s no way that cylinder caused the damage to that building in November 2016, if that is what is being suggested.
If that is not what is being implied, then what is? That the cylinder just came to rest at that location with no impact crater or other shrapnel? It picked an interesting place to land; right beside a damaged building.
Now, where did I see that type of staging before?
That’s right. The 22 January 2018 alleged chlorine attack in Douma. Interestingly, this cylinder, like the one being discussed in this report, also appeared elsewhere, this time on a rooftop of a building. Can you see the patterns emerging?
None of this was mentioned, addressed or even questioned by Christiaan. It was just presented as a claim with supporting evidence and left there. Any impartial investigator who took the time to write about such an alleged incident would surely have taken the time to note how bizarre the claim was in the absence of any substantiating evidence.
I didn’t think it right for me to just leave that bizarre allegation there and move on to other reports that I have been working on. This needed to be looked into in more depth.
Left depicts the cylinder from the “AMC” video and Right depicts the cylinder from the “Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability” video – links to both videos are provided above. I think you’ll share in my confidence they are the same cylinder.
The “AMC” video was uploaded on/at:
Upload Date (YYYY/MM/DD): 2016-11-23
Upload Time (UTC): 16:11:57
The “SIJA” video was uploaded on/at:
Upload Date (YYYY/MM/DD): 2016-11-22
Upload Time (UTC): 10:37:57
Both data were extracted using; (hat tip to Christiaan)
A quick recap on timeline
- Event is alleged to have taken place on the 20 November 2016 at 16:30 UTC
- 22 November, SIJA upload video from their attendance at the alleged impact site
- 23 November AMC upload a video featuring SIJA “activist” and “lawyer” Othman discussing the cylinder
If at first the cylinder fails you, then try again..
After several hours digging around online, and about to give up, I got sidetracked with a strange-looking chlorine cylinder which I began tracking down. I was taken to a website in which I eventually found the above-geolocated cylinder being used again in another alleged chlorine attack.
The video was uploaded on/at:
Upload Date (YYYY/MM/DD): 2016-11-24
Upload Time (UTC): 16:56:28
So, the very next day after it was uploaded by SIJA at a different location.
Let’s bring the images of the three cylinders together for comparative purposes.
Left = AMC Video / Right = SIJT video / Bottom = Al-Jisr video (latter)
Which incident came first, the Bellingcat geolocated claim or the Al-Jisr claim? Obviously working by the upload times you would have to say the Bellingcat one. Though even that was three days after the attack is alleged to have taken place. Given how bizarre that scene looks; a random cylinder just sitting in the street, I would be more inclined to suggest the second claim came first but the video had been uploaded later. That’s just a guess, at present, and I will continue to keep my eyes opened for further supporting evidence. What is clear, however, is “evidence” is shared between “activists” to be used in different staging scenarios.
So what does all this tell us?
Well, I believe I have provided verifiable proof of at least one staged chlorine attack and possibly two.
This shows just how easily the opposition can fake evidence, stage scenes and then pass that fakery off to a western audience via the willful ignorance and participation of groups like Bellingcat.
Why would an NGO go to the trouble of geolocating an alleged chlorine attack site that is devoid of any real physical supporting evidence? Then go on to republish those claims from opposition sources without adding a counterbalancing byline mentioning the lack of evidence supporting the claim? Unless, of course, that NGO has no interest in challenging sources that make claims that support their given view?
The claims of chlorine attacks in Aleppo on the 20 November 2016 were also noted by the OPCW in a report dated 27 December 2016. This wasn’t simply a case of some random claim that didn’t make it into the news. These were allegations that were taken seriously.
I have now written three reports into alleged chlorine attacks in Syria. I have provided verifiable proof of staging at each of those three locations. These are not the only three, I can assure you. Of those I have looked at, with a degree of inquisitiveness, all have blatant proof, not simply evidence, of staging and fakery.
How and why has this gone unnoticed for so long by so many suggests to me that in this new age of “Open Source Intelligence” a lot of people are scared off by challenging those that proclaim such a profession due to ignorance and lack of self-belief. I’m convinced groups like Bellingcat pray on that ignorance and try to intimidate people into believing their methodology is the one true methodology and any attempt to challenge it, or them, is met with slander, arrogance, and name-calling. Challenge them on Twitter and you’ll be “Blocked”. Try to challenge it in the comment section on their websites and your posts stand a good chance of never appearing.
To control the narrative you must control the flow of debate. These are not the signs of a narrative controlled by the evidence. These are the signs of the evidence being controlled by the narrative.
Until next time.