Date of Incident: 30 March 2017
Location: Al-Lataminah, Syria
Date of Report: 2 September 2019
If you follow me on Twitter you may be aware that I have been investigating the use of sarin in Lataminah on 30 March 2017. Having already completed an investigation into the alleged use of chlorine on the hospital in the same town on March 25, 2017, I was drawn to this particular incident whilst watching a presentation by Eliot Higgins at Goldsmiths in London as part of his Ted Postol debate.
In his presentation, he showed a video clip of White Helmet rescuers taking samples from the alleged impact location. Immediately upon seeing the clip, my eyes were drawn to an opened Hazmat suit. How did Eliot miss this especially given he selected the clip and was broadcasting it on a huge screen? But thanks to Eliot, bringing this matter to my attention, lead me to uncover quite a bit about what happened at Lataminah that I otherwise may not have.
After being made aware of this discrepancy from Eliot’s presentation I started to dig around for any other footage I could find on the incident. It was whilst watching the various videos posted from the location at the time I began to notice more oddities. Some of these issues I pointed out on Twitter. In this report, I will collate them into one place along with the results of some recent communications I have received from professional bodies.
*The numbers in () denote the section of the FFM report I am referring to.
According to the OPCW-FFM (5.12), at around 06:00 on the morning of March 30, 2017, “witnesses reported…the sound of a jet airplane followed by the sounds from four air-delivered munitions.” The FFM adds a caveat to that by saying, “None of the witnesses interviewed saw the planes drop the munitions.” (5.13)
The same witnesses go on to say: (5.14)
The third detonation had a different, quieter, characteristic than the other three, with no odour and associated smoke being unlike other attacks. At the time of the incident this location was near the confrontation lines.
Whilst not seeing the munitions being dropped one does need to ask what did they see given by their admission the “location was near the confrontation lines”? I’m not sure how their statements would hold up in a court having not seen the incident taking place. It seems a fair question to ask how they drew their conclusions that whatever happened came from a jet when they were in “nearby caves” at the time.
Witnesses describe being in nearby caves at the time of the passing plane and subsequent detonations. (5.13)
Upon exiting from the caves:
Witnesses describe that upon exiting caves, people were shouting and “falling down”. Casualties were shaking, shivering, foaming and becoming increasingly unresponsive. Attempts were made to rescue and evacuate casualties by witnesses and by others. (5.15)
Yet the report goes on to say:
According to the statements of the witnesses, all primary casualties were located in caves in close proximity of the location of the alleged incident. (5.27)Emphasis mine
If those contradictory statements weren’t enough the FFM adds to the confusion in 6.8 of their report:
The FFM noted the low wind speed on the day of the allegation which would facilitate the collection of sarin, being denser than air, in low areas such as underground in caves. However, in this context, it is unclear whether exposure may have occurred inside or outside the nearby caves.Emphasis mine
The focus of this report will be on the alleged “third detonation” which is what is claimed to have caused the sarin release.
Of that “impact site” the FFM says:
The impact point, relating to the third detonation was estimated by witnesses to be 1-1.5 m in diameter and approximately 25 cm in depth. Vegetation appeared burnt and faded for about 20-30 metres and was noted as different to the vegetative damage typically associated with chlorine. (5.28)
For this report, I use open-source videos, the FFM report, and communications initiated by myself with various professional organisations on the topic being discussed.
I begin my investigation based upon acceptance of the official narrative being correct. I then take the evidence and test it against that narrative to see if it holds up.
I aim to establish if what we were told happened, did happen or if there is evidence events may have been staged.
The OPCW-FFM provide this satellite image of a “crater” location and the location of the remnants collected:
The crater marked at the bottom of the FFM image is not the impact location of the alleged aerial chemical bomb. That location is up amongst the debris circle as I have depicted here:
This may seem a bit confusing, and it is as you’ll see.
- Top Left – FFM image showing debris locations
- Bottom – Image of the “crater” site
- Right – Image of the alleged bomb “impact” site
- Red Lines – Distance apart from the crater to debris & impact sites
This is when it began to get very confusing for me. So I will attempt to navigate you through this web of confusion. Please bear with me.
You will recall I mentioned at the beginning that it is alleged an SU-22 dropped four bombs on the area. I will remind you of what the witness told the FFM:
The third detonation had a different, quieter, characteristic than the other three, with no odour and associated smoke being unlike other attacks.
Note again, none of the witnesses interviewed by the FFM saw the bombs dropping.
The “third detonation” is the impact location with the burnt grass, close to the debris. This is where it is claimed the chemical bomb was dropped carrying sarin. The OPCW-FFM does not refer to this location as a “crater” but rather an “impact point”:
The impact point, relating to the third detonation was estimated by witnesses to be 1-1.5 m in diameter and approximately 25 cm in depth. Vegetation appeared burnt and faded for about 20-30 metres and was noted as different to the vegetative damage typically associated with chlorine. (5.28)
Just for completeness, here is the satellite image again. This ‘withered’ grass will be found in the top circle.
All the debris within that circle tested positive for sarin, its degradation products or by-products of its production. But so did gravel from the “crater”. It’s between 160 and 290 yards south from the “impact point” and its associated debris. Yet no apparent debris or remnants were collected from this site thus pointing to there being no bomb dropped there. So what caused the crater? The FFM report doesn’t say yet it is the only location in their report that is referred to as a “crater”.
The White Helmets took soil samples at the crater and 50m away from it. Both samples tested positive for sarin and its by-products.
At the risk of appearing repetitive I supply the FFM’s satellite image again so as I’m sure you’re following my workings. This imagery is quite clear on the area the FFM refers to as the “crater”:
So no doubt there that sarin was found in “gravel” in the crater and 50m away. The FFM does not attempt to explain this discrepancy. Sarin just appeared with no apparent delivery mechanism and given the impact point of the alleged sarin bomb was ≈290 yards to the north one could be forgiven for being suspicious under the circumstances.
The Impact Location
Let’s take a closer look at the impact location and surrounding area were debris was collected.
In this part, I will single out two pieces of debris to give you an example of inconsistencies between narrative and evidence. These exact similarities can be seen over a plethora of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria when both don’t match.
The top image is the FFM’s geolocation of where each piece of debris was collected, according to the White Helmet photographs provided to them. The descriptions below note the item number given to the two pieces along with what they tested positive for. You will note three-item codes per piece and I assume this is due to different parts of the piece being tested such as front, back, sides, etc. But the first five characters are all that matter in this example. I will also draw attention to the dates in the purple box. This is the date the FFM received the pieces. So the incident is alleged to have occurred on March 30, 2017, and the FFM didn’t receive the items from the White Helmets until July 17, 2017.
Here is a still from a short video clip showing both pieces together and in the order as per the FFM geolocation:
What’s odd about these items? Note the piece to the right? It is what is thought to be a filler cap from a chemical bomb and a “unique” piece according to the OPCW-JIM. You will note the square like a piece of metal surrounding it which gives it a rather distinctive characteristic.
Here it is, embedded in the ‘burnt vegetation’ from the impact location.
At the time of handover, the team was informed that all samples were taken by the chemical sample unit of the SCD [White Helmets]. (5.30)
According to the FFM, with regards to its geolocation of the remnants, these were the “Locations of Retrieved Samples”. It seems unlikely the piece would be taken from the crater and photographed on innocent looking land and recorded as being located there. If the item was found in the crater, then surely it would make more sense to state that as the point of location? It may be nothing of great significance but it’s an irregularity I continually see and it doesn’t make sense. That piece, as it turns out, was laden with sarin. So if it was originally uncovered from the impact site it should have been immediately bagged, sealed and stored for testing. Not tossed on the road. You’d assume the Hamish de Bretton-Gordon highly trained “chemical sample unit ” of the White Helmets would have been professional in dealing with such important samples. We can only imagine where it was kept until its handover date on July 17?
You will also note from the FFM “Location of retrieved samples” graphic, each piece is recorded in random spots meters away from each other. To give you an idea, there are ≈35 yards from the tail fin to the filler cap and around ≈80 yards from the tail fin to the fuse. So the narrative is the bomb hit the impact location and the fragments scattered over a wide area, which is not unusual. The point here is none of the parts are recorded as being in the impact site as per the FFM report.
You will no doubt recall the infamous filler cap and lug presented by Eliot Higgins as proof of an M4000 chemical bomb? The FFM report doesn’t note where this piece came from. They don’t add it to their “Location of Retrieved Samples” schematic either so we have no way of knowing exactly where the item was recovered and no evidence, video or otherwise, that it was even at or near the site in question.
We know that it was handed to the FFM by White Helmets on July 18, 2017, along with metal pieces that Forensic Architecture claimed made up the front of the bomb. Oddly, these fragments are also not mentioned in the “Location of Retrieved Samples” or evidenced in photos or videos of the location at that time. These too were handed to the FFM on July 18, 2017. Both items tested positive for sarin.
We have no evidence of where these items came from and given they weren’t handed over to the OPCW for 16 weeks after the event took place, and given they tested positive for sarin after all that time; I suggest this looks a bit suspicious.
How does that fit with the OPCW-FFM’s methodology in collecting and evidencing the debris?
Whilst the munition parts could not be categorically attributed to the allegation of 30 March 2017, their presence at the location, their contamination with sarin and sarin related chemicals, and features consistent with a chemical munition all lend themselves to the likelihood of their being involved in the deployment of a chemical weapon. (6.7)
Where the two items above ‘present at the location’? Well, we don’t know and the OPCW didn’t tell us where they were found or when they were found. They don’t explain how, 16 weeks after an event, sarin can still be present on metal pieces either. So for all intents-and-purposes, these pieces could have come from anywhere and with no established change of custody the fact the OPCW allowed them to be entered into evidence throws a lot of questions up about the integrity of the mission.
What do we know about it? In short, very little. There is no mention in the FFM report of a bomb having fallen there. Neither is there any mention of fragments or debris being collected from the site. All we get is a small image of the “Chemical Sample Unit” collecting, what seems to be, samples.
Yet as shown earlier, the FFM concluded that gravel samples taken from the crater and 50m away tested positive for sarin.
There are few shots of the location of the crater and none, that I can find, of a close-up. However, I did note some interesting pieces from various videos I analysed.
At the beginning of this video, we see the two Hazmat guys in the distance searching for sarin. You will note they are wearing their personal protective equipment, or PPE, (more on this later). Notice, however, the two men standing beside them unprotected? Click the image to enlarge it.
Here is a short video clip of the four men walking towards the location you see them at in the image above.
Again, bear in mind sarin was discovered at this location and surrounding areas. These two unprotected men don’t seem to care. Though, as will later become clear, the two Hazmat guys are not that well protected themselves!
What happened here, we don’t know. If the FFM knows they didn’t tell us. The question is, if there is no evidence of a bomb being dropped at that location and I am unaware of anyone claiming there was, then how did sarin get there? And why were the two onlookers seemingly not concerned about sarin contamination?
There are, of course, questions around sarin persistence and the rate it disperses. I note Eliot Higgins read an article on it and then proclaimed expertise on the subject:
I won’t be so brave or arrogant to proclaim such expertise even though I’ve read many studies on the subject. Estimates depend on, in no particular order, earth type, terrain, weather, temperature, and humidity. It could be anything from 3-4 hours to 24 hours in this case. I asked an expert in hazard substance handling what would be the procedure in this instance, given the video was uploaded to Youtube 24 hours after the alleged sarin attack took place. He said only a fool or someone not trained would approach such a crater unprotected under those circumstances. ‘Given that sarin was claimed to have been found at the crater means that whilst gaseous exchange might not have been the main danger but touching contaminated samples, or earth, would be.’ He was dismayed at the video and said it looked staged.
I will leave that explanation open for you to judge or for anyone with expertise in the area to rebut. Anything I would say on the matter would be a guess.
White Helmets – Chemical Sample Unit
This investigation started as a short report into the capers of what the FFM refers to as, “the chemical sample unit of the SCD.” It was after watching a video of these men in action, from the Higgins presentation, did I decide there was enough there to warrant closer inspection and to seek outside expert opinions.
At the time of handover, the team was informed that all samples were taken by the chemical sample unit of the SCD. A member of the chemical sample unit who took the samples was present at the handover and provided information on every sample. This information was supported by interviewing the same person and by photographs handed over at interview. The information was corroborated by interviewing two additional members of the chemical sample unit of the SCD. (5.30)
Three times in one paragraph is evidence the FFM wanted to drive the point home to the reader the White Helmets have a “chemical sample unit”. I, like you probably, was expecting to see some elite, highly trained team of experts. Instead what I uncovered was a group of inexperienced men, with clearly no idea what they were doing and wearing ineffective gear whilst doing it.
Watch this short clip and then I’ll break several points down for you:
In the first part of the video, you will see a White Helmet rescue worker zipping up his colleague into a “Gas Tight Suit” or GTS. I will draw your attention to the damage on the gloves and wrist seals as denoted by white squares in the image below. More on this shortly.
The video then goes on to show, presumably, the same rescue worker at the “impact location” (you will recall this location from earlier as being different from the “crater”).
I spotted something unusual as he was taking samples from the crater though:
He wasn’t zipped up! This will help explain what I mean:
The orange lines show the zip attachment line. You can see it’s opened in the right picture. Yet this scene followed on from seeing him being zipped up in the video. So even if we accept the video was innocently a cut and paste of various video clips it still shows the rescue worker in a sarin laden crater taking samples, unprotected. So at some stage, there was propaganda attempt to show the rescuers being zipped up and sent out to investigate. Remind yourselves that this is just after an alleged sarin attack and the samples collected tested positive for sarin. Yet the men were unprotected.
I noted the damage to the gloves, but how is this significant? These (outer) gloves use a special lining that ensures they remain “chemical-resistant” and shield the user against contamination. Any damage to this layer deems the protection offered, useless. The outfit is intended to encapsulate the body to maintain a positive internal airflow and remain vapour and liquid tight. ANY chink in this chain renders the protection offered by the entire suit as null and void.
So if one wishes to argue about sarin persistence in the vapour form not posing a health risk after a period then they need to also explain how lifting sarin contaminated gravel, with damaged handwear doesn’t pose a threat. And if no threat was posed then why even use the GTS gear?
I also noticed one of the suits was, quite blatantly, marked “Training” on the back. Something that even the experts over at Bellingcat missed.
Here is the video the image was taken from as the men walk towards the “crater”:
So I set out to learn about the differences between training suits and fully operational suits.
After doing some image searches online I noticed the Shropshire Fire Service, in the UK, had quite a few pictures posted of their firefighters dressed in these same dark green Hazmat suits during training exercises for dealing with hazardous materials.
Here is one such image:
There was no doubt these were the same suits so I decided to contact Shropshire FS to find out a little more.
I asked were these suits only used by Shropshire or all the Fire & Rescue Services in the UK? They are indeed used by the entire FRS.
I asked what the numbers on the faceplate denoted and was advised;
- TR = Training
- 107 = GTS Number (number of suit)
- 14 = Year the suit was put into service (all suits must be replaced after 5 years of service)
I asked what the “TGT 450” would have signified on the suit worn by the White Helmet. The 450 would be a reference for the company who purchased these suits and the TGT would likely signify “Training Gas Tight”.
I was informed these suits are purchased from a company called, Respirex International. So I decided to Google to see if the suits were specific to them or a generic make sold by different companies.
It was on their website I spotted this claim:
Fixed or detachable Hazmax™ FPA safety boots – Exclusive to RespirexEmphasis mine
What do these boots look like? And had I saw them before?
So the boots are “Exclusive to Respirex” and the White Helmets are wearing these boots, albeit the training type. So it isn’t a big leap to ascertain where they are buying them from and these suits are exclusive to Respirex too. But who is doing the purchasing?
…advanced training and equipment are being provided by an international charity called MayDay Rescue.
Who are MayDay Rescue?
The Mayday Rescue Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation registered in the Netherlands specialised in training, equipping, and assisting volunteer emergency first responders in areas of conflict, instability, and natural disaster. Its mission is “saving lives, strengthening communities.” It was established by James Le Mesurier, a former British Army officer and United Nations staff member, in 2014, and currently operates primarily in the Middle East through offices in Turkey and Jordan.
I asked James Le Mesurier about this “advanced training and equipment” he is providing to the White Helmet group that he founded;
No interaction. No comment. He blocked me. I guess James didn’t want it made known that he was providing the White Helmet rescuers with dangerous ineffective gear that would expose them to whatever hazardous materials they were dealing with.
As for the “advanced training”? Well, that’s a bit strong given one guy forgot to zip himself up whilst his colleagues stood beside him wearing their normal clothes. Then there’s this;
Does that look like the stuff of a highly trained “chemical sample unit”?
Where is MayDay Rescue based?
Stichting Mayday Rescue is a not-for-profit organisation registered in the Netherlands under the Chamber of Commerce registry no. 64492915, RSIN no. 855689493.
Do Respirex International have a distributor in the Netherlands?
Distributors in Netherlands
Vandeputte Safety B.V.
Karolusstraat 14a, NL-4903 RJ
Phone: +31 162 48 64 00, Fax: +31 162 42 70 50
I contacted Respirex for a comment but as of the time of publishing this report I haven’t received a response.
Self-proclaimed chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta, who doesn’t have any qualifications in chemistry, suggests the relevancy of these suits is not important.
Dan preemptively blocked me on Twitter, having never exchanged views, then somehow spotted my tweet on the training suits being used and decided to comment on it knowing I wouldn’t see it. It was subsequently brought to my attention on Twitter:
Had Dan initiated contact with me I would informed him that I agree. But I would have then asked him to explain how sarin goes on to live on pieces of debris for 16 weeks, without a chain of custody or evidence as to how they were stored?
@MichaelNo2War makes a good point on Twitter:
“They couldn’t know if the suspected chemical is persistent or not.” and neither they could. How would they have known at that stage they were dealing with sarin? Dan’s advice to them seems to be; ‘never worry, you’ll be fine’.
However, what Dan inadvertently does is lend my theory, that the White Helmet, “chemical sampling unit”, is a ‘for show unit’ and the training suits useless and for propaganda purposes only, more credibility. Given that Dan believes these GTS suits are no use, in this instance, then how does he suggest the samples taken, that tested positive for sarin, were collected, and by whom?
Dan is an interesting character that people have strong opinions on, not least of all given his, let’s say, very strange use of language:
That’s what a self-proclaimed chemical weapons expert looks like in 2019. I will leave it up to you to deduce your own views on this gentleman.
Expert Opinion on Hazmat Suits
I contacted Lakeland EU, which is one of the largest distributors of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in the world. I was put in touch with one of their experts whom I asked if he could explain the differences between fully operational GTS suits and “training” suits. This was his reply:
Fully operational Level A suit is the suit ready for work either in regular operations or “in case of emergency”. Each suit has to be regularly inspected visually and pressure tested with proper equipment to make sure it meets the requirements of safety standards. Each Level A suit has defined “shelf life time” which is usually between 5 and 10 years depends on manufacturer. This means you can store the suit in defined conditions and don’t use it in real emergency for even 10 years. Having said that, you still need to make visual inspections and pressure tests with suits on regular basis (which is usually every six months).Emphasis mine
Training suit is the suit you can use either for training purposes for emergency teams or for presentation purposes for sales people. Training suits are not allowed to use in real emergency situations. They are only demonstration suits and they do not guarantee proper protection against gases. Usually training suits are those which are older than “shelf life time” but have not been damaged or contaminated.
I showed how the gloves on one of the suits were damaged. An expert went on to advise me that these suits would not even be useful for presentation purposes. Yet the White Helmets used them to gather positive sarin samples.
I think that conclusively draws distinctive lines between training and fully operational suits. There isn’t a grey area here. It’s black or white.
Now I will try and bring all this together for you. I appreciate it has a been long read and if you’ve made it this far, thank you and well done.
I needed to be as analytical as I could be in this investigation given what was at stake and given what I was uncovering. I have genuine concerns about how the FFM conducted their investigation as I believe most people would after reading their report in totality.
Some soil samples were received by the FFM on April 12, 2017, almost two weeks after the incident – these samples included the sarin positive samples from “the crater” which showed no obvious cause for contamination, and even up to 50m away from this crater sarin was found.
Other soil samples were received by the FFM on July 17, 2017, almost 4 months later, and all tested positive for sarin or its by-products.
Then we have the remnants of the alleged bomb used. These parts were all handed to the FFM between July 17 and July 18, 2017. Most bizarre of all those fragments to be handed over were the ‘filler cap with lug’, alleged nose cone ballast and a “metal piece” as below.
All handed over on July 18, 2017, and none marked by the OPCW on their satellite imagery as to where they were found, when they found or how they were found. All we know for sure is that they were handed to the FFM on Jul 18, 2017, by the White Helmets and covered in sarin. It is of utmost importance to note that the OPCW claimed the filler cap at Khan Sheikhoun was “unique” to a “Syrian chemical bomb”. The filler cap here shares a strong resemblance to that of Khan Sheikhoun yet the first time we hear of one being found here was almost 4 months after that event and that at Khan Sheikhoun yet we’ve no sourcing for it. It literally just appears.
Then there’s the matter of the Gas Tight Suits and the White Helmets. I have shown how they staged some collection scenes for the cameras. I have shown how poorly trained they appear and how they exposed themselves to cross-contamination whilst on collection duties. This either points to a total staging exercise or James Le Mesurier has purposely put his men at risk for his own reasons. I have also received information that Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, like Mesurier, another ex-British army officer, was involved in the training of the White Helmets in Turkey on Hazardous Substances and also worked alongside them in gathering sarin samples, that tested positive, in Syria. I did, however, reach out to Hamish for a comment on my findings, but he has thus far declined to respond. He is, I am told, aware of my line of investigation into the White Helmets, MayDay Rescue, inappropriate equipment and their apparent lack of training. I will provide an update on this in a future report.
From all the available evidence and sources, including all the social media sources used by the FFM, I can find no evidence of how sarin was dispersed at the “crater”. In the absence of any bomb fragments, or any visual identification of parts, it can only be concluded by this report that sarin was released by another method not related to an airdropped munition. Either that or the samples collected were tainted with sarin before they reached the FFM. I am aware of no other explanation as to how sarin was released at this location and am open to anyone providing me with any further information on this.
I believe the randomness of the scattered munition debris to be concerning given how unrelated it seems. A Russian fuse in a Syrian chemical bomb? I am not aware of Russia selling parts of their bombs to anyone. You buy a bomb or you don’t. It’s not eBay.ru. I asked various people who would know more on this than I and they agreed it’s odd. Yet this fuse was covered in sarin and found at the alleged impact site of a “Syrian chemical bomb”.
Then the “unique” filler cap that turns up almost 4 months after the event happened. Again, working from the evidence and information as presented by the FFM I can only conclude the filler cap, ballast and “metal piece” were not recorded at the “impact location” or anywhere nearby because they weren’t from those locations. If they weren’t from those locations then how did they also become covered in sarin?
I believe the evidence points to the “chemical sample unit” of the White Helmets staging at least some of their collection scenes. But why would you need to do this if the event was real? I don’t believe you would. The truth doesn’t need to be staged to show it’s the truth.
I believe the evidence points to this “chemical sample unit” being nothing more than a ‘for show unit’ with little expertise or experience in hazardous substances. The evidence of this is in their poor training and use of GTS training suits. We saw them wear these suits at Khan Sheikhoun, indeed, all such instances, that I have seen, always shows them wearing training suits. It’s either all for show or James le Mesurier and Hamish de Bretton-Gordon are intentionally placing the lives of the White Helmets at risk for their own personal motives and/or agenda. This is not a case of a poorly funded rescue group making do with whatever they can get their hands on. This is a well funded multi-million dollar outfit.
Then there’s the small issue of Syria using a bomb that they had declared to the OPCW-DAT (Declaration Assessment Team), in 2013, as being for use as a sulphur mustard unitary chemical bomb. Why would they use a bomb whose specifications were made known to the OPCW, with sarin they are supposed to have destroyed, on a target of little significance, knowing the signatures of that bomb and sarin would lead straight back to them, ‘uniquely’? And isn’t it convenient that pieces of such a declared munition turn up in the hands of the OPCW-FFM 15 weeks after the alleged incident occurred?
I will be adding several addendums to this report featuring further information in the near future.
As always if anyone notices any inaccuracies in my report please feel free to point these out to me here or on Twitter. All constructive criticisms are welcome. – Philip