Lataminah: Rails, Caps and the M4000
Date of Report: December 29, 2019
This is the fourth in the M4000 series of reports I’ve written. The M4000 is a munition that the Syrian Military declared as part of its aerial chemical arsenal to the Declarations Assessment Team (DAT) of the OPCW in 2013. At this time they also declared they had “repurposed” the same munition as a “conventional bomb”.
When I set out on my investigations I was initially sceptical this M4000 existed beyond what was shown by the Russian Federation at a press conference:
At that stage nobody, in the real world, had seen it either. But that all change on September 24, 2019 when Eliot Higgins, of the NED funded Bellingcat blog, reported on 2 such sightings. Granted, these sighting were in 2013 and 2014, respectively, but regardless, evidence had been uncovered of their existence.
I wrote extensively about the claims of this munition in three previous reports, here, here and here.
In this report I tie up some loose ends that I’ve been questioned about since the release of the previous three reports.
What are these rails?
These are images from the OPCW-FFM report into the alleged Lataminah event. This is of a single “metal rail” that was again, allegedly, found at one of the craters in Lataminah.
I say one of the craters because according to the OPCW-FFM there were two craters and one bomb. The craters were ≈250m apart:
The “Impact Location” is where the alleged M4000 sarin bomb is claimed to have been dropped. The “Crater” location further south is not claimed to have been the site of a bomb nor was any bomb fragments recovered from the site. But soil samples tested positive for sarin at the “crater” and 50m away from it.
For further clarity that the “Crater” and “Impact Location” are two different locations, as per the FFM report, here is the map they offer (note the “Crater” at the very bottom of the map):
I draw your attention to the bottom left side image:
This is the metal rail as allegedly found close to the alleged impact location. It is recorded in the FFM report as follows:
It was handed to the OPCW on July 17, 2017 even though the incident is alleged to have occurred on March 30, 2017. It also tested positive for DIMP (Di-isopropylmethylphosphonate) which is a bi-product of sarin production.
Eliot Higgins also claimed that a metal piece allegedly found inside the Khan Sheikhoun crater was the same as the one allegedly found at Lataminah:
“So we have these metal straps that were inside the Khan Sheikhoun crater that were also in the March 30th crater..” – Eliot HigginsSource
Here is a side-by-side of the metal pieces in question:
These two pieces are clearly quite different. The Khan Sheikhoun piece (left) is thinner and the holes are orientated inwards in line with the curvature. The Lataminah piece is much thicker with the holes oriented away from the curvature.
According to the FFM measurements the thickness of the Lataminah piece is 20mm. Could anyone with honest intentions argue that the metal piece at Khan Sheikhoun appears to be the same thickness?
After pointing out my observations on this in a previous report, Bellingcat’s Tariq Bhatti, aka @Iridium_Tea, took to Twitter claiming both pieces were the same:
Tariq went on to defend his claim that both pieces were the same by claiming he doesn’t tell lies:
Given that Tariq claims he doesn’t do dishonesty then we must therefore take his support for the radical islamist extremist group, Jiyash al-Islam, quite seriously: (DDTea, @Iridium_Tea are both pseudonyms used by Tariq)
Eliot Higgins’ Ever Changing Narrative:
1. The angular transmogrification
Here is a schematic created for Higgins in which he tries to match the alleged remnants recovered from Lataminah with the design drawing of an M4000; I will draw your attention to the section I have denoted with a red square:
What Higgins appeared to be doing here was suggesting the metal rail with a perfect 90º curvature was once a 45º angle that connected the bomb body to the tail section. To be sure I had interpreted his drawing correctly I asked him (this was before he blocked me):
Had Higgins not been suggesting this very thing he would have used this opportunity to set me right and to clarify his position. Instead, his reponse made it clear this was exactly what he was suggesting:
His response to my metal rail question was that he needed to see the physical bomb to make further comment. Therefore he simply tried to make the facts fit even when they didn’t. This next exchange went to further verify that I had interpreted his claim correctly:
Believing that I had caught him out again making stuff up I pressed ahead with my questioning:
This was the stage when he decided to block me. Not because I was being rude, disrespectful or trolling but because I had caught him out, again, making stuff up.
So to be clear on his first claim – he believed that a perfect 90º curved piece of metal was once a perfect 45º connecting brace. There can be little dispute on that. However, Eliot did attempt once to explain how this transmogrification occurred:
He believed the impact and explosion caused it. This theory would later be supported by chemical staging denialist Chris York of the Huffington Post.
In case there is any doubt left that Higgins was claiming this rail had been a 45º angled piece of metal before it was transmogrified during “an explosion and impact” then here is the exchange from Bellingcat when a “Paul Masterson” presented him with similar questions as I:
1b – The Bob Trafford/Forensic Architecture Intervention
During communications with Bob Trafford in September 2019, which are discussed in-depth in a previous report, he took it upon himself to search for and find the Twitter discussion, discussed above, between Eliot and I. He went further than just searching for it, he offered an explanation on behalf of Eliot, albeit not being requested to do so, and 11 months after the original exchange took place:
We hope that our analysis of this fragment provides a possible resolution to questions that you have previously posed in relation to Eliot’s original analysis.Note the use of “We” therein. Bob was clearly referring to Forensic Architecture and not simply himself. This points to Forensic Architecture as whole coming to Eliot’s defence rather than a sole attempt by Bob .
As mentioned above, I found it bizarre that Bob thought it helpful if he offered an explanation up for Higgins given his own inability to defend his own claims. What Bob inadvertently done though was contradict Higgins:
Bob was now introducing a new idea into the debate; he was suggesting the 90º piece was once a 360º piece and therefore could never have been a 45º angle. I asked Bob could he show me where on the 90º rail he felt it showed it was once a 360º ring? He replied:
There are a handful of aspects of the physical condition of that suggest some deformity..
That was all he said. He wouldn’t show me where these “aspects..of deformity” were.
But I needed to know more. The FFM said the metal rail still had broken bolts in the holes. I asked Bob could he explain to me how someone could gain access to these bolt holes if the rail was where he said it was? He didn’t reply. I asked again. He didn’t reply again.
2. And Then There Were Three
During a video presentation at Goldsmiths in London on October 20, 2018 and as part of his debate with Ted Postol, Eliot Higgins seemed to have changed his narrative on these “straps” completely and went even further again than the contradiction by Bob Trafford. Here he is alleging there are in fact 3 metal rings running the internal circumference of the M4000 and the metal rail was only a small piece of one of them:
Whilst the image was being displayed Higgins stated with certainty:
These are straps that are used to hold the bomb together..
Here is the part of the presentation I am referring to:
So having first claimed it was a 45º “cross-section” he has moved on significantly to his latest idea and if Bob Trafford had inadvertently showed Higgins to be wrong, Higgins has now inadvertently shown Bob Trafford to be wrong, showing that he was wrong.
The question still remains unanswered by either gentleman: How is access gained to the bomb to secure the bolts on each piece?
I would also draw your attention to the parts of the drawing I have denoted with red circles:
Higgins claims they are also attachment slots for these rails. He claims the pieces I have circled in red are the same as the pieces denoted in blue. But they aren’t. They are slots for a “mica”, or barrier, that would have been used in a binary version of the bomb which is exactly what Higgins claims was used to deliver sarin.
A “mica” is a partition inside a chemical bomb that separates two chambers that house chemical precursors due to the dangers of storing sarin in its active state. Therefore, Syria stored their sarin as precursors that would be mixed inside a chemical bomb, safely. The M4000 was declared to have been used as a bulk-filled munition for Sulphur-Mustard and then later repurposed as a conventional bomb. All the evidence we have seen thus far suggests that the M4000 was not used for sarin and whilst it can be argued it could have been adapted to do so (hence the mica slots) there is no evidence to suggest it was.
However, given that Higgins claims it was a binary munition and was used for sarin precursors then this metal rail doesn’t fit into his model in the slots denoted by my red circles. He can’t have it every way and this once again shows that he just makes stuff up as he goes. When the facts don’t fit – he makes them fit.
Chris York’s Intervention
Another chemical staging denialist, and loyal defender of Eliot Higgins, is the Huffington Post’s, Chris York. Chris spends his days trolling the Twitter accounts of those he disagrees with and getting himself involved in debates he knows little to nothing about. This is one example.
Chris wasn’t aware that Higgins had previously claimed the rail in question was once a 45º angled piece, as discussed above, and instead rushed head first into an exchange with me offering his own apologia for Higgins.
He then goes on to inform me that after an explosion a metal piece “has as much chance of curving to 90 degrees” as any other shape:
Being acutely aware of Mr York’s not-so-sharp comprehension skills, I was reminded of that again in this tweet:
Chris believes that because the vertical line of my angular denottation doesn’t go right up to the end of the piece of metal it therefore cannot denote a 90º angle.
He offers his own drawing:
You get the idea, I’m sure. Much schooling later and Chris still does not comprehend how that piece of metal runs through a 90º curvature: (excuse my typos in the tweet)
So after all that time spent proving my point to Chris he still refuses to accept the evidence presented to him and then storms off in a childish huff, sobbing that ‘even if I am right it’s completely irrelevant anyway’! This guy is a senior editor at the Huffington Post! His closing tweet steals the show, in my opinion:
Chris York gives meaning to the saying:
No fortress is less impenetrable than a closed mind
The Filler Caps
I have covered the issue of these caps in-depth in previous reports also but there are a few details I missed out on which I will briefly cover in this section.
In a report in September 2018 Higgins revealed two videos of footage showing 2 separate M4000 bombs. These were great finds and the only proof known to exist of actual footage of these munitions. But what these revelations actually proved was not what Higgins intended them to show. Instead, they proved that Assad’s claim of having repurposed the munitions as conventional bombs, and to have used them as such prior to Syria’s chemical declaration to the OPCW-DAT (Declarations Assessment Team) in 2013, to have been true. Both bombs uncovered by Higgins were clearly not used as chemical bombs. Yet both bombs were clearly M4000 “chemical bombs”.
Secondly, they showed that the only people recorded in possession of these bombs were the opposition. From the footage, we know that they had at least one full, intact, bomb and one partially destroyed example. We therefore have concrete proof the opposition had access to bomb fragments at some stage.
Upon watching the second of Higgins’ videos, dated 2014, something jumped out at me that I feel is worth sharing. Here is a still I took from said video and I draw your attention to the cut-out:
You will note the straight cuts to the right and top of the munition which have clearly been carried out by a grinder or the likes.
Now let’s take a look at the filler cap that was allegedly recovered from the “Impact Location” at Lataminah:
Notice the straight cuts? Here is another angle from the video:
Now, I am not claiming the cap in each image to be one and the same, the poor video quality and lack of close-ups doesn’t permit that type of conclusion to be drawn. What I am pointing out, however, is that the straight cuts in the deformed M4000 were certainly done by a grinder and I’d strongly argue so were the straight cuts on the filler cap as claimed to have been recovered at Lataminah. Remember, explosions are disorganised and destructive affairs. They’re chaotic. They don’t leave perfect angles such as what we see here.
I could be persuaded there was a small chance of such an occurrence if the filler caps were attached to a welded straight piece on top of the bomb such as this from the Russian ODAB-500:
But even then that would be a highly unlikely possibility given the chaotic nature of explosions.
But there was no such metal plate, as above, welded to the M4000:
Eliot Higgins uncovering 2 examples of the M4000 in the possession of the opposition cannot be overstated in terms of its importance to an investigation into what happened at Lataminah. It gives us solid proof that the rebels had at least 2 of these bombs from as far back as 2013. There is a strong chance they would had access to more as the example in the first video is in pretty good condition and unlikely to have been airdropped.
The technique of cutting open the bomb with a grinder cannot be analysed in isolation when we have a filler cap bearing similar cut lines. Given that the OPCW asks that we accept the ludicrous claim that this cylinder below fell from the sky, crashed through a reinforced concrete ceiling, hit a concrete floor and flew across the room to land undamaged on a bed – I don’t think it’s as far-fetched to suggest the rebels could have cut a filler cap out of a recovered M4000 and planted it at the scene. Bizarrely, my suggestion may well be deemed a conspiracy theory at the same time the airdropped, undamaged cylinder claim is taken as logically factual. It’s strange times we live in. Trying to find the truth in a post-truth world proves very difficult when those narrating the truth do so whilst speaking into a auto-translate post-truth megaphone.
The relevance of my further addressing of the metal rail was to highlight the lengths that Forensic Architecture, specifically Bob Trafford, went to try and come to Eliot Higgins’ defence in an 11 month old exchange. In doing so he directly contradicted him, albeit unwittingly, then sometime later Higgins contradicts him whilst also contradicting his earlier self. I wanted to lay out these contradictions and show how the facts are manipulated and shaped to fit a narrative – a narrative created and managed by Higgins and his Bellingcat NED funded project. Lazy journalists have helped propel Higgins to great heights and in doing so are propelling the potential for disinformation and fact-shifting to occur on an industrial scale. I will discuss this further in a later report.
The ever changing narrative around the metal rail is important to draw attention to because it highlights the straw-clutching and narrative management that takes places in the post-truth echo-chambers of the chemical staging denialism world. The evidence presented must be made fit the pre-determined conclusion or else the pre-determined conclusion will be left standing alone, exposed for all the world to see.
I have shown, in previous reports, and again here, how Eliot begins his investigations from a predetermined conclusion and works in reverse shaping the facts to fit his narrative. In the example written above, in this report, I showed how he tries to liken two different pieces of metal to be much the same and then how he tries to fit those pieces of metal into a bomb, an exercise that is akin to hammering a square peg into a round hole, forcibly.
It’s also important to bear in mind the 3 locations, ≈250m apart, that all had samples that tested positive for sarin yet only one bomb is claimed to have been used. The OPCW-FFM accepted the evidence, unquestionably, and helped lend truth to the claims of the White Helmets. The same group that was tasked with collecting samples and delivering them to the organisation even though that delivery was some 15+ weeks after the date of the alleged event. When you contract out the collection of samples, the gathering of witnesses and the formulation of the narrative to a belligerent in a war then any investigation you claim to have undertaken is heavily compromised and results questionable, at best.
The evidence points to a clear staging at Lataminah in everything from the sample collections, to the recovery of the alleged remnants, to the introduction of new evidence not recorded as being found anywhere in Lataminah at any time, to the method of collection and delivery of same to the FFM. I have shown, with evidence and in detail, how each step shows clear signs of staging and manipulation.
The pieces of metal recovered at both Lataminah and Khan Sheikhoun are not the same and rather than admit this the narrative managers tell you they are the same and ask that you believe them. Dare suggest they aren’t and you’ll be labelled an “war-crimes denier” or a “conspiracy theorist”. The crime? Thinking for yourself and not being prepared to be told what to believe by the group-think narrative management committee that has its HQ at US State Department funded Bellingcat.
We need to get back to the old-fashioned method of trusting our eyes and intuition and get those bullshit filters recharged. Those put in charge of the truth creation are not concerned about the facts but are very concerned if you are!
I will continue to keep my eyes opened for further information on this event and update this blog accordingly.
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