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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Aleppo Convoy Attack: UN Report

Aleppo Convoy Attack
Assessing the UN Report 
Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic
January 8, 2017
last edits (re-org, cleanup, clarity) Jan. 11/12

The United Nations Headquarters (New York) Board of Inquiry into the Urm al-Kubra convoy attack completed its report. On December 21, their Department of Political Affairs (DPA) released a summary of it; the full report and detailed reasoning is internal. It basically supports the claim that the convoy was attacked by Russian and/or Syrian air forces. I did a quick review of the summary here at ACLOS, which I've finally expanded below.

Deciding on an Air Attack
The summary heralds in a by-line "UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy attacked from the air." They believe it was all from the air, apparently without any ground attack aspect. They claims they didn't leap to the conclusion, but based it on direct evidence, including "satellite and ground imagery, videos and eyewitness statements."

The board apparently didn't get to visit the site at all. Their investigators visited Syria December 5 to 9, visiting Damascus and West Aleppo. But they report they were not cleared to visit the site, as the government couldn't assure their safety, which the SARC convoy attack suggests is quite true. But that might have yielded little anyway, they state, as much damage had been repaired. (point 4)

As for what they did look at, the satellite views sound convincing, but it seems they actually aren't (see way below). The video evidence could be strong, but it's unspecified what they found so convincing in it. "Witnesses" speaking words in the midst of an information Jihad can be of little value. However, the board got "corroboration" from "Member States" (the most influential states are hostile to Syria and Russia and could easily lie), "open-source research" (if done right, like we do, this can be useful...) and "other witness interviews." Yes, unreliable words were corroborated by other unreliable words. Supposed eyewitnesses interviewed in Turkey (approved Jihadist proxies of the Erdogan regime) provided much information. (point 7).

They do claim to have looked at "over 370 photographs and videos" - apparently far more than we've found in the public record, and they list these separately from "open-source information." (possibility: the available visuals were double-listed here)

From all this, they decided "the SARC compound was subject to an attack from the air, using multiple types of munitions deployed from more than one aircraft and aircraft type. " Also, "The munitions used included non-precision unitary bombs and/or smaller blast-incendiary air-to-ground weapons, which could have been missiles, rockets or sub-munition bomblets." (point 27) This sounds somewhat vague.

Actual weapons remnants were not considered, due to chain of custody questions. This may, and should, include concerns the fragments presented were simply planted, as the most famous example "proving" Russian guilt apparently was (the OFAB-250 in the warehouse - see my analysis here).Therefore, to their credit, they don't blame anyone based on the debris rebels claim to have found, but they also avoid weighing in on the planting issue and its implications of rebel cover-up and thus likely rebel guilt.

And, as if they needed more reason, the board also claims they reached the conclusion by deduction: "the Board considered and rejected the possibilities that the incident was caused by direct fire or ground assault... or by ground-delivered improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or by indirect fire, ... (or) that it was a staged or hoax event." This left no option but the air attack they had those other reasons for. (point 28) Just how they did that and how valid their reasoning was remains unclear; it could be circular, elliptical, or other.

Narrowing the Blame to the Bad Guys
Well, it's not Based on Motive
From the evidence I've seen, this could be an air attack, at least in part. But considering the lack of clear proof either way, we should make a large note of the fact that motive does not point to Russia or Syria. As I explained here, it was al-Nusra linked rebels who had the most to gain.

A Russian-drafted plan was in the works, with the US promising to partner with Russia against Al-Nusra as well as ISIS, but it depended in part of not having this aid convoy attacked. Such linkage had Islamist activists declaring such aid "humiliating," and part of a US-Russia-UN plot. And when the convoy was attacked at the last moment, with someone tearing off these signs of conspiracy (see below), the US blamed Russia, cancelled the deal, and so left al-Nusra protected from any such expanded bombing (in Aleppo, that didn't save them from losing anyway - Russia and Syria did it on their own soon after this, to much protest from the West).

So Russia is accused of the attack that scuttled their own deal, with the deal and that question mark glossed over in most reports. Why did they do this? To stop some medical aid getting through, or just to be evil again, or what? It's unclear and doesn't seem to matter. But in fact the counter-motive for Damascus or Moscow are so strong, we should demand extra-good evidence for such an irrational crime. And this hasn't been provided yet.

The inverse also applies; rebels and their coalition protectors had so much to gain, they should be considered the prime suspects until the evidence rules them out. From the motive perspective, Al-Nusra allied terrorists would be the logical culprits. If an air attack aspect truly were proven to be part of the picture, we should suspect rebel-supporting coalition aircraft. They might well be unofficial, off-the-books, maybe even  Russian-made SU-24s flown by Ukrainians out of Turkey, if that's possible, or simply the versatile predator drone the Russians claim they observed.

But here's an oddity; the UN Headquarters summary at least does not address the issue of motive, giving the reader a very poor basis for deciding between various competing claims and conflicting evidence. Here's what the board did with that purchased wiggle-room:

...Because No One Alleges It?
First, they make due note that almost any aircraft, be it Syrian, Russian, or coalition, was technically capable of the air attack; only flightless local terrorists were off the hook. But having not considered motive, they found this rationale for deciding it was "highly unlikely" to be the coalition side:
38. The Board further noted that no party had alleged the involvement of International Coalition Forces aircraft and, as such, their involvement was highly unlikely.
That's the entire point 38, with no other reason given. Now, let's consider...

Russia's military has previously suggested a Predator drone run by the coalition was in the area at the time, while all of their own craft were elsewhere. Unlike the Americans, they even showed a partial radar track for it (right, and meaning unclear - it came from the north and looped around the site?). It's unclear if they retracted this, or what.

Among the materials the board considered is mentioned "air tracks shared with it by the government of the Syrian Arab Republic." (point 7). The summary doesn't show, describe, or discuss this track any further, but here we have it: Russia shows one. Syria does. But there's no mention of air tracks provided by the coalition side to support their claims. This is consistent with, but doesn't prove, coalition side guilt.

Furthermore, the board knows Russia and Syria both deny involvement, which implicitly blames the coalition. That might sound weak, but the reverse was decided in the same manner; ""We know it was an airstrike and not one from the coalition. We don’t know if it was Russia or the regime," the only others flying over Syria, a senior (US) official said." (Washington Post)

Did the coalition provide some proof of that, or is that implication still their basis for blame? If it's the latter, we learn that trick works one way - when the US and allies are leveling charges against Syria and/or Russia - and not the other way around, even when the others have radar data to back their claims. This seems consistent with how the UN usually handles such differences between member states.

More on Which Bad Guys
The board also notes the Syrian Air Force may not have been informed of the convoy's location, whereas they're sure everyone else (Russia, coalition, opp. forces) were made aware. (point 25) This leaves open the option that Damascus did it, even on accident. But many experts have insisted it had to be Russia, due to the "sophistication" of the strike, happening in the early evening dark, for one thing.

They heard very specific allegations that three Syrian helicopters, some unknown jets, and one Russian jet were all involved, and found this possible, but unlikely.
39. The Board stated that it had received reports that information existed to the effect that the SAAF was highly likely to have perpetrated the attack, and even that the attack was carried out by three Syrian Mi-17 model helicopters, followed by three unnamed fixed-wing aircraft, with a single Russian aircraft also suspected of being involved. However, the Board did not have access to raw data to support these assertions and, in their absence, it was unable to draw a definitive conclusion. Moreover, the Governments of both the Russian Federation and Syrian Arab Republic denied all allegations of their involvement in the incident.
40. The Board noted in this connection that there were technical issues pertaining to a hypothesis of the incident being a result of a joint Syrian Arab Air Force/Russian Federation strike. The Board had been informed that that the Russian Federation did not conduct joint strikes. A high degree of interoperability and co-ordination would also be required for two air forces to operate in the same airspace, targeting the same location.
Why they included this is unclear, but I've already seen one reader declare in comments the report found three Mi-17s, three Syrian jets and a Russian jet were responsible for the attack, and therefore it was super-proven (RT reader, 22 December).

So, anyway... like US officials in the immediate aftermath, but with a bit less certainty and more diplomatic wording, the investigators think it was Russia or Syria, not likely both, and they don't seem to really know or care just which. This seems more like an interest in getting someone more specific off the hook than an effort at truth, which would be consistent with the dubious reasoning they provide, and of course with coalition side guilt.

Terrorist Pirates who Also Blame Syria-Russia 
The board heard that the area (given as Urem Al-Kubra) was at the time of the attack "under the control of armed opposition groups, with Jaish al-Mujahideen being the predominant group in the area."  but they heard others, including Nour al-Din al-Zenki and Jabhat al-Nusra had a "presence in the area." (point 13) It's been reported that Al-Zenki - commanded by child-beheading scum and allied with al-Nusra - were the predominant force. That could be wrong, they may have slightly different ideas of the relevant area, there may be no one clear answer, and it matters little; criminal psychopathic terrorists ran the area.

The rebels of Jaish al-Mujiheddin (JaM) clearly ran the area just to the east, the passage to Urm al-Kubra from Aleppo, if not the immediate warehouse area. JaM "provided an armed escort to the convoy to its destination" starting from the moment they passed the first non-government checkpoint (point 19) until they arrived at the SARC compound,  at 13:45 as the board found. "[T]he armed escort provided by Jaish Al-Mujahideen then ended and responsibility for the security of the convoy passed to the local police, which had a station nearby."  (point 23).

That would be JaM's mortar truck seen by a Russian military drone in Khan al-Assal. It was driving out ahead of the stationary convoy, possibly to get positioned to fire on the trucks later on. The board mentions this truck, but saw no proven connection between that and the convoy attack. The board "could not find any material link with the incident." (point 41) There is and can be no proven link, but as far as I can see it hasn't really been ruled out either. The board claims to believe it was exclusively an airstrike, which would rule out a mortar's involvement. But perhaps that call wasn't really as strong as it's made to sound by the DPA in this public summary.

The board heard that JaM decided the trucks should move only five at a time, ostensibly to not block traffic (point 21). Then when the first sub-group was sent along - with or without an escort is unclear - something odd happened. As the board heard it, anyway, they were:
 ...met by masked armed men, who wanted to take some of the supplies on the convoy. A dispute then ensued between these men and the SARC Urem al-Kubra team. Following the dispute, three trucks were diverted by these armed men. One of these was fully offloaded, while the remaining two were partially offloaded. The three trucks were then allowed to proceed to the SARC compound in Urem al-Kubra. (point 21)
Just what they stole isn't explained. But clearly, Jaish al-Mujahideen did nothing to stop this piracy, with all its armed escorts and coordination with other terrorist groups. That is, if they weren't behind it, their allies were, and they wrote off on it. This piracy-related dispute adds to the rebel motive to kill those people and blame their enemies for it. JaM's post-incident press release makes no mention of it. And note there's no piracy incidents with pro-government elements to suggest they're to blame.

And here's a though: If these militants or allies (probably including local police) controlled the area, they could wait until the convoy and the aid workers were all gone, and pilfer the warehouse at their leisure, without creating a scene. Why the rush to grab stuff at first chance? One possible reason: the pirates, and presumably their allies, knew that convoy and its material would be destroyed shortly in a false-flag attack. They might all want to stay away from that scene, if possible, and run the show with mortars and artillery, to look a bit more like fighter jets. And any aid of value might get damaged.

How was this story reported to the UN investigators? By a survivor? (it seems possible there were none - see below) Or was this incident called in to headquarters, and that's why it was known? Could there have been a more serious, second confrontation the team never got to call in, before they and all their workers and drivers died?

The Jihadists in charge - thieving, perhaps murdering and lying - and their provided alleged witnesses and political backers, have their story of what happened. To the UN HQ investigators, who seem to have been looking for the same story, these Islamist claims are taken as credible evidence to decide it was some kind of bad guy air attack, with no motive and no troubling precedents like the JaM-approved pre-attack looting of the precious UN/SARC Aid.

Other Points
Death Toll:
Previously, it seemed about 31 people were affected, with at least 10-12 killed and about 20 injured but surviving, at least initially. It was never clear if anyone escaped both death and injury - that 30-32 might be everyone involved with the convoy that remained at the time. Later, credible reports said at least 20-21 wound up dying, and Jaish al-Mujiheddin, describing themselves as part of the "Free Syrian Army," declared that in the end perhaps everyone did: "12 humanitarian aid workers and 19 civilians, including (all?) the drivers of the aid convoy" eventually died, "for a total of 31 dead." They don't say if anyone at all lived. (see press release, ACLOS table)

If all inside witnesses died, except maybe one all-seeing "miracle survivor" to tell "the true story" ... this suggests local forces, not passing air forces, decided the death toll and wanted control of the narrative. What the UN report adds on the issue is of little help dispelling this possibility:
31.   At least ten individuals died, including five drivers who had been part of the convoy and the head of SARC Urem al-Kubra.  At least 22 individuals were injured, including a further five drivers.
"At least 22" surviving + "at least 10" killed = at least 32 total, when other sources put it at around 30-31 total killed and injured. Maybe they mean it was 32 total, and since 10+ died, then at most 22 survived.  This sounds like they didn't get a clear picture themselves, and decided to use the lowest agreed number of dead, given as at least, with as many as two thirds surviving or, as far as we can tell, no thirds.

Consider also:  "The United Nations sought to retrieve the bodies of the drivers who had been killed, Mr. Egeland said. But the rebels didn’t let it. And there was no Mr. Barakat to help." (NYT) So there were perhaps no independent autopsies. It might well be that all inside witnesses to the attack died and were buried away by JaM and allies. 

Damage Mapping

29. A total of eight possible major impact points within and near the compound were identified by the Board, with further multiple smaller impacts to the northwest.  The southwestern, southern and eastern walls of the compound were damaged and buildings collapsed.  Extensive damage was also done to a wall on the opposite side of Highway 60.
30. The Board found that 17 trucks from the convoy were involved in the incident.  Eight of these suffered significant fire damage, some being completely consumed.  A car, identified by witnesses as being used by the Head of SARC Urem al-Kubra, was also involved in the incident and was heavily damaged.
From open-source research with photos and videos (see ACLOS, scene analysis), we have: 5 impact areas clearly identified, perhaps 9 or more, in and adjascent to the warehouse, its parking lot, and around the highway to the south. There are 7-9 badly damaged trucks, of 13 trucks or trailers present, plus the car, and a pickup truck at least, not all clearly part of the convoy. First a graphic by me from video and photos, with the 5 clearest damage areas numbered (these are partially analyzed at the link above).

Satellite imagery shows more impacts mostly to the northwest that don't feature in videos and photos from the scene. Below are seven areas of apparent damage identified by ACLOS member Paveway IV on a TerraServer preview image, besides 9 in the central area.  Note: this was a tentative call, may suggest too many points of damage, apparently misses at least two known impacts that aren't obvious here.

The resolution isn't the best here, but we don't seem to see any large craters of the kind "expert" Lars Bromley suggested should appear:
"With our analysis we determined it was an air strike and I think multiple other sources have said that as well," Lars Bromley, research adviser at UNOSAT, told a news briefing.
"For air strikes, what you are usually looking out for is the size of the crater that is visible and the type of crater," he said. (Reuters)
The light dot where my #4 is in the highway (not indicated beneath, between the bottom red boxes) - this is the biggest and only crater I've seen outside the warehouse. It's maybe a meter wide, shallow, and was filled-in immediately with this lighter-colored earth. There might be other craters, aside from the one inside the warehous, but they probably aren't any bigger, or they'd be more obvious.

So ... we all agree mostly on the scene fairly well. Some trucks are unaccounted for, there's evidence for a number of violent blasts, but still no clear reason to support the illogical blaming of Russia and/or Syria. Yet, that blame keeps being supported, as if in a widespread effort to repeat it into being true.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Aleppo Convoy Attack: Did the Russians Slant Gravity?

Aleppo Convoy Attack: Did the Russians Slant Gravity?
September  29, 2016, last edits October 8
moved January 3, 2017 from How we Can Know Russia Did Not Bomb the Aleppo Aid Convoy

Note, Jan. 3: Besides moving this from its original spot, I've decided (back in October) this isn't the best leading argument I thought it was. (see postscript below) But it is what it is, a possible supporting clue. It might be as valid as it seemed - which was pivotal, a smoking gun. And it has some side-issues of importance either way.
Recently I addressed the September 19 SARC convoy attack that killed a reported 31 people (and that might be everyone) with a post How we "Know" Russia or Syria Bombed the Aleppo Aid Convoy (21st Century Wire re-post of version 1) With the West blaming Russia and Russia and Syria blaming terrorists, there are many aspects to the case slowly coming into focus at the ACLOS (A Closer Look On Syria) page Attack on Red Crescent convoy in Urm al-Kubra and its talk page, besides in some spots linked below.

I'll leave most aspects alone here and lead with this clue. It's a forensic argument, but a fairly simple one that clearly illustrates the fraudulent nature of the Russian airstrike narrative. While this point is obvious once you see it, it seems everyone has failed to notice it until now.

First, this regards the same scientific proof the anti-Russia media hordes have already run with. The remains of a Russian-made gravity-driven bomb, of the model OFAB-250, were seen inside a blast crater at the attack site. This 250-pound bomb has a distinct tail section that, if twisted and crumpled, would look just like the thing found inside the warehouse where trucks were unloading. It's under a hole in the roof such a bomb could tear. We've established that the hole wasn't there yet on the afternoon before the attack (Russian drone footage proves this), so it most likely happened during the infamous attack.

A Russian bomb found at the site looked like clear proof, likely to play into any slanted UN investigation, and picked up quickly by some like The UK Independent,  several Ukrainian outfits like UAToday and UNIAN, and the Daily Beast: This Is How Russia Bombed the U.N. Convoy (filed under "GUILTY AS CHARGED" - see right), besides mentions elsewhere.

These all cite Bellingcat, Elliot Higgins' open source investigations group, widely used to lend a science-like sheen to the blatant propaganda claims of the Atlantic community and its local terrorist proxies, in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Others had noticed a distinct shape half-buried under some boxes, at the crater's center, but it's Bellingcat that apparently got the White Helmets to send a clearer image of the tail section, still in situ but with debris removed. With this, they published Confirmed : Russian Bomb Remains Recovered from Syrian Red Crescent Aid Convoy Attack 

How the fragment looks doesn't matter here - everyone agrees on what it probably is. There was such debris and, Bellingcat implies, it was found in a way that "confirmed" the existing claims of Russian guilt. So this is perhaps the best answer to how we "know" Russia did this with aerial bombardment. One of their bombs is in the crater inside the warehouse.

Below is the graphic Bellingcat produced and that's been widely reused to prove Russian blame, as well as to question it. To start with, I don't question anything in this image - this is an accurate and useful tool. We'll refer to it below. It does not confirm Russian guilt: rather, it strongly contradicts it.
Yellow shows match from OFAB to the debris seen - Magenta arrows point from entry hole to the OFAB tail fin in the crater - green box just helps clarify its there, even if not visible from this angle.

There is a decent argument that this tail section is from a bomb that detonated somewhere else, and was simply planted here. If it was un-exploded but buried, as some have presumed, why would the White Helmets half-excavate it like that just for a photo? It's dangerous. And if it detonated and was thus inert, then why are there intact cardboard boxes just inches away, still mostly stacked together properly? (that's part of why some have presumed this was a "dud.") (see ACLOS discussion of the scene)

These are good questions, but to me they seem secondary to the main problem, now that I finally see it.

It's Slanted, Dummy!
The OFAB-250 bomb has no propulsion system. It doesn't fly. When first dropped, it'll have some of the jet's momentum, but once it starts plummeting, that's all it does, for 20,000 feet or so. If one were to punch through this roof as seen, it would do nothing but plunge into the ground directly beneath the hole.

But looking at Bellingcat's proof graphic above, a curious thing - the magenta line of arrows does not go straight down, does it? For some reason the crater is not directly beneath the hole. It's off by a good distance, around a meter.

This might be no bizarre mystery. Consider that any projectile launched from the ground will arc up to a highest point and then back down on a gently curving diagonal track like this, as it traverses its horizontal distance (basic illustration at right - purple is a gravity drop, magenta again shows the slanted descent, traced back into its full arc.)

A mortar shell or rocket will also cause directional damage reflecting both its direction of flight and angle of descent. The pattern of damage on the walls and truck, boxes and people would tell us where it came from. We can already see the basic descent angle  The detonation blast moves radially from the magenta line, perpendicular, so basically its bottom edge runs along the yellow line in Bellingcat's graphic above. Note burn marks on the pillar starting at that line. In fact, the way the magenta and yellow lines meet at 90 degrees in that image is rather helpful to see why this is no Russian-dropped bomb. 

Here's my version (all lines and locations approximate: photo rotation/perspective distortion and 3-D effect are minimal and not considered). As above, purple is an OFAB-250 drop angle (zero), and magenta is the evident angle (app. 25-30 degrees from vertical). (see ACLOS posting with discussion). As we can see, the angle Bellingcat traces to the the crater's center is correct enough.
30 degrees or less off from vertical is fairly steep, suggesting the projectile was fired from nearby. This would be to give it a relatively vertical angle, but it's still not enough to mimic a dropped bomb very well.

What I think happened: some locally-fired rocket or mortar shell * was able to pierce the roof, hit the center of that crater, and only then detonate. This suggests unusual weight and penetration capability (the noted steep descent angle would help with this) as well as some kind of delay fuze.  These features both seem unusual and might be something new (though I'm not the most read-up on weapon trends).

 * The general blast pattern is similar to rocket impacts I've studied, so I feel that's more likely. But some mortar or artillery shells operate on similar principles, and I don't know enough to exclude these.

Whatever its main action, the blast apparently caused a sort of fireball, occupying a space that's hard to explain.  The shape marked in orange is a cross section of the 'forward' half of this. If we take that orange area and extrude it radially around the magenta line, it makes sort of funnel-shaped area that's the best place to look for damage. We can see where a rolling fireball scorched the surfaces at random spots within that zone, including on the back wall just one small patch at its furthest reach. 

Shrapnel marks should occur in the same basic area as the fireball, but with a wider scatter pattern. On the walls and truck (so anywhere in this photo) we see few if any clear marks. The densest band of shrapnel would mark the columns on the right-hand and inner faces, form an arc high along the back wall and/or  across the ceiling, angling down across the truck's side (higher at the back end, lower near the middle-front) and into the boxes. The right-hand wall would be marked near the bottom if at all, and into the boxes there and the ground. 

The resolution on these areas is not the best, as they're mostly a ways across the room, and most of them are smoke-stained too. Only the nearer pillar is sure to show it, and might, partly (a few marks at the top). 

Of course none of this material is made of cardboard or flesh, so lighter shrapnel might leave mark you could see only with a magnifying glass. The people are not here to look at, thankfully. So let's look at the cardboard. Here's the most detailed view I could find of how it gets torn. (new window for fuller view)

Considering the above, low damage along front wall is expected. The picture below is from a similar view to the others but closer to the crater and looking more towards the front wall. The truck is off-frame to the left. I dropped blue dots where I saw a mark or tear like the ones above.

From left to right these start higher, shift lower, get denser, and then get jumbled or no longer there in the immediate impact area. This possible shrapnel is looking light, sharp, and not too energetic (smaller blast than usual perhaps). This seems unusual, and perhaps new, like the delayed detonation after an unusually good roof-piercing. Also, I marked a few small soot/scorch marks of a lesser 'fireball' on this side of the detonation (blue circles). The fire had less space to form here. The wall doesn't seem scorched at all.

Flight Path:
Anyway, this pattern seems to fit perfectly with the other angle of impact clues.

Looking at the crater and the roof hole, it's hard to say which is closer to that nearest pillar line. They both seem fairly close, maybe 1/3 of the way between the rows. If they lines up exactly, the line between them would run perpendicular to the front wall, or straight into the building from across its front lot. But this isn't very exact.

The orange shape cross section in my graphic above marks out a plane, which should be about on the fireball's longest axis. This suggests it's also on the projectile's flight path - it expands more in this direction because it's detonating while moving with kinetic energy, which it got from traveling inside the rocket/shell along that line.

So, tracing that line along the ceiling from the furthest smoke stains to the nearest and then to center of the hole should be the basic trajectory. It's close to straight into the building, with a slight angle from the west. The building's rotation from north roughly cancels this out, putting the source of fire almost due south. This is traced in orange below, and the flight path extension runs back in gold:

The range could be wider, but not by much. The distance out on this line is unsure, but my eye is drawn to that road area (an old airstrip?). That seems kind of nice and open, accessible area to work, just about exactly 800 meters from the roof hole. But I might be biased - in my experience, 800m south is a good place to fire false-flag rockets from. It could easily be closer, or a bit further, but in this direction.

Summary / Whodunnit
There may or may not have been aircraft involved in this attack. But whose that would be remains open to question, despite Western assurances only Russian or Syrian jets could possibly operate there.

Consider: there's no room in the Russian blame story for local artillery (rocket/mortar) strikes as part of it. Most activists say there was jet bombing, jet machine gunning, and helicopter barrel bombing involved. Some also specify surface missiles/rockets were used, all fired by government forces. These could produce such an arc if they were close enough, but they weren't - rather, they were kilometers away to the east in Aleppo. This angle could also come from a jet-fired missile, But this can't be either of those, according to the allegations; there's a gravity bomb sitting in that crater. 

Local rebels covered up this local strike, planting that tail assembly and calling it a Russian bombing, so clearly it's themselves or allies they're covering for. The area all around is reportedly under control of Harakat Noureddin al-Zenki, "moderate Islamists" who formerly received US military aid. They've since been cut-off, but might still cooperate with Washington if asked. Al-Zenki was recently accused of launching a chemical weapons attack in Aleppo (August 2, ACLOS), and earlier had two top commanders openly partake in the abuse and beheading by knife of a captured boy (al-Zenki promised the killers were arrested, but they were seen out with guns two weeks later - again, see ACLOS). Is this another crime to add to their rap sheet? 

So, if there were jets or drones or helicopters coordinating with this, they would be someone on the rebel-terrorisits-NATO-coalition side, not the Russia-Syria side. They would be doing it secretly, to frame Russia and Syria. The official denials fit with that perfectly, as does the information warfare to follow - insistence on Russian guilt and demands for a no-fly zone in response. So if this was, as alleged, an "airstrike" - even in part - it's all clearly part of the same team effort with the terrorists who fired into the SARC warehouse that night. The aim of this effort is, at least, to undermine all efforts to engage the Islamist forces that prevent a return to peace in Syria. At most, it's the start of an all-out effort to put these terrorists in charge of all Syria's land and people.
Postscript, Oct. 3: I left a comment at Bellincat's article, but they refused to approve it. Other newer comments are approved, but not mine. Past precedent already showed Higgins and co. refuse to review or even acknowledge work that trumps their own. Truth-based investigators should have no trouble considering an alternate view, but these guys avoid the truth every time it runs counter the kind of findings they're expected to come up with. This or them is another "open-source" disinformation hit-and-run against Syria.

Postscript Oct. 8: I've decided this isn't the best leading argument I thought it was. It didn't seem to phase Bellingcat's sleuths or much of anyone else so far, and in fact I can't prove that is significant. To clarify, the bomb wouldn't fall absolutely straight down. It would start with the jet's forward momentum, and that would fade  away, but not completely. How much would remain at the end? That depends on the laws of physics (known but difficult for me to measure and calculate), the speed of the jet, and the altitude dropped from.

For reference,  I did a rough measure finally and decided the descent angle we see is around 20 degrees, not 25-30. A good range is 18-22 degrees from vertical. All directional clues (shrapnel marks, fireball spread) remain consistent with this. If that could be an OFAB-250 detonation (it can't) then this could be it coming in at such an angle.

In follow-up discussion, ACLOS member Resup provided this handy chart (can't verify but looks logical) of a model object (cannonball) of the same weight as an OFAB-250 dropped from a jet traveling the speed of sound (measures are in meters - y axis is altitde from 0, drop point, x axis is horizontal travel during the drop). At a standard altitude of 3,000 meters or more, the angle at ground level (-3000) would be effectively vertical, like I said.

But if it were lower, say 1000-1500 meters, the angle could easily be in the range seen. This would raise some logic problems (aren't they worried about Anti-Aircraft fire?). But it could be done, and so even with tons of math to get an exact speed/altitude required, people could just say "fine, they did that then."

So this can only be a supporting point to the multi-point case that this is a fake, staged scene. "And furthermore, there's such an incoming angle that the notion of a gravity bomb is questionable."

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Who was Behind the Killing of Ambassador Karlov?

Who was Behind the Killing of Ambassador Karlov?
By Adam Larson (Caustic Logic)
December 24-26, 2016
last edits Jan. 2, 2017

Poser directed by John Badham.
Who, if anyone, directed Altintas?
The Killer and his Motive
So, as we've all heard, an off-duty Turkish riot policeman named Mevlut Mert Altintas (WP) recently killed Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov (WP), then died in a firefight with the police. The assassin's name, if not his victim's, is briefly a household one, and certainly his image in the iconic AP photo is now widely known. (I couldn't find a copy, had to use this similar image as a stand-in... well, I had to anyway). 

He's iconic, I guess, of the threat of Sunni extremist terrorism, and perhaps Turkish ultra-nationalism. Don't let the clean-shaven chin fool you. This is the mindset of an ISIS terrorist. Speaking to the world at large, he told reporters after the killing “as long as our lands are not safe (meaning occupied by Islamists – he was referring to their loss of east Aleppo), you will not taste safety.” He was talking to you, and me, and everyone else.

He may have inspired some others. Consider: Altintas killed Karlov on December 19 around 8:15 PM in Turkey (or perhaps 7:15, I've heard both). At 8:02 PM in Germany - that is, about an hour or two later - a claimed ISIS terror attack killed 12 and wounded dozens at a market in Berlin. The two lining up like that helped clarify (at least to most people) Altintas was a terrorist-type to detest, more than a hero for Aleppo's people, or in the great struggle against Russia.

That coincidence could be nothing but one, or someone inspired by the comments to remove some safety, or perhaps even a coordinated two-part event. The details of who was behind each crime matter greatly, perhaps even more so in tandem. But here, we will deal only with the man photographed in the act, not the one who allegedly left his ID papers under the seat of a stolen truck before “fleeing” (mysteries to be resolved elsewhere...) Here we ask who, if anyone, directed the actions of the assassin Altintas.

As usual, this is (will be) a little long. The most important parts, I think, are in the last section.

A Gulen-CIA “Extremist” Plot?
Turkish authorities say Altintas had ties to the Gulen movement, followers of moderate Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, self-exiled in the United States since 1999 (Wikipedia). It seems he and his affiliates may run a large and capable network inside Turkey and out, so far keeping a check on the extremism of president Recap Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP party. They may be behind some of the more important challenges to he AKP, even besides the corruption probe in 2013 widely ascribed to Gulen.  * (see note below)

Erdogan is currently trying to purge all suspected Gulenists from the government and society, calling them terrorists, and blaming everything bad on them as an excuse to do that, like the supposed coup attempt in July (see below). Gulen denied involvement in that, as well as the assassination of ambassador Karlov. Erdogan has even blamed Gulen infiltrators for shooting down the Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border, even though that explains nothing at all about that terrible provocation. Erdogan now insists he's totally sorry those guys shot down Russia's jet, and that the same have now killed their ambassador, and will do whatever might happen next. Arrests will always follow. The purge must continue.

Besides putting Gulen behind the killing, the accusation suggests perhaps the CIA were even deeper behind it (if the US is harboring Gulen, they might be using him as a tool). This, I  think, is the flavoring that's got many anti-imperialist thinkers to accept the charges; it seemed Erdogan was moving towards the resistance camp with Russia and the CIA was out to get him already. This was suggested in July and widely accepted; the US ordered a coup because Erdogan finally apologized to Russia over the jet downing - that was actually by the Gulenist infiltrators (who had prevented Erdogan from apologizing earlier?)

There have been some words and even moves from Turkey that fit with that impression of friendly new relations with Russia, but the sincerity of those moves is unclear, given their black history in the Syrian conflict. Erdogan and his ruling AKP party may just be playing a pro-Russia game, hoping to gain fresh leverage with their cooling Western partners. They recently declared support for Syria's territorial integrity in agreement with Russia and Iran, on the same day as their latest failed effort to steal the city of Bab (near Aleppo) from one proxy (ISIS) with the help of other “moderate Islamist” proxies. 

And it seems highly unlikely Altintas was a Gulenist. This network has recently been dubbed FETO - (Fethallist Extremist Terrorist Organization) by Turkish authorities. Erdogan says there's "no use hiding” that Altintas is a FETO member, meaning they're not the moderates they claim to be, and that the police need to be purged some more. By by public stances anyway Gulen and those he would organize would – presumably, – be mainstream Turkish nationalist, neither leftists nor fans of Kurdish aspirations, Islamic by definition and maybe even Islamist, but with an emphasis on democracy, secular elements, modern education, respect for (or “dialog with”) non-Sunnis, non-Muslims, and even atheists. Gulen opposes Sunni extremism, and Erdogan's Syria intervention, which uses it as a weapon.

Whereas publicly, Erdogan denigrates other religions, backs, arms, and harbors genocidal Sunni terrorist groups in Syria, and spreads their lies about the Syrian and Russian governments. He's laid claim to land in Iraq and Syria, taking advantage of the chaos he largely engineered there to try and seize some. At home, he gathers more power for himself and whittles away at all competitors and democracy itself, behaving, it's increasingly said, like an Ottoman sultan of old.

Altintas appears to be an Islamist angered at the Turkish-backed terrorist groups' loss of East Aleppo. Now which category seems a better fit?

Some outsiders eager to blame the CIA seem convinced Altintas was a Gulenist tool, and they're secretly extremists after all. But Turkish officials don't seem to think their own public would buy the "Allahu Akbar” stuff without some explanation. They claim he was from a secular-leaning background, with Kurdish links, and was just acting like an Erdogan type. The Minister of Interior Affairs declared, as Hizmet news reports, “the radical Islamist clues” Altintas built into his life “were efforts to disguise his links to the (Gulen) movement.” Conversely, Ankara's mayor reportedly suggested the traitor chose Jihadist slogans in order to implicate his and Erdogan's AKP party. (Klippenstein/Blumenthal, AlterNet)

But to me, the act seems too convincing by a few degrees. That would be fanatically good method acting - especially the part where he died. This seems more like a true-life AKP Jihadist.

* I don't feel like re-writing the above, but thanks to my friend CE, I can put this in better context. The main carriers of Turkey's secular tradition are called Kemalists.  These may be behind more of the challenges to Erdogan, and seen as the bigger threat. Gulenists are still Islamists, once linked with Erdogan. Though they still seem to be the moderates among them, they could just be the outsiders. And the Gulen network could well be a CIA tool, and it could also barely matter, with the main fight really being Erdogan vs. the Kemalists.
Altintas is alleged to be part of FETO, which seems to be a fictional boogeyman - in fact FETO could be taken as an acronym for Foes of Erdogan Targeted for Obliteration. Kemalists, Gulenists, and others are all framed as one giant conspiracy.
Kemalists are named after modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk, whom Erdogan also claims to admire. So maybe that's why he chose to put it all under another Islamist umbrella and not even mention those other guys. The moderate/secular aspects of Gulenism could explain that kind of activity, and the Islamist/CIA part might explain Altintas or any other byproduct of Erdogan's rule. Having clarified that, the rest of the article below stands.

Evidence for Gulen Ties 
The assassin's FETO links aren't just claimed but supported by claimed evidence. However, it's not very convincing.
Everyone “knows” it: President Erdogan declaed Altintas “was a member of the FETO. There is no point in hiding this." (AP) He makes it sound obvious, and cites clues that he presents as obvious. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reportedly told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that both Turkey and Russia "know" that Gulen's movement was behind the attack. (DW) He may have implied that the Americans as well have to know, if not to have approved it. The US too has expressed serious skepticism, and asked for supporting evidence. But they're the alleged plotters here, and its Russia's (public) skepticism that matters more, insisting they don't know anything yet; “it is hardly worth hurrying to any conclusions," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov when, he reminded the Turks that the investigation would find the truth in due time. (DW)

Classes, Literature, Links: An AP report quoted Erdogan saying of Altentas' Gulen links: "from the places he was raised to his connections - that's what they point at." But it seems the better translation for “raised” would be “educated.” German DW quotes the President saying “All his connections, from where he was educated to his links, point to FETO," adding that he took some classes at a school associated with the Gulen foundation. (DW) The person who got him into the school was also linked, some have noted as if it meant much. For all we know his family pressed him into it, he was just taking some extra-good classes, or he was there as a spy for Erdogan.
Pro-government media reported police found pro-Gulen literature that belonged to Altintas. He also had acquaintances who were Gulen sympathizers (DW) This could be planted, or maybe he was doing opposition research.

He's also said to have lived with a lawyer suspected of being Kurdish, suggesting a Gulenist-Kurdish network against AKP's Turkey (Telegraph) But this is extremely speculative and raises as many questions as it tries to answer (and if this lawyer has the initials S.O., he might be a jihadist - see below).

Possible Coup Involvement: perhaps the most compelling clue of direct involvement: “State-run media outlet Anadolu said Altintas took two sick leave days on the day of the attempted coup” of July 15, 2016. (DW) Reports are he did the same on his last day – called in sick, then shot ambassador Karlov. But there's some confusion. As Hurriyet reports:
Altıntaş reportedly took a report of absence for two days after the thwarted coup, even though all police officers were called to duty after July 15.
He was on duty in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on July 15, but arrived in Ankara on July 16 after obtaining a leave of absence. He stayed in a house in the Demetevler district of the Turkish capital, daily Habertürk reported.
Two days including the 15th, or two days after, or officials also told Reuters his leave was three days, July 15-17, and FoxNews reports “the government could assert this showed Altintas knew about the coup attempt beforehand,” reports It's also reported he bought the ticket the 15th, so he must have known by then – but they say he wasn't in Ankara for the main show, travelling there perhaps late on the 15th,, meaning to be part of some second wave, but just as the effort was failing.

Hurriyet reports “The police chief who allowed him to take the leave of absence, Kahraman Sezer, was arrested after the failed coup attempt over links to the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.” That suggests he was in on it, and the guy he sent … “Altıntaş himself was suspended over suspected links to FETÖ on Oct. 4 but was returned to duty on Nov. 16.” He was apparently cleared of suspicion then, at the time. One month later, he shot ambassador Karlov in what they pose as an obvious Gulen plot. This doesn't seem to add up very well.

Furthermore, seen a different way, this mysterious period of activity could be a chilling clue Altintas was a dedicated anti-Gulenist. We'll return to it below (see Coup Plotter?)

Maybe Altintas Directed Himself?
My own initial feeling was this: no one deliberately set this up to blame anyone else. If anyone had, it would more likely be the Erdogan side. But if that were the case, it seems to me they'd have clearer connections and better evidence, instead of relying on the evidence panned above, and having to clumsily arrest his entire family, as if to be sure they all get the story right and "prove" a Gulen link (DW reports 11 family members and friends taken in - I predict they will help illustrate the desired link, or be said to help and that will be close enough).

This looks more like a case of one of Erdogan's own goons (see below) gone amok; he drank a fatal dose of kool-aid, dyed with his own true colors. His crime may line up with the sultan's plans, or complicate them, depending. I don't know what Erdogan's true plans are. If it lines up, obviously some help or direction is still worth considering. But I suspect not. 

In the regard that Erdogan is behind this Islamist and ultra-nationalist menace, at least, he's behind the killing. No one did it to make Erdogans look bad. Erdogan and his fanatical followers just are bad, and this guy shows them for who they are, with no plotting required.

An Al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) Plot?
Or is there a third power behind the act? As Tarek Fatah notes here, Altintas was "acting in solidarity with the defeated Arab jihadis of ISIS and al-Qaida in the Syrian city of Aleppo." He shouted Allahu Akbar as he fired, and “was then heard chanting the unofficial anthem of al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida. “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad for jihad.”” 
That's Jabhat Al-Nusra (victory front, now calling itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), a US-designated terrorist group, now formally separated from al-Qaeda, and as always supported by Erdogan's Turkey to lead the fight in Syria. The Islamist Jaish al-Fatah coalition, which is led by al-Nusra, claimed responsibility for the assassination, according to a letter circulated online (not verified) (TASS, Al-Youm Al-Sabea (Arabic), TurkishMinute
Douglas Burton, Free Beacon points out how al-Nusra swore to avenge their loss of Aleppo, and seemingly took credit for this. “However," he notes, "Abu Maria al Qahtani, a member of the Shura Council of Fateh al Sham, disavowed the claim, denying his group’s involvement in the assassination, according to Daesh Daily, a war digest.” So they've reportedly claimed and denied it. 

For all we know, they did it and the denial was simply backpedaling after an angry phone call from Erdogan. Or perhaps they really had no part, and Altintas just directed himself. But he did invoke their motto, which could confirm the claim or at least some connection. This could mean Turkish cop Altintas had al-Qaeda/al-Nusra links, of a serious and actionable sort, obviously. Would this be in addition to the Gulen links, or instead of them? 

Evidence for Erdogan Ties

There are the clues suggesting Gulen links, but even more clues Altintas was a supporter or even a direct armed element of the Erdogan camp, secret operations division.

Drifting to Jihad
Where Mevlut Mert Altintas was “raised” was cited, in an (apparent mistranslation), as sign of Gulen links. But in fact it's a weak clue to the contrary. He was born and raised in Söke and, as the UK Telegraph reported, “While Turkey’s western provinces are renowned for their open, more liberal politics, in Söke, the graffiti of right-wing ultra-nationalists mars the walls.” His family was reportedly somewhat secular and pro-Gulen, but the boy would grow up surrounded by conflicting messages. He could turn out different ways, depending.

After being rejected from university twice, he graduated from İzmir Police School in 2014. (Wikipedia) The assassin's father says his son changed, apparently radicalized, after joining the police force. He didn't know of any terrorist links, but Mevlut “started becoming focused on his prayers, more introverted and silent after he became a policeman." He moved with police academy friend named Sercan B. to be roommates in Ankara. Mevlut's step-sister says the same - police school, and especially his friend "S" radicalized the young man - he stopped drinking, prayed 5 times a day, and started learning Arabic. "“He always said he would advance and he would be superior. He was brainwashed and kept away from us. Some people are saying that we raised him that way, but we did not," she said. (Hurriyet)

In Ankara, he attended speeches of hardline salafi preacher Nurettin Yildiz, famed for advocating child marriage, wife-beating, and beheading and dismemberment for Gulenists. However, in the same way I note above for his attending a Gulen school …he could have been doing opposition research, right? Turkish Diken reports (auto-translated)
According to Hürriyet, lawyer S.Ö. And Altıntaş met in Ankara during the conversations of Nurettin Yildiz. Accordingly, S.Ö., SB and Altıntaş were attending conversations of Nurettin Yıldız in Hacı Bayram Mosque in a house in Etlik and Batıkent in Ankara.
(SB might be Sercan B, his roommate. Is S.O. The suspected Kurd lawyer and other roommate?)

More direct would be his contacts with Islamists running militias in Syria. Altintas reportedly contacted Murat Oduncu, from a Salafi group called 'Kurtuba Youth Movement' in Syria. Twitter messages reportedly show Altintas sparked contact, and they met and talked. As Google-translated, and as I could make sense of that, Diken reports Altintas wanted to leave police duty and take an active role fighting in Syria. Oduncu noted the future assassin was “very young and had psychological problems,” and scolded him for having gone to a Gulen-linked school.

Nonetheless, he advised the lad on a path to martyrdom in Syria; 'enter the Special Operations'. At the time of Karlov's killing, Altintas was reportedly part of the “elite special operations unit," and these tweets and the account were reportedly deleted.

Coup Plotter?
But perhaps the most interesting lead relates to his alleged coup involvement. Hurriyet, close to Turkish authorities, says Altintas might have helped in this, after he called in sick from work - just like he did the day he shot the ambassador. It's implied this might be relevant, as in there was no innocent reason proven. He might have been doing coup work, they now think. 

Really now? Because back then … even with that shady absence on record and the other supposedly obvious signs, the aggressive dragnet of military, police, government, and civil society that took in tens of thousands did not manage to nab Altintas? He was briefly suspended they say in October-November on suspicion, but he had that cleared and was reinstated in time to use his authority to bypass security screens and shoot Russia's ambassador dead.

The killer's step-sister says he flew to Izmir on the 15th for the wedding of his Islamist frind "S" (Sercan B.). But did the wife go live with them in Ankara the next day? Confusing.  (Hurriyet)

But authorities insist he was or might have been doing coup work. Could it be the authorities know just what he did in mid-July, and it was just that, and they never arrested him because they approved of his work? Yes, it's quite possible. The timeline confusion might matter: did he really arrive in Ankara only on the 16th? Or is this one alibi authorities still want him to have?

Let's pause to re-consider this alleged coup. In retrospect, it did nothing but be provocative and then fail badly, allowing a massive and useful retribution from a newly-empowered Erdogan. There might have been a genuine coup attempt, but those promoting the idea seem to be guessing and leaping to blame Gulen and thus the CIA. As far as I could tell from middling study, it seems all evidence for this 'coup' could be explained by a few armed fakers in a TV studio, a few in one "rogue" helicopter and perhaps a couple of jets, some social media forgeries, and a few unseen snipers. That is, besides a number of hapless and unarmed soldiers sent out on the streets, as they said, on a suspiciously timed "exercise."

The rest is Erdogan miraculously surviving, with re-invigorated supporters, and a ready list of domestic rivals to blame and get rid of: suspected Geulenists, Kurds, leftists, maybe Armenians, etc. Probably zero Allahu Akbarking Islamists like Mr. Altintas were put in the pound in that sweep. Those in fact tended to be in the pro-Erdogan mobs assailing, murdering, even beheading soldiers they caught. And they would be the ones running any fakery that allowed that spree.

If Altintas was involved in helping spark Erdogan's purge, we can see how this would shed some light on what really did happen in those murky days. There was probably some role in this for riot cops (I don't know many of the details). If there was a scene where any of them behaved obnoxiously, shouted Marxist slogans and then killed a woman, or something to that effect, my suspicion is Mr. Altintas was one of them. And like all the provocateurs, was never arrested, but instead remained free, protected, and perhaps newly-favored; he might even show signs of being rewarded in the following period.

Moving Up the Ladder of Trust?
From just the available information I've found, it seems something changed in the killer's life at this time. Altintas reportedly moved to Ankara the day after the coup, but possibly a bit before. On the 16th of July, it's said, he took apartment Sercan B, as the Telegraph reports, in “a block of flats above a shop selling children’s bicycles in Demetevler, a working-class suburb” of Ankara. But he “didn't stay long,” and moved in a dramatic way:
According to a neighbours and the brother of Altintas’ landlord, the young police officer moved out shortly after the coup attempt that rocked Turkey in July, selling all his possessions before he departed. His next home was an apartment on a cul-de-sac in the poor, densely populated northern suburb of Keçiören. Like Söke, the neighbourhood has a reputation for nationalism.
Who would sell all his possessions just to move to nearby suburb? One reason might be: the new place would be furnished with better stuff, or his pay was set to increase so he could upgrade and the old crap wasn't worth moving. That is, somehow or other, he was stepping up. The neighborhood wasn't rich, but the apartment might have been posh.

He apparently already worked for the elite special operations unit, but might have been moving up within it.

Douglas Burton spoke with Ahmet Yayla. the former head of the counter-terrorism and operations division of Turkey’s national police, who who now lives in the United States and teaches courses in national security and law at George Mason University (and is accused of being part of the FETO network, which he denies). Yayla explains how Erdogan's purges, before the alleged coup and especially after, have left massive security holes. “In the Ministry of Interior alone after the coup, the president removed 18,600 senior police officers,” he said.

The thousands of gaps left by the mass arrests have been filled, sometimes poorly, with loyal Erdogan followers. Authorities shut down the old police academies and decentralized training to four-month courses at regular universities. These, he says, are conducted with little or no oversight to screen out Jihadists, who may instead be steered to these jobs, quickly turned out and rapidly promoted. (Burton, Klippenstein/Blumenthal, AlterNet) Altintas was already graduated before this (back in 2014), but the jihadist's quick rise “to a prestigious unit of riot police in Ankara” raises questions, Yayla said. “It is unthinkable that such a junior officer would have been given this boost unless he were very close to the ruling AKP Party of Erdogan.” (Burton)

The special operations unit he was part of might include: fake coups or real assassinations, on the secret side. Publicly, it does include, as German DW reports, “Previous security details”
Daily newspaper Hurriyet said Altintas served in riot police in Ankara and provided security for Erdogan eight times since the coup attempt in July.”
The UK Telegraph reports:
Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, served on police details backing up Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s personal body guards eight times since the failed military coup that rocked Turkey in July, Abdülkadir Selvi, a columnist known for his close ties to the government, wrote in Hurriyet on Wednesday. Alintas, who served on an elite Ankara riot unit for two and a half years, was part of the second tier of security at those events.
Is this a promotion? It's said he did this same security job before - once in 2014, once in 2015, and then eight times in the second half of 2016. Post-coup he should be extra-carefully picked to help defend against alleged Gulen plotters. Now they say he was one all along. But none of the suddenly-obvious clues emerge before and raised enough suspicion to revoke that clearance. The alleged FETO traitor “provided security for Erdogan” repeatedly, but never tried to assassinate him. Did the first tier of security prevent him every time from taking a shot at the Gulenist's main enemy? Or did he actually like Erdogan?

Tarek Fatah noted the shooting was: "eerily similar to the assassination of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer by his jihadi police bodyguard in January, 2011." But this time, the jihadi police assassin never did kill his ward - he was trusted and indeed protected by the Turkish state up to the moment he assassinated Russia's ambassador instead.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Did John Kerry collude with ISIS to capture Palmyra?

ISIS terrorist execute prisoners in Palmyra theater in 2015.
It has been clear to all parties for several weeks that the rebels and their terrorist allies in the eastern Aleppo pocket must be evacuated to other terrorist-held areas. Green buses have been on waiting at the exit corridor for weeks. The United Stated has made every effort to prevent a deal from being reached. Kerry has been "backtracking" and "playing diplomatic games".

A deal between the US and Russia was suddenly reached yesterday, only a few hours after ISIS captured Palmyra. The fall of Palmyra is largely the result of the fact that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) troops defending Palmyra had been transferred to Aleppo to take part in the decisive battles, most notable the Desert Hawks Brigade who were the experts in desert warfare. Palmyra was defended by poorly trained National Defense Force (NDF) troops who were killed by the hundreds in ISIS' initial attacks.

Map of Palmyra as published by pro-ISIS Twitter account.
It seems evident that Kerry and the Aleppo rebels had been told by their masters to hold on to Aleppo as long as it took ISIS to conquer Palmyra.


1) It has been a long term US plan to establish an "Islamic State" in eastern Syria. This is revealed in the 2012 report by the DIA. See for example:
2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”
2) A US-Saudi plan called for the relocation of the Caliphate (ISIS) and its terrorist forces from Mosul to eastern Syria, specifically to Deir ez-Zor. The plan was first revealed by Russian sources on October 12, 2016 and later confirmed by Reuters on December 7th.
US, Saudis to grant 9,000 ISIS fighters free passage from Iraqi Mosul to Syria – source

How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq war
3) The US and coalition air forces attacked the Syrian Army in Deir ez-Zor on September 17, 2016. The attack was synchronized with an ISIS ground attack that almost lead to the capture of Deir ez-Zor airport and made it permanently unusable to airplanes.
US airstrike on SAA in Deir ez-Zor
Syria claims that they have recordings of communications between ISIS and US forces during the attack.

4) ISIS is said to have moved 4000 terrorist troops and 200 vehicles to Palmyra, allegedly from Iraq, without the US seeing them or attacking them.

5) The ISIS attack was closely monitored by US drones.
Within Syria ‏@WithinSyriaBlog Dec 10
My source in T4 AB: many USAF UAVs are over the battlefield in #Palmyra just watching!
6) Syrian sources claim that prior to the ISIS attack the US Air Force had disrupted all SAA radio communications and radar around Palmyra.

ISIS flag in Palmyra on December 11, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Was phosphine used in the Ghouta Chemical Massacre?

By Petri Krohn,
December 6, 2016

A barrel of Detia GAS-EX-B in an abandoned grain silo in Herford, Germany
I have always maintained that the alleged "sarin" attack of August 2013 never happened. Instead, hostages were gassed in cellars throughout eastern Ghouta. The chemical agent used has been a mystery. I have assumed it was mainly chlorine, but not all symptoms match.

Lizzie Phelan has now published photos and video from a school in eastern Aleppo that had been used as a rebel base. A storage room contained hundreds of liters of potassium permanganate in 10 or 20 liter plastic canisters. We have long suspected that Syrian rebels use potassium permanganate to generate chlorine gas for their gas chambers and for staging "regime gas attacks".

The chemical cache also contains barrels of aluminium phosphide under the brand name Detia GAS-EX-B. Aluminium phosphide produces phosphine upon contact with atmospheric water. The primary use of phosphine is as a fumigant in farms and grain silos. Was Detia GAS-EX-B also used to fumigate rebel prisoners?

Dead children in in the "Sun Morgue" in Kafr Batna in August 2013

Detia GAS-EX-B is delivered in bags that are packed in metal barrels like the ones seen in on the video.
A barrel of Detia GAS-EX-B similar to the one seen on the video.
A bag of Detia GAS-EX-B taken from the barrels. (Photo by Lizzie Phelan)
The immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) concentration for phosphine is stated as 69,5 mg/m3 where it is only 29 mg/m3 for chlorine. However, only 118,56 mg of precursor chemicals are needed to poison one cubic meter of air to the IDLH level with phosphine, whereas 159,09 mg of potassium permanganate and pure hydrochloric acid are needed for one cubic meter of chlorinated air. The chemicals however come as water solutions, so the total bulk is far greater.

A canister of  potassium permanganate poured on the stairs of the school in Hanano.
Phosphine gas is a cytotoxic compound that causes free radical mediated injury, inhibits vital cellular enzymes and is directly corrosive to tissues. Wikipedia covers the effects of phosphine under the topic of aluminium phosphide poisoning. Poisonings are seen as a problem in India and Saudi Arabia.

The school in Hanano in eastern Aleppo may have been a weapons factory. Chlorine and phosphine may have been produced for use in chemical weapons. It is also possible that the were used in situ for executions. As a fumigant aluminium phosphide is quite similar to Zyklon B. Both are solid compounds that release toxic gasses when exposed to water or humidity. It should not be a huge intellectual challenge for an aspiring terrorist to figure out that aluminium phosphide or Detia GAS-EX-B has uses in a gas chamber.

For some odd reason no one has ever before suggested phosphine as the chemical agent in the Ghouta massacre. Other organophosphorus compounds have been suggested without much proof. One vital clue may be the smell. Impure "technical grade" phosphine has a highly unpleasant odor like garlic or rotting fish or rotten eggs. Witnesses in Ghouta reported the smell as unpleasant, rotten like rotten eggs.

Did Ghouta rebels use Detia GAS-EX-B to gas their victims in cellars or other gas chambers?