Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Libyan Terror Spreads in the Maghreb

March 30, 2015

Ever since Libya's government was destroyed, strangely enough the country has been something of a basket case, with unchecked Islamist terrorism spreading all across North Africa, besides into Syria and beyond. Mali, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt - AQIM, LIFG, Belhaj, Daesh/ISIS, etc. and fighting in Libya itself ... I myself don't have much to say yet, but commentator H dropped these links in comments elsewhere I'll use as a starter, and at least a place for more related comments.
 
21/03/2015 Yasmine Ryan Terrorists in museum raid trained in Libyan camp http://www.independent.ie/world-news/middle-east/terrorists-in-museum-raid-trained-in-libyan-camp-31083811.html
 
training battalion Uqba Qaminis Benghazi area April 2011
 
 
Saturday 28 March 2015
The Associated Press also reported that Libya and neighboring Egypt
last month urgently requested international aid, including the lifting of the embargo,

after a video of the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians

announced the presence of Islamic State group supporters
in the oil-rich North African country. Saturday 28 March 2015
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-security-council-holds-libya-arms-embargo-place-43244801

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Friday to step up the fight against Islamic militants in Libya but without lifting the arms embargo.
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-security-council-holds-libya-arms-embargo-place-43244801



16 feb. 2015 - Libya's air force commander, Saqr al-Joroushi,
told Egyptian state TV that the airstrikes were co-ordinated with the Libyan side
http://globalnews.ca/news/1832577/egypt-stages-2nd-wave-of-strikes-against-islamic-state-after-video-of-killings/

Egypt warplanes strike ISIS targets in Libya after killings of Christian hostages

The 21 – mainly young men from impoverished families – had travelled to Libya for work
and were kidnapped in two groups in December and January from the coastal city of Sirte.

The strikes hit four IS positions in the eastern Libyan city of Darna,
an extremist stronghold that was taken over by an Islamic State affiliate last year,

Monday 16 March 2015

Sirte Monday 16 March 2015 Yasmine Ryan

Islamist groups in the eastern city of Derna declared allegiance to the Iraqi leader of Isis,
Abu Bakr Baghdadi, in late 2014, some replacing existing  links to al-Qaeda.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-libya-muammar-gaddafis-soldiers-are-back-in-the-country-and-fighting-under-the-black-flag-of-the-islamic-state-10111964.html

This “Islamic emirate” has recently been reinforced by 300 Libyan jihadists
that have returned home from Syria and Iraq,
where they were fighting alongside ISIL’s al Battar Brigade – first in Deir ez-Zor (Syria),
and then in Mosul (Iraq)
http://journal-neo.org/2015/02/18/rus-liviya-igil-vplotnuyu-podoshel-k-evrope/



Sunday, March 22, 2015
 http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=42081

While Brigade 166 from Misrata, assigned by the Tripoli-based chief-of-staff,
took positions on the outskirts of Sirte to contain ISIS expansion in the area in February,
a delegation from Misrata engaged a dialogue with the terrorists holed up in Sirte.

“We asked them to lay down their arms and hand over foreign fighters”,
one of the delegation’s members told The Media Line. “We offered the protection
of the Libyan fighters and also a safe return to their hometowns like Derna.”
11 Feb 2015

The Tunisian ambassador in Libya, who resigned recently , said that the (Libyan) Government is responsible for not arresting Abu Ayaz Ahmed Rouissi
who is involved in the assassination of Chokri Belaid

Reza Boukadi said that ignoring the extradition demanded
by the Tunisian official bodies was strange and suspicious
http://www.libyaakhbar.com/libya-news/61408.html


October 23, 2014
Zaoui also nominated Abu Ayaz, leader of Ansar al-Sharia (Tunisia), who is currently in Libya.

Abu Ayaz has strong links to Libyan terrorist groups and warlords,
and had helped them recruit fighters during the Libyan uprising
and at the start of the conflict in Syria.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 Abu Ayaz (Tunisia) Ansar al-Sharia helped them recruit fighters during the Libyan uprising and at the start of the conflict in Syria.

http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/22161

In Tunisia, the Uqba bin Nafi Brigade, led by Algerian terrorist Luqman Abu Sakhr,
declared allegiance to ISIS in a video posted on websites affiliated to extremists nearly a month ago

------------

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Terrorists came from Libya
http://networkedblogs.com/HiFB3

Algerian officials have been complaining for days now that the terrorists in Algeria slipped in from Libya. I noticed that US media did not report that probably because it embarrasses them to note that the terrorists were in fact recipients of Western largesse during the NATO war on Libya.

http://nsnbc.me/2013/01/22/the-al-qaeda-in-the-islamic-maghreb-whos-who-who-is-behind-the-terrorists/
More recently, reports confirm that AQIM has received weapons from the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

http://news.yahoo.com/algeria-state-news-agency-army-133836079.html
The BP gas field is 60 kilometers west of the Libyan border

Saturday 28 March 2015
The Associated Press also reported that Libya and neighboring Egypt
last month urgently requested international aid, including the lifting of the embargo,

after a video of the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians

announced the presence of Islamic State group supporters
in the oil-rich North African country. Saturday 28 March 2015
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-security-council-holds-libya-arms-embargo-place-43244801

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Friday to step up the fight against Islamic militants in Libya but without lifting the arms embargo.
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-security-council-holds-libya-arms-embargo-place-43244801


16 feb. 2015 - Libya's air force commander, Saqr al-Joroushi,
told Egyptian state TV that the airstrikes were co-ordinated with the Libyan side
http://globalnews.ca/news/1832577/egypt-stages-2nd-wave-of-strikes-against-islamic-state-after-video-of-killings/

Egypt warplanes strike ISIS targets in Libya after killings of Christian hostages

The 21 – mainly young men from impoverished families – had travelled to Libya for work
and were kidnapped in two groups in December and January from the coastal city of Sirte.

The strikes hit four IS positions in the eastern Libyan city of Darna,
an extremist stronghold that was taken over by an Islamic State affiliate last year,

Monday 16 March 2015

Sirte Monday 16 March 2015 Yasmine Ryan

Islamist groups in the eastern city of Derna declared allegiance to the Iraqi leader of Isis,
Abu Bakr Baghdadi, in late 2014, some replacing existing  links to al-Qaeda.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-libya-muammar-gaddafis-soldiers-are-back-in-the-country-and-fighting-under-the-black-flag-of-the-islamic-state-10111964.html

This “Islamic emirate” has recently been reinforced by 300 Libyan jihadists
that have returned home from Syria and Iraq,
where they were fighting alongside ISIL’s al Battar Brigade – first in Deir ez-Zor (Syria),
and then in Mosul (Iraq)
http://journal-neo.org/2015/02/18/rus-liviya-igil-vplotnuyu-podoshel-k-evrope/



Sunday, March 22, 2015
 http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=42081

While Brigade 166 from Misrata, assigned by the Tripoli-based chief-of-staff,
took positions on the outskirts of Sirte to contain ISIS expansion in the area in February,
a delegation from Misrata engaged a dialogue with the terrorists holed up in Sirte.

“We asked them to lay down their arms and hand over foreign fighters”,
one of the delegation’s members told The Media Line. “We offered the protection
of the Libyan fighters and also a safe return to their hometowns like Derna.”
March 25, 2015

Forces loyal to the Tripoli government, sent to Sirte from the western city of Misrata,
have clashed several times with the militants and had set up checkpoints near the power station.

The region east of Sirte has been a battlefield since December
when a force loyal to Libya Dawn tried to seize Libya’s biggest oil ports,

Al Sider and Ras Lanuf, but both remain under the control of forces
loyal to the recognised Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni.

http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/libya/daesh-militants-kill-five-pro-tripoli-government-fighters-1.1478925

Militants loyal to Daesh, the group which controls much of Syria and Iraq,
have exploited the turmoil by expanding in eastern and central Libya in recent months.
They have taken over government offices, universities and a radio station in Sirte in the last few weeks.



25 march 2015 Operation Sunrise (Shorouq)
A suicide bomber has killed five members of Operation Sunrise (Shorouq) at a checkpoint
at the steam power station outside Sirte, according to a military source in the area.
The attack is said to have taken place late this morning.
So far there are no details, although IS is suspected.

Last week, it announced that there would be an onslaught of suicide and car bombings
against Libya Dawn and Misrata which it accused of being “enemies of God”.

Operation Sunrise, set up by Libya Dawn to take the eastern oil fields and terminals
has a large Misratan input.

Last December, 14 guards protecting the town’s Al-Khaleej (Gulf) Power Station,
which is still under construction, were murdered in an attack.

The perpetrators have never been discovered
although at the time Operation Sunrise forces were blamed.
The dead men were said to have been from the same tribe as General Khalifa Hafter.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2015/03/25/suicide-bomber-kills-5-operation-sunrise-members-in-sirte-power-station-attack-report/



March 22, 2015

Misrata forces have been literally trapped in Ben Jawad for the last month,
pinned down between the rival forces led by General Khalifa Haftar on one side
and ISIS on the other.

Last December, Misrata, allied with the Tripoli-based National Congress
which was reinstated after the Supreme Court invalidated the parliamentary elections

held in June as illegitimate, launched the Sharooq operation, “English sunset,”

to take control over the oil terminals controlled

by federalist forces and General Haftar,

lined up with the rival parliament sheltered in the far eastern town of Tubruq,
which considers the Supreme court’s verdict invalid because it was allegedly
handed down under duress.

“ISIS men have been grouping there for months, but that day they openly came out,”
a member of Misrata intelligence told The Media Line.

http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=42081

The followers of the caliphate had slowly infiltrated the hometown
of former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi from the beginning of 2014,

when the head of the Salafi group Ansar Al Sharia, Attir Ahmed, was killed in battle.


Situation 21 march 2015 :

https://twitter.com/vtchakarova/status/579211411726942209

Sirte is under full IS control and the battles are in the outskirts of the city

https://twitter.com/generalshami472/status/579551921079513089
Around 500 Isis fighters are in Sirte.

Their identities are unknown because of the black masks they wear.

As well as the conference centre, they hold a hotel and the flour mill.
A few hundred metres away from the mill, Misrata forces take their coffee in a roadside café.

Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city located to the east of Tripoli, is the power base of the Libya Dawn faction
which seized power in Tripoli in August.

Ibrahim Ben Rajab, head of the Misrata Military Council, said that they had hoped other cities would contribute
more forces to Brigade 166, to avoid the risk that Misrata would be subjected to a retaliatory campaign by Isis.
http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article9736245.ece/alternates/w1024/Abu-Musab-al-Zarqawi.jpg
http://www.alwasat.ly/ar/news/world/13321/
أبو مصعب الزرقاوي Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Remarkably, among those transited from Jordan to Syria were especially
the followers of the leader of "Al-Qaeda" in Iraq,
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006.


Ajaj al-Saqr, a general who had served under Gaddafi and was loyal to him until the end, was among those injured. ( and never leaves an internet trace)
He had been living in exile in Egypt and is believed to have returned to Sirte recently.
https://twitter.com/FreeBenghazi/status/577633174080991232



Mohamed Sakr
http://isisstudygroup.com/?tag=mohamed-sakr
Bilal el-Berjawi

and Mohamed Sakr

were also associated with Mohammed Emwazi
while he lived in the UK


Remarkably ressemblance of uniforms of garbage/ kommama cleaners Sirte
https://www.facebook.com/SirteNews/photos/pcb.829047827180558/829047680513906/?type=1&theater

and : orange jumpsuits of Egyptian Christians kidnapped from Surt

A recent video depicting the beheadings of Egyptian Christians kidnapped from Surt appeared

to have been taped on the Libyan shoreline,
but it also featured
the parent group’s signature audiovisual sophistication, orange jumpsuits and ceremonial knives.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/world/middleeast/islamic-state-video-beheadings-of-21-egyptian-christians.html



Fighters under the banner of the Tripolitania Province of the Islamic State

announced last month that they were holding about 20 Egyptian Christians, or Copts.

A similar number of Egyptian Christians in Libya seeking work
had disappeared in the mid-coastal city of Surt.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/11/world/africa/isis-seizes-opportunity-in-libyas-turmoil.html?_r=0

The coalition that sent Mr. Hassan, which is known as Libya Dawn
and opposes General Hifter, includes some Islamic extremist groups
in the eastern cities of Benghazi, Darnah and possibly elsewhere.

Its supporters often try to argue that the Islamic State fighters in Surt are merely a front
for Qaddafi loyalists or supporters of General Hifter.
https://justpaste.it/j0rk

Asma Magariaf ‏@LibyanBentBladi
Isis in Libya: Gaddafi's soldiers are back in the country

https://twitter.com/LibyanBentBladi/status/577657483981901824

Yasmine Ryan reports from Sirte in a rare dispatch from jihadis’ other war
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/profile/yasmine-ryan.html

Many Misratans insist that the fighters now in Sirte are Gaddafi loyalists,


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-libya-muammar-gaddafis-soldiers-are-back-in-the-country-and-fighting-under-the-black-flag-of-the-islamic-state-10111964.html


https://www.facebook.com/210644359063747/photos/a.210789565715893.46321.210644359063747/655204434607735/?type=1

Al Daesh dead today in a lightning attack Battalion 166 Sirte
March 16
https://www.facebook.com/210644359063747/photos/a.210789565715893.46321.210644359063747/654069718054540/?type=1
This organization, headed by lt. col. Abdallah Sanussi al Migrahi, is divided between domestic and foreign security services. Sanussi heads external security,

with Abdul Salam Zadma as his deputy (external operations and fundamentalist movements).

Domestic security is headed by the justice and general security minister,
Mohamed Maumud al Hijazi.

Number two man is transport minister Ezzedin al Inchiri
and number three is Suleiman Ashiri, who is believed to have organized
the kidnapping of the ex foreign minister Mahmud Kikkhia in Cairo in December, 1994.
http://sijill.tripod.com/sec95.htm



Tuesday,17/March/2015
Mohammed Zadma of the military police in Sirte, Libya said : Quiet prevail in the city
and its suburbs since Tuesday morning.

He added that the Dawn forces organize their ranks to break
into Nofaliya area (oil areas 120 km east of Sirte and 70 km west of Bin Jawad, ),

" Where Pockets of hard-line elements loyal to the organization Daash resides."
http://www.vetogate.com/1530140

according to Zadma the 11 buried Daash elements are another than the 23 bodies
we found on the battlefield in Hroah area who were delivered to the Red Crescent
in the city of Misrata.
4 February 2015:
Fighting has continued today at Sidra between forces from Libya Dawn’s Operation Sunrise,
who are trying to seize the oil terminal, and the Central Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG)
backed by Libyan National Army’s air power.

According to Misratan sources, five Misratans were killed today in the clashes.
https://www.facebook.com/Ofw.in.libya/posts/762259600525974


Fri Feb 6, 2015 6:33am EST Oil port battle highlights threat of Libya break-up
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/06/libya-security-port-idUSL6N0VF1ZM20150206
Both sides facing each other near the town of Ben Jawad across a front line
littered with tank shells and bomb craters are made up of former rebels who fought
together to oust Gaddafi but are now fighting each other
over who owns the 2011 uprising.

22 January, 2015
The forces of Libya Dawn, which are fighting in western Libya, and the forces of Operation Sunrise, fighting in the area of the oil ports and petroleum crescent in central Libya,
were one step ahead of Operation Dignity.
They announced a ceasefire only hours after the first round of talks in Geneva ad ended, according to a press statement by the official spokesman for the Libya Shield forces
in the central zone, Ahmed Hadiya.
Nevertheless, Libyan sources close to Libya Dawn told the Weekly that Hadiya is close
to one of the members of parliament who is boycotting the parliamentary sessions in Tobruk,

the business magnate Fathy Bashagha, and that Hadiya issued the statement to the press on the basis of instructions from Bashagha, without first referring to
the field commanders of the Libya Dawn and Operation Sunrise forces.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/10231/20/High-stakes-for-Libya-in-Geneva.aspx

16 Jan 2015
Fajer Libya and al-shorouq announce the stop of their operation to secure the eastern oil ports

from pro-LNA Jathran forces

https://twitter.com/ghaithshennib/status/556124344381112320

4 Jan 2015
https://twitter.com/MarsadLibya/status/551764315364392961
 
Thursday 23 October 2014

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/ansar-al-sharia-leader-almost-certainly-killed-libya-2105958401
Ansar al-Sharia leader Mohammed Al-Zahawi 'almost certainly' killed in Libya


16 November 2014:
The Presidency of the General Chief of Staff  has decided to establish a Military Operations Room for the Central region.It will be commanded by Brigadier Rajab Ali Salem Al-Hamad

and will have authority over an area stretching from 60 kilometres east of Ajdabiya
to 100 kilometres west of Sirte and south to the Jalu oasis.

Also part of the operation will be Colonel Abdullah Naji Adam, Colonel Masoud Idris Saleh Aldoas, Colonel Bashir Abdelkader Budafira, Colonel Yusef Abdul Qadir Zawawi, Airforce Colonel Yusef Ratib Khalifa Jazawi,

and retired Colonel Saeed Salem Awad Al-Jadhran.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2014/11/16/army-chief-of-staff-to-establish-operations-room-for-central-region/

11 April 2014
Sirte was the scene of armed clashes between militias
under the control of federalist leader Ibrahim Jadhran
and Central Libya Shield in March
when Jadhran’s Cyrenaica Defence Force entered the town
before being pushed back to the Red Valley

http://libyaherald.com/2014/04/11/central-libya-shield-forces-pull-out-from-sirte-airbase/

March 12, 2014
Shields Misrata militias burned base Salah Bohlaiqah battalion in Bohadi
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=633015016752910&set=a.422220817832332.113497.422219511165796&type=1&stream_ref=10

A Benghazi brigade, the Zawia Martyrs Brigade, which is attached to the Saiqa force,
was assigned to ensure stability in Sirte in early 2012

Tripoli, 6 December 2013: Colonel Salah Buhulaiga,
the commander of the Zawia Martyrs Brigade in Sirte,
was killed early this morning, apparently in a car crash.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/12/06/buhulaiga-killed-in-traffic-accident/#ixzz2mkrSwlua

The head of the SSC in Tripoli, Hashem Bishr, told the Libya Herald that intelligence contacts and members of the brigade in Sirte had confirmed to him
that the death was an accident.

July 30, 2013
in the area Nofaliya 150 cars Ansar al-Sharia and armor coming from Benghazi gathered ,

including forces led by Sam bin Humaid and a battalion February 17

and 3 battalions from Misratah in the area of ​​Zamzam 130 km west of Sirte,

battled today with the army led by Colonel Salah Abouhliqh/ Buhulaiga

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514467795292664&set=a.472521182820659.1073741828.471546236251487&type=1

http://www.dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/2290/Meet-Wissam-bin-Hamid-Uncle-Sams-Jihadist-Security-Officer.aspx

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/ansar-al-sharia-leader-almost-certainly-killed-libya-2105958401



22 june 2013
joint operations room military security in Sirte headed by Colonel Gamal Alzahawi
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=488795151205829&set=a.488795021205842.1073742366.310394959045850&type=1&theater
commander of the military police in the Central Region and the Katieb Martyrs Zawiya


4 June 2013
According to residents, the men who apply the punishment of flogging
without judicial rulings do belong to Ansar al-Sharia,

http://alrassedalliby.com/news/news.aspx?id=2165495

(more coming?)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fail Caesar part 2: Re-Considering The Victims

November 16-17, 2014
(updated March 20, 2015)
<-- Fail Caesar: Exposing the Anti-Syria Photo Propaganda {Masterlist}

(This incomplete post will be a large-sized one, with some additions expected in time. It might well need to be split-up into a series of posts, but I'm hoping one big, valuable page can hold it all. Already it's huge and I want to post it, and then finish the main first part in-place)
(last edits Nov. 18 (added to "fighting age men" and "starvation timeline")

Intro: Honoring Victims of Genocide?
  The narrative provided by the defector "Caesar" and echoed by so many is quite clear on who the men in his photographs are; primarily or totally prisoners in Syrian government's jails. Specifically, they tended to come from military intelligence prisons in Damascus, especially the ones run by MI branches 215 and 227, and it's quite clear the guilt for all abuses on those jailers alone. All the dead from fighting on both sides, the massacred civilians of Alawi and Christian villages and government loyalist Sunnis, executed hostages simply found by the government, all accidental or natural deaths, were sent elsewhere or at least not included in the thousands of photos "Caesar" claims he smuggled out copies of.

  And so it is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in October, 2014, displayed images of these dead Syrian men to defame their government and further encourage its overthrow as only fair. The UK Guardian - one original media outlet for the Caesar project and guardian of the story - reports the subjects were "honoured" by the display, because it can be known they were "victims of [the] Syrian regime."

  The USHMM display was titled "Genocide: the Threat Continues," and was explained as meant "to remind the world that genocide didn't end with the Holocaust." A government-led "genocide" has been invoked by "Caesar" and his support team, but which "geno" they and the USHMM speak of remains unexplained. Presumably, it's the standard: Assad the Alawite against the Sunni majority of Syria, or more narrowly those Sunnis who rebel against the state. As a group with a family element, there is a genetic dimension to the crackdown. And the museum did chose to highlight - among a reported 12 images total - one that shows a man with his genitals removed, which sort of captures part of the essence of the crime (I don't believe this one is among those I've seen on the Internet).

  It has always remained plausible, if not considered by the gatekeepers, that this story is not accurate, that the victims were actually selected by the anti-government side for being non-Sunni or for supporting the government. This would classify as genocide at least as well as it does the other way around. This has been the motive in some of Syria's most notorious mass killings - acknowledged in some cases like the August 2013 Latakia Massacres and the October 2013 Sadad massacre, while getting glossed over or denied in others like the Houla Massacre (following the Battle of Taldou) and the Al-Bayda massacre of Sunni civilians related to a government loyalist Imam.

  If this is the case to even some extent in the "Caesar" photos, then to that extent it would be fairer to say the USHMM exhibit exploits the victims - and horribly so - instead of honoring them. It would, as others have already done, use their suffering to defame and destroy the government whose only crime was being unable to protect all its citizens anymore ... on account of the outsider-supported uprising, fed by propaganda like this stretching back to day one.

  All regime prisoners, all rebel/terrorist victims, or some mix ... these are the basic possibilities for what's actually shown in these documents of misery. Here I seek not to disprove but to firmly challenge the blindly accepted first option.

General Points: What can be Seen, What can't be Known

Numbers: Caesar provided a large portion of the vaunted 55,000 total images - perhaps exactly the 26,948 delivered to the FBI. The remaining half, the Carter-Ruck report states, were "similar images" gathered from other sources that don't share the "credible" details "Caesar" provides for his. It's estimated the full 55,000 images show 11,000 victims, as each victim in a smaller pool had 4-5 images taken. So just for Caesar's half, it might be only half that, or likely more. The report is based on close examination of 835 victims from a set of 5,500 images they were given. We cannot yet verify any of these numbers, but can proceed on the presumption that this part at least is probably true.

Mixed Types of Dead: The visual facts of the photos suggest mixed types of alleged prisoners, as the sections below show. The most brutally tortured appear "nabbed" and left in original street clothes, finished off horribly but quickly compared to the others we've seen. Those appear to have been shackled somewhere for weeks and neglected totally until they had starved to death. There seem to be a few visible odd samples of other types, and a fuller review would likely clarify the spread of these differences and offer a more useful view. But from the limited view so far, it seems either the prisons in this system used very mixed methods, or the victims simply did not all come from prisons as alleged.

Fighting Age Men: The Carter-Ruck report says there was exactly one woman (clothed, no sign of injury) among the 835 victims the investigators examined closely. The "vast majority" were men who appeared to be aged 20-40, with a very few elderly men ("up to sixty years old") and "no children." But one victim below (#2 in this list) looks more like 70, and what contitutes "children" might be perhaps arbitrary; they don't mention anyone in the crucial category aged 16-20 category, some photo victims appear to be possible teenagers, and "Caesar says (NPR) "there are pictures of children, there are pictures of the elderly, and there's a picture of a woman," all seeming to be the dramatic exceptions to the rule that the report might have over-simplified a bit. (Note: the one woman sounds like in his whole archive, also appearing in the 5,500-image sample given to the investigators) It's not known if this pattern holds over the fuller catalog, but it seems likely enough to describe the victims here as men, and those being primarily of fighting age.
  The identity of punished fighting-age men in Syria would seem clear to the Western public mind: Sunni activists, rebel fighters or people the authorities thought might become that, detained and later killed in a paranoid prevention policy. Such things are a staple accusation in Syria, and not inherently illogical. But on a case-by-case basis, the accusation often fails to hold water.
  Consider the men that kept turning up in the Queiq river in Aleppo in early 2013 - 110 of them at once on January 29. The victims were locals from rebel-administered Bustan al-Qasr district, right by that stretch of river. But opposition claims were they also crossed to the government side for work, and were abducted there. Then they were killed at a military intelligence prison - a strong parallel with the accusations of Team Caesar - and floated down the river to right where they would wind up if local rebels had dumped them a few blocks from home. A lot of clues there point to rebel hostages or perhaps failed recruitment drives - men they thought could and should be rebels, held until they agreed. Those might be executed when they refused to play along, with the killings clustered for effect and to be branded a regime massacre; everyone knew the number was 110, even when they could only find 80 of them right away. These and others found before and after were used as propaganda with a clear recruitment agenda - explicitly boosting the "moderate" FSA but including a welcome to Jabhat al-Nusra - that can be seen in this Guardian video report. The second-biggest Queiq River massacre, of around 50 bodies at once, turned up in that same rebel repository on March 10, the same day that video was published, as if it was a promotional event!
  Added later, an even better and more undeniable example to help put the below in context: Douma Hostage Massacre (the one we have a page on anyway), August 2012. Douma is a northwestern suburb of Damascus, from which a reported 16 local men (later adjusted to 12, maybe still 16 in truth, only six seen for sure) were found executed on August 17. Dressed in civilian street clothes, they had their throats cut to the point of being half-decapitated, and were dumped at the National Hospital in neighboring Harasta. Rebel videos filming the grisly discovery decried the "slaughter of detainees by Assad's soldiers," where "Assad Regime kills 16 Douma youths with knives" in an "extra judicial execution" that's "evidence of crimes against Humanity Committed by Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Assad."
  But before they were executed, all six visible victims were seen seen in the same distinctive street clothes they were killed in, with other captives and their "Assad regime" captors. This was on a series of videos made a few days earlier and stamped with a local anti-Assad FSA brigade logo. An armed militant explains, perhaps, how they will punish these men (translation still needed). At this time the doomed are described in video titles (translated) as "elements of the Internal Security Forces Armor Brigade for the Capital," captured. These men don't look military, by their clothes or varied levels of fitness and age; they look like random local men of about fighting age is all. But the Harasta rebels claimed they "killed and captured many of the Assad army" on or before August 14, and these 12-16 prisoners were killed three days later, and then filmed by the same people and blatantly turned into (unidentified) innocents "slaughtered by Assad thugs." That's how some of the victims captured in the photos under discussion have been presented...

Morgue/Garage Locale and Loyalty: The location(s) of the photographs is not proven. "Caesar" is clear it's the place he worked, unspecified. It might be an area next to an official morgue, but it isn't one. Le Monde (via Worldcrunch) heard from Caesar project heavyweight Emadeddin Rachid (alt: Emad ad-Din al-Rashid) former deputy head of the Sharia Faculty at the University of Damascus, president of Syrian National Movement, founder of Islamist "Syrian National Current" part of the SNC, directly financing "moderate" Islamist factions. Rashid had the photos on his computer, showed them some, and said of one scene "this is the garage of the military hospital of Mezzeh. ... That's where they throw the corpses when the morgue is full. .. That is, these are just the overflow of a much larger massacre, even just in the Damascus area! This smacks of politicized exaggeration. Wall Street Journal, in their July video report, specify Hospital 601 as where US investigators believe the photos were taken. The location they show (0:10) is the same as comes up for Mezzeh in Google Maps, so that's "confirmation" - or rather someone who believed the Rashid/Caesar story.
  In the "Caesar" photos we've seen, showing around 100 victims total, the bodies appear fresh, seen probably less than a day after death, and perhaps just minutes after. Only the one (#3 below) is very decayed and perhaps another (#6) just starting to bloat. This suggests those processing the bodies are on the same side as the killers and easily transferring bodies from one branch to another. It's less likely, but plausible, that such fresh bodies were dumped by one side and found by the other in a swift manner.
  Prisoner and prison numbers seem correct and realistic enough they could be true, but it would be a trivial effort to fake these. Needed: an impressively big but believable prisoner number and a recognizable prison identifier, written on an index card and in some cases written on the body itself. This can be done by anyone, easily, anywhere. We don't even know if this mimics official procedures, let alone if it is official.

For all we can tell the site(s) could be:
* a government-connected facility with these photos being part of the system as we're assured
* a random place where bodies in official channels are slipped away by in-place defectors for these photo shoots, using erasable markers and such to avoid detection
* something more like a rebel-held garage next to a controlled building with a big basement full of hostages - where they took these photos at leisure and simply faked their own murder victims as prisoners of "the Assad regime"

Obscured Faces: Most faces we see here are obscured, except where it would hide shocking gore. This has a many possible reasons, but no clear exlanation offered by Team Caesar. CNN reported on a reason to obscure victim numbers - "those numbers are obscured in the report released to CNN to protect "Caesar's" identity and to hide the location of the military hospital where the photos were taken." Identity can only be hidden that way if it can be deduced from where he was working. But Team Caesar's Rashid has been telling people the location was Mezzeh military hospital 601, blowing that cover (see above). Further, any government with copies of the same images could compare to the originals and get the numbers there - besides already knowing just who he is and where he worked - if he ever worked there as he claims. Not even CNN offered an explanation why the victims' faces had to be obscured. This censorship might prevent recognition of a victim by a Syrian citizen with a different and provable story about that man's death. But they would claim a different reason, if they claimed one. Maybe the regime is able to "figure out" who Caesar is by recognizing the faces of the men he photographed at the work site they assigned him to, which again could be found from their own copies anyway just like the numbers, the photographer's personnel file and next of kin, etc.

 Unless ... they never had copies, because the photos were taken in a rebel facility, before the victims were buried in still undiscovered mass graves, for example.

Seven for Special Study
  In this morbid photo album, there are some interesting victims to help illustrate how the truth may be different from the Team Caesar narrative. It could be argued I selected these to poke holes in the story, ignoring others that fit it better. That would be true, but these are from among those 33 top picks selected by the team previously, filtering out tens of thousands, from among those chosen to smuggle out in the first place. These 7 cover more than 20% of the published photos, and the bulk of the rest with more victims in them are covered by the next section anyway.

  I feel like not showing the photos here, generally. But the photo numbers refer to the list of 33 known photos here at the ACLOS talk page. There each has a link so you can see it as presented by media and government sources directly involved in the Caesar project, from their servers for now.

1) A Christian (photo 25):
  This alleged Assad victim is, by his several visible crucifix tattoos, a member of one of Syria's many and often ancient Christian communities - not known for rising up en masse against the government, and not connected to the supposed genocide of Sunnis it's claimed the photos document. Islamist terrorists often abduct and kill Christians, but here, Assad's jailers are allegedly to blame. Perhaps one joined the rebels and survived that to be done in by a regime prison. Perhaps the regime is just killing whoever now.
  Luckily, he's one of the rare seen victims with numbers actually written on his body as further proof of what the card says - regime victim. Hidden in one house.gov view and not in another (WSJ video), these says he's victim #2615 from branch 227, with another number seeming to be B/4624 (with the 6 written first like a 9 - suggesting someone more familiar with the the Perso-Arabic variant system - possible clue, real or fake).
  Aside from an apparent stab in the right shoulder, it's not clear if he was simply starved to death or actually executed. The covered eyes here - in both views - could be to hide his identity, or to obscure the fact his eyes were gouged out, as Islamists often do to captive heretics, and as some photo victims had done to them. If one wants to blame the secular government fighting Islamist fanatics, it would not help to let people see crosses and eyes missing on the same body. Just the crosses alone are eyebrow-raising, if not conclusive.

2) Elderly Man, Gouged Eyes (photo 14)
  This bearded, elderly man has no clear indication of sect, but he was abducted, starved, and exposed to smoke inhalation prior to death (the nostrils of his broken nose are black - see the same with the Alawite civilians taken captive by rebels in Aqrab, December 2012, and at least one victim starved in rebel-held Yarmouk in early 2014 for a couple of examples.
  Closer to the end, it looks like his eyeballs were gouged out of their sockets, but left hanging loose. They want us to see this, but not his face in general. Islamists sometimes do that to infidels, whose corpses the government might later find, and whose family might recognize his face (maybe even with the blur). Or as alleged, the government might do this themselves to avoid the wait. He too seems to have a number written across his chest, obscured here.

3) Decayed Victim (photo 13)
  This is another alleged victim of Assad torture, perhaps believed to be some kind of extreme waterboarding (??). It's so severe the person almost looks like the victim of anything, dumped in a creek face-down, and only found a week or two later. Traffic accident on a remote highway, unpaid ransom, who knows? But allegedly, Assad jailers executed him/her, then ... maybe ... dumped the body somewhere moist and retrieved it later? Signs: badly broken jaw, one eye missing, possible hole in throat. It's hard to divorce any one of these from decay/predation and call it a certain feature of torture/execution, but any of them could be.
  This victim is the one known exception to the rule that the shown bodies tend to be fresh - the photographers and their system with "elaborate" numbers might be aligned with the killers, explaining the swift transfers. Again, this dirt-floor garage could be rebel site for all we know.

4) Punctured and Slaughtered (photo 29)
  This Syrian man in civilian street clothes (white t-shirt now torn and soaked red with fresh blood) was abducted by someone who tore up his flesh horribly and then killed him by slicing his throat wide open (partly visible on the right side). Slicing throats is often an Islamist thing, but here allegedly Assad jailers are doing it too. I'm not sure what causes this pitting of peoples' flesh, but this has been seen in some cases (the Daraya massacre at least, and the Mohammed family in Homs during the first rebel reign of terror). The best clues say the victims in both cases were rebel captives, while rebels with access to the bodies insist it was Shabihha or the army who scooped holes in these people, largely in the belly, the arms, and inner thighs. Here' it's Assad jailers allegedly doing it to this guy, and they did get the body in front of a camera quickly. They also gave him a broken left arm and hand, as mentioned a sliced throat, and possible facial trauma under the cloud of blur there.

5) Burned and Eyes Gouged Out (photo 16)
  Lightly-bearded middle-aged man with short hair, stocky build, shown naked with horrible burns in a neat band around his upper torso. These leave his chest all either red or black (charred), with two apparent holes of different size also in the mid-chest. There are odd blurs to the right on his abdomen (a wound too horrible to see? a small victim number?) and near but not at private parts (off-frame here.) Most notably, they show his right eye socket, now devoid of its eye. The rest of his face is blurred away and unrecognizable. It seems his left eye is also scooped out, but for some reason that one's censored.

6) Tortured Belly (photo 15)
  Someone abducted this obese man in street clothes (a dark sweater) and decided to slice up his fat belly, for unclear reasons aside from it being such a big target - but maybe not this big to start. This could the more common "tramline" injuries (beating with thin rod or heavy cable) but to me it looks more like infected cuts. Then he was apparently found face-down in the dirt somewhere, with some of this swelling probably being the start of bloating (maybe 2-3 days dead), brought here and documented. Method of execution unclear (head intact, neck covered). Clearly not starved to death. Maybe fed to death? (appearing in a list of seven, maybe it's the movie Se7en (pronounced "Sesevenen") influencing me here)

7) Mutilated with a Chain (photo 32)
  This bearded, middle-aged Syrian man in civilian street clothes (striped shirt) was abducted by someone who did something unusual and horrible to him. A chain is wrapped tightly around his torso, where he was perhaps hanged or dragged, leaving his rib cage distorted, swollen upwards. Probably after this, two holes were punched in each side of his chest, maybe with bullets. This is an ambiguous type of treatment is another of the especially heinous ones carried out by the "Assad regime," at whichever prison that is where they leave inmates in their street clothes, no uniforms or haircuts, never keep them long enough to starve them to death, and come up with random and extreme torture methods to keep it interesting.

The Victims Starved in Bulk
  The most potent images combine "starved" and "numerous" victims in the same image. That formula is seen three times among those 33 chosen to lead with. Le Monde's reporters who met Emad ad-Din al-Rashid saw the copies of the photo set on his computer. He pointed to one of these and noted what others have: "All these bodies, all skin and bones: It inevitably makes you think about Nazi concentration camps."

  Such photos show a calousness at odds with the image of sword-wielding Islamist hot-heads, and also a scale that naturally evokes the 1940s Holocaust of Jews and others across Europe - which in context means it probably at least had a government behind it. The scale of death - dozens at a time - and the use of warehouses, and "elaborate" numbers that "follow each other" with chilling predictability, all seem beyond insurgents' beard-choked brains. There must be a "killing machine" behind all this, it might seem, of the type only a national government could operate.

Below: one example put in context - aside from the timeline correction, this is how it was employed by the Facebook page "Stand With Caesar" on October 18.

  Whenever the rest came through, either the Branch 215 photo or a similar group shot was staged towards the end of the two-year documentation period, "at the time “Caesar” was planning to defect," according to the Carter-Ruck report (page 14). The report continues: "The excuse he gave for group photographs to his colleagues was that in case they had missed a body they could go back to the group photograph." But really, "he had someone in his section take photographs of a group of bodies to show that the place “looked like a slaughterhouse”." That is, he did it for effect, for a striking scene that would make good propaganda, for which it was recognized later.

  He in fact took at least three such shots (a different one of them shown above). The narrative here suggests the scene he describes was the first time, requiring as it did an explanation. That in turn means the later repetitions of that also came during this later pre-defection span of enhanced creativity. This might well be in August 2013, the month he stopped taking photos and played dead for a bit. Just when in the month would be really helpful to know (see below), but isn't spelled out.

  As noted above, the overall victim array seems quite mixed, challenging the uniform prison system explanation. But there is an overall majority it seems, if slight, that almost gives one face to the "Caesar" photo gallery. It's not the mutilated victims examined above, but the larger numbers of starved captives that came through in at least a few larger batches.

  The Carter-Ruck report explained in their detailed study of "a total of eight hundred and thirty five (835) deceased persons" 42% - or around 350 - "showed emaciation" to the degree they noted it. (p. 17) Presumably, they did this reasonably and a lot of guys were seriously starved by whoever held them captive, as the publicized photos already suggested. Page 28 shows findings for a smaller-yet "dip sample" of 150 individuals. 93 of these, 62%, were emaciated. We could average these and say somewhere around half of the total victims are of this broad group, with the other half being the acute torture victims and unclear other groups we haven't seen much of yet.

  The next most widespread sign in the dip sample is shin problems. 55% of the sample, some 82 individuals had ulceration there, smaller numbers (perhaps overlapping?) had scars, bandages, non-specific or ligature injuries to the shin. The group photos of starved men we've seen show at least some overlap with those starved and suffering raw, traumatized, infected ankles and shins, some looking gangrenous and black. In the larger pool, there might be a huge overlap to approximate the same group sharing these traits.

  My conclusion: whoever held the bulk of these people captive chained them up with some kind of ankle shackles as they failed to feed or care for them. Depending on the type of shackles used, either side seems capable for pulling this together in an area with buildings that they controlled for long enough. So far, we have the word of "Caesar" and of his support team, and the government-blaming numbers written down, to prove any of this is happening on the dirt of an area secured by the Syrian government.

  Otherwise, again, it could be in one of the many areas under one kind or another of rebel administration. That's a 'where' question we can't answer yet. Related to it is the question of 'when'...

Starvation Timeline
  There's a possibly important question about when these men died. Either side could starve captived to death at any time, so the question is not all-important. But there is one period is known for mass starvation with shady explanations, and it's very close to the last of "Caesar's" photos, per the vague, provided timeline. The possibility of overlap between these times of emaciation is worth probing for.

  It's reported "Caesar" took his pictures between March, 2011 and August, 2013, with the time within August not specified. Of course, on August 21 the Ghouta chemical massacre happened in the Damascus suburbs. Unknown hundreds (X-hundred) civilians in rebel-held areas reportedly died from a government Sarin attack, although detailed research shows that at least one batch of about 100 victims including children was gassed by rebels, probably with carbon monoxide, with one man at least finished off in the rebel morgue with a sliced throat. The simplest explanation for such victims is hostages already in their control, with ransoms foregone in an ambitious bid at outside military support.

  But as reported by rebels, the government attack clearly crossed US president Obama's "red line" - exactly one year after he first described it - and led to serious threats of warfare into September. This might well explain the final time "Caesar" decided to flee, hoping Cruise missiles would be coming down soon but prepared to level a backup allegation if the Ghouta news failed, as it did. It was possibly earlier in the month that he cut out, but not likely to be much after. That is, if August really was his last month, and if he actually worked there.

  Just after the alleged Sarin attack, at the end of August, young children started starving to death in one of the allegedly gassed areas, Moadamiyeh, per records of the well-connected Violations Documentation Center (VDC). The reports came with photos to prove what was most likely a problem with how rebels in charge shared the food there. There being no such thing as a human decency embargo, it was most likely intentional that certain children got cut off from food. Children especially started starving to death in small numbers right after this in other rebel-held parts of Damascus under alleged food embargo. By October, numerous civilians of all ages were regularly wasting away in the rebel-held Yarmouk Palestinian camp/district, in a crisis that peaked in January 2014 with several deaths per day reported, all blamed on the external blockade. Throughout, it seems likely rebels were putting some of their own captives on these crash diets, to keep the mindless denunciations of the government coming in.

  It's the starting edge of these dubious crises that's most likely to matter here. Moadamiyeh starving deaths started at the end of August. And in Yarmouk camp, the VDC lists one early case - an infant, back on Aug. 18. Compare that to the likely crush of starved men implicitly documented sometime in August. These do not appear at all in the VDC records, which is actually odd, as they frequently know when someone was tortured to death in a regime prison: just a few random examples of men from all across Syria, detained and taken to Damascus, esp. Branch 215, to die under torture on or before some known date:

Aleppo Central prison doctor who defected, tortured to death in Damascus, Nov. 2012 19-year-old from Daraa, died Dec 18 2012, found dumped "near Air defense battalion between Atman and Tafas" after prison torture - Bus driver from Qarah, Damascus area, died Jan. 14 2013 in a hospital after prison torture - "defected soldier" from Daraa, died Feb 25, 2013 "under torture in a prison after his arrest six days ago by regime forces and his body was thrown on Homs : Damascus road." - 17-year-old, died May 2 after release from prison, with torture. - Harasta resident died June 29, 2013 "Under torture in the prison regime" - Jan. 14 2014, plumber from Rawda, Damascus, arrested July 2013 - "defected soldier" from Daraa died Feb 20 2014 "under torture in the regime`s army prisons in Sednya prison." - From Idlib, died at Branch 215 in Damascus, May 8 2014, over a year after arrest - Latakia man imprisoned at least 2 years, released from Saidnaya prison in bad health, died not on June 25 2014: "date of death is not accurate."

  Maybe there are a lot they miss, but there are many they learn of, especially from careless evidence-dumping. But when hundreds of captive men are allegedly starved to death in these same prisons (or die non-violently at about that point?) the VDC seems to have missed all of them. Maybe some are listed as Detention-Torture like this guy who allegedly starved to death in a prison - which should be listed under "other." But that's a huge list of 3,336 people to comb through.

It seems impossible to do a search for two words anywhere in the notes (prison + malnutrition) - it's too literal, needs the exact phrase. However, All martyrs with "prison" in notes and "other" (incl. starvation) as cause of death = 52 total. Most of these are starvation and disease deaths during the rebel siege of Aleppo central prison in the winter of 2013. At the bottom of the list are two infants at the prison in Raqqah (?) who died from a regime milk embargo. But there's no sign of any of the hundreds of captive men in Damascus anywhere near the middle of 2013.

  A total lack of preview would be a bit suspicious; is it because these deaths were kept so secret, or because the VDC knew more than usual, but wanted it to appear completely "leaked" by the defector they knew was coming? (Or have I just not found the records?)

  The VDC did manage to record alleged prison conditions in the nearby Damascus suburb of Harasta, put into a report published just after "Ceasar" defected, in September 2013. Cited are five recent escapees from Air Force intelligence prison in Harasta: "The witnesses – in their testimonies ... also mentioned the deteriorated health condition in the Branch that caused serious skin diseases to all the detainees, who have been also suffering a malnutrition till they got the "Starvation disease"" But they were careful to hear nothing just yet about masses of deaths from starvation at Branch 215 and wherever else.

  In the absence of the original metadata Team Caesar managed to lose, the question remains open ... do the starved victims come in steadily like a government policy, or in a sudden spurt in, say, mid-to-late August? Wouldn't it be interesting if the regime starved so many in their own controlled prisons, and did it so secretly, at the same time rebels were apparently culling their hostages for Sarin and starvation victims in numerous areas so close by?

  In support of a Summer surge: as noted the 12-man slaughterhouse photo and any others like it were - implicitly in "Caesar's" narrative - staged somewhere in that creative span in or near August. Also, we find a possible support from the defector himself, in the Carter-Ruck report: "It was quite clear from the account given by “Caesar” that the emaciation of the bodies of those in detention was something that he regularly encountered when taking the photographs." His making this "quite clear" suggests the facts themselves don't, or even - like other parts of his story - challenge the regularity, and might instead point to the sudden surge that would be so telling in context.

 
Update, March 20, 2015: The questions raised here and the suspiciously blurred faces that feed into it are freshly challenged with the biggest-yet release of victim photos on March 5 - this time un-blurred face shots with excited invitations to anyone from any side to go ahead and identify ... the victims in this (randomly-chosen?) set. There have been dozens of claimed identifications so far, all from the opposition side that I've seen. Some come with solid picture matches, none with a back-story that's proven. When I have much to say and time to say it here, that will be readable to those who...
 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fail Caesar, part 3: A New Offensive at the Ides of March

<< Fail Caesar: Exposing the Anti-Syria Photo Propaganda {Masterlist}

Intro, March 19
As I said at the outset, two posts might suffice if there were no major new developments in the case. But there are several, with previews in early 2015 and a culmination starting March 5 and ongoing. On the 5th, Team Ceasar had some 4,000 photos (of several hundred victims anyway) released via the Facebook page "Stand with Caesar," with victims' faces not blurred. As intended, this was followed by a slew of identifications of people said to be arrested by the "Assad regime."

There's too much going on with following the new leads (mostly via Twitter, slightly jumbled record here at ACLOS) and other projects to do the subject justice here yet. But this is the space I'll fill in soon-ish. And if anyone has comments on the recent developments, here's a ready space for them.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fail Caesar Part 1: Protecting his Identity - From Whom?

November 8, 2014
(last edits Nov. 9) 

<- Fail Caesar: Exposing the Anti-Syria Photo Propaganda {Masterlist}

Part 1: Protecting his Identity - From Whom? 
I'll start with what I wish had been the first thing to occur to me - the phony "precautions" taken to protect the defector's identity. It's said the code-name and more were to protect "Caesar" and his family from retribution. However, it can be easily shown that this fundamental reason is nonsense, that none of it would protect him or his kin if his given back story is true. Therefore, there must be some other reason so much is kept secret - from almost everyone but the Syrian government - and/or, "Caesar" is not who he claims to be at all.

The code-name is the most obvious manifestation of this supposed fear. As the January Carter-Ruck report explains, the European "investigators" hired by Qatar were the ones who thought up the need, and the strange name to fill it. "This witness who defected from Syria and who had been working for the Syrian government was given the codename “Caesar” by the inquiry team to protect the witness and members of his family." (report, p. 13 - CNN PDF link - Guardian PDF link) As a later Newsweek article put it, he "goes by a code name for fear that he or his family will be targeted..."

His most immediiate family is apparently safe - they were smuggled out just behind him, as CNN reported at the start:
"When Caesar became concerned for his safety, his contacts in the Syrian opposition to whom he had leaked the photos arranged for him and his family to be smuggled out of Syria. The lawyers have remained mum on how that was done, but the report says the process took four months, and that Caesar left the country before his family. ... It is unclear where Caesar and his family are currently living; the lawyers say only that they carried out their investigation in the Middle East."
Various sources suggest this was in the fall, after his last photos sometime in August, and before the State Department heard about them in November. As for how he covered up his sudden disappearance, Investigator and anti-Assad activist David Crane explained "Caesar" and opposition helpers faked his death and staged a funeral so, as far as Assad should know, the guy died and could be forgotten. Crane gushed to Reuters in April how “Caesar’s a hero," with an escape story that could be "a Hollywood movie someday." He explained the opposition "killed him and they told his family they killed him and they had a funeral while he’s being extracted. Then the family was exfiltrated out and reunited with Caesar.”

An October 31 New York Times report quotes a now-dispirited "Caesar" saying “I have risked my life and the life of my immediate family, and even exposed my relatives to extreme danger, in order to stop the systematic torture." By now, the first two risks are minimal, but there's still the distant family left behind. The "Assad regime" won't be able to use the name "Caesar" to track them down, so they'll be safe, we're to believe.

However, if the defector's story is true as widely presumed, his former employers will know exactly who he is anyway. The man says he's "a senior sergeant in Syria’s Army who spent 13 years working as a forensic photographer," as CNN reported Crane letting slip. He was in 2011 set to documenting executed prisoners, he says, and took thousands of photos before he suddenly died around August, 2013, and had his family vanish shortly after.

Then, someone claiming to be a body photographer of 13 years who just faked his death, and smuggled out his family, along with copies of the same photos that guy had taken, emerges quite alive in the West, lobbying for the government's overthrow.

There can hardly be any more than one, and quite possibly zero, people in Syria fitting this complex, self-proclaimed description. The government of that country is one of the few parties on the planet that will already know all about that guy, if there is one. No deduction is needed, and no hiding is possible in that scenario (the one we've been provided with). Yet Caesar's supporter's would have us believe the pool of people fitting that bill  - a pool that should be approximately one person deep - is somehow big enough to hide their hero in.

It's like this:
Okay? Now everyone, don't let a single clue slip to let them "figure out" the name under the black box here. They have the original of every ID card ever issued to the guy, for just one example.

Clearly, the fake name can offer none of the protection it claims. Either the team insisting on this precaution thought it would help (they're idiots) or they had another reason for the secrecy. It might be just to create an impression of danger (that falls apart on proper moment's reflection), or there's some other class of people they're trying to hide his identity from.

Let's consider the other elaborate and ridiculous measures claiming the same cloak-and-dagger motive. In his rare public appearances, "Caesar" only speaks in whispers to an interpreter who vocalizes for him. It's apparently feared that his voice waves, if published, will help "Assad" identify the defector. His face is never shown, nor his hair or hands, or any distinguishing features, for the same reason; any little clue might help decide which of the body photographers that faked their death in fall 2013 he is.

In the House chamber he was in that blue hoodie to hide it all. However, the allowed photographs from behind did let slip his basic size and stature, which could help assassins narrow down their target. Out of caution or sarcasm, I've censored his blue-clad form at right, along with a few other things for good measure. Interpreter, hidden - eyes that might have eyeglasses that might reflect a view of his front side, also obscured. Some bars: just for fun.

Now recall the core issue driving this shady "Caesar" project is the photos of those Syrian people brutalized by their own government. The "intricate" numbers used are supposed to prove the story "Caesar" has stapled on. But oddly, in almost all released photographs, all identifying facial features and victim ID numbers are blurred out or black-boxed. Even this is said to be for the hero's safety. CNN reported how "those numbers are obscured in the report released to CNN to protect "Caesar's" identity and to hide the location of the military hospital where the photos were taken." This can only logically mean that his identifty could be narrowed down by which bodies he pictured and where that was.

But again, there's nothing to even deduce from any clues - they would already know just who he is, and they'd know just where they had him working. Again, there may well be a different reason Team Caesar decided so much had to be hidden in these photos.

The images were not lessened to obscure the gore; our seeing that is the main point. Rather, identifying facial features and traceable case numbers (or other writing on cards and flesh) is what's lost. This could, for example, prevent some Syrian citizen from recognizing one of these published photos as showing a son, uncle, or brother. It could be bad if they provided case details to prove he was killed some other way than the "regime prison" alleged. Picture metadata could also help set the informational context, and that too was lost, in compression to fit on a thumb drives, the defector says. But do note that loss has the same effect - details that could solidify the case are hidden, leaving only the word of "Caesar" to explain what the pictures themselves do not.

The personal details of the man with that word are likewise hidden from the global public and from the powers he's been lobbying. The logic deficiency of his "precautions" should be obvious to any credible investigator, especially anyone who helped him think out and concoct the unexplained secrecy. Syria would already know, but the Western "Friends of Syria" are kept in the dark over who's really under that hood. But like they have done with the likes of "Nayirah," "Curveball," and other "credible" witnesses pushing for war, they all seem happy to blindfold themselves to the obvious idiocy and play along with what they know the master script demands anyway. We pride ourselves on catching deceptions like this, but always sometime after it's "unfortunately too late"to prevent the aggression it was designed to justify.

Especially considering those witness precedents, one theory that could explain this all: there is no defected photographer, just a trove of photos found on a government computer rebel forces stole during a raid on a Health Department facility (killed two guards, four staff members missing, for example). The photos, at least, were traded vis an intermediary to the Qatari royal family for a bunch of cash and a truckload of weapons. The man portraying "Caesar" on the project's road show portion is a prince of the royal family, recognizable and hence never seen. I have no specific evidence to support this exact storyline, but it does seem more likely to be true than it should. Doesn't it?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mariupol Market Massacre, part 4: Whose Terrorism?

<< Mariupol Market Massacre: The Terrorist Rocket Attack of January 24, 2015

Part 4: Whose Terrorism?
March 7, 2015
last edits March 10

The Key to Motive: Who is Getting Shelled?
As of now, there is still no forensic proof of who fired these rockets, and no clear admission of guilt. Until there's genuine proof one way or another, we should consider either side capable, and motive will be key to getting a best guess in the meantime.

And the key to understanding motive is knowing just what happened - the accurate when and where and especially who of it all. Never mind the military checkpoint, which rebels might have logical reasons to attack. We can see (part 3) the morning shelling was a deliberate attack on the civilians of that eastern fringe of Mariupol, and rebel motive for that is not at all obvious.

We can guess there's some connection with the proximity of Novorossia forces, their open aim to replace Kiev's forces securing the people of Mariupol, and claims of an offensive this could be seen as part of. But what is the link? Who had the least use for the people of this district at the time of the attack? One of these two explanations will better fit the facts:
 
- Russian-supported rebel-terrorists might opt to drive away some chunk of the populace ahead of the conquest, fearing they'd be unable to manage the resentful Euro-centric locals.

- The current European-oriented occupiers might find the citizens and the city, infrastructure, etc. more-than-expendable once their control was threatened. And even more urgently, they might seek to demonize the very nearness of rebel victory by painting the enemy as terrorists - using expendable people as the raw material, and starting to wreck the enemy's prize before they even get it.

There will be no single answer as to the beliefs of the populace, and beware of any source that claims they have one. Consider George Eliason, in a widely-read article Mariupol Attack is a War Crime: The Evidence points to Kiev - worth a read, although incorrect about a lack of firing from south/Vynogradne. Eliasson lives in Ukraine and has some genuine knowledge, and writes that "the militia near Mariupol is comprised of local city residents," and the city is "where there family and friends live," giving them an anti-motive to let any of their rockets fall there. More to the point, he adds "the impact locations are squarely in ethnic Russian areas that support the local militia." That might be a punishment from the other side, then. He also cites a video relating "The Only Important Voices of the War In Donbass" - locals speaking out against Kiev and in favor of Russian-oriented rebels of Novorossiya ("new Russia," a historical term for the area). But that's obviously not the single voice of Mariupol, however sizeable or important it is. And he probably wouldn't claim it is.

Everyone claims the people there are the most important part of all this, but others hear from different residents who present a different picture. A photo collection asks "is there any evidence of pro-Russian sentiment in Maiupol East kraine that is being attacked by the eparatists? From photos of moderate-sized pro-Kiev rally, the answer is a flag-draped "No!" A government-sponsored video - "Residents of Mariupol Appeal to the World " - likewise shows locals (ten) speaking for everyone as they claim their opponents are Russian foreigners, mercenaries, and terrorists, and clearly responsible for everything bad. They speak mainly addressing Russia's president Putin, who seems to be the only one who can stop the terrorists from, as they say, "killing us."

We can imagine the ten locals sampled here is less than 1% of the voices like them (the soaring music suggests "millionfold, and angels all, rising to glory!!") So there must be thousands, at least, maybe even into the tens of thousands. In a city of around 4-500,000 this could mean little. Especially as it is, again, under the forced control of the Western-backed interim government of Ukraine. Many collaborate whether it's in everyone's interest or not, and will parrot all kinds of baseless claims. Many more will just fall silent and "not very political." But those folks won't make such rousing videos.

So clearly, there's some controversy amongst Maiupol's people on the issue of the likely re-integrating with the Donetsk People's Republic. This unfortunate, as it blocks any perfect solution. Someone will wind up unhappy here.

Last Time Rebels Were in Charge
Of course, before the current security arrangement that has it used as a regional capitol, Mariupol was briefly a rebel city like Donetsk and the rest. Everyone knows this, but opinions differ as to how that reflects on the local populace, as opposed to Russian agents who must have taken control.

"Free Mariupol" was still evolving in early May when Ukrainian forces entered with heavy weapons on the 9th and attacked the occupied police station, trying to seize the city center. It was their forces who blew up the now-former police station, which the girl above is posed in front of as she speaks of rebel attacks on the city. They were met with large crowds of angry locals, including police, and clearly some armed resistance. Photos from the time show activist-fighters atop a seized tank, flying the Novorossia flag, cheered by crowds of locals. (re-posted below, AP Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko). They also disabled at least one other tank and left it charred.
As a pro-Kievc source asks: is there any evidence of pro-Russian sentiment
in Maiupol, that is being attacked by the separatists?


I'm not aware of any soldiers reported killed in this, but they had to retreat in a major rout, claiming to eliminate 20 "terrorists," but only confirmed to kill a policeman, one unarmed civilian and maybe a few others along the way. I'm hazy, and it's disputed. There were early claims that over 100 locals were shot dead in a "massacre," and there's a January 2015 report by Eliot Higgins' Bellingcat group, that absolves the soldiers of any serious wrongdoing ... as they fled from an armed town that hated them (I haven't looked at that yet, but the Kyiv Post enthuses over it. Note: Bellingcat will never do a video study of what happened at the Trade Union Hall in Odessa a week earlier)

If there was anything remotely like a pro-Kiev majority here, could there ever have been an occpuation of the whole city's central police HQ, with general approval of the police, and a defeat of military forces sent it like we saw that day? Mariupol, by nature and on balance, was and is a city of Novorossia.

The vote for independence was held just after the above episode, on May 10. That was earlier than most areas, to take advantage of the lack of attacks that day; consider the vote's cancellation in Krasnoarmisk on Kiev's order on the 11th - soldiers simply shot into the crowd, killing at least one man.  In Mariupol it went peacefully, with between 4 and 8 polling stations for the city of half a million. The Guardian, reported "huge queues of people" there, "almost all of whom said they were voting yes to separatism."

Among those who voted, it was reported 89% in Donetsk region said yes. Kiev says only a minority even voted, and that was all bogus, besides illegal. Repeat voting was allowed, they claimed, and their soldiers kept intercepting batches of falsified ballots. Just at their checkpoints on the edges of Mariupol this happened at least twice. Suspects were not handed to local police, but to the SBU. Alleged ballots were sometimes burned on the spot.

Since: "Deeply Divided"
Government forces later took the city after a small battle in mid-June, a period I'm even less versed on yet. They surely called on the help of some sympathetic locals, and managed to establish control of the vital city with minimal direct fighting, and made it the new temporary capitol for the occupied parts of Donetsk Oblast (province).

Still, no one with real knowledge could deny a high degree of pro-Russia/pro-rebel sentiment in Mariupol. One pro-Kiev citizen, speaking to Kyiv Post (same link above), later tried to put his spin on it; “Ninety percent of my friends are for Ukraine, but they are young. There are many older people with small minds who only believe what they see on Russian television.” Because of them, and whoever else, he estimated “The city is split 50/50 for Novorossiya and Ukraine." Voice of America (VoA) reporter Patrick Wells on March 4 noted that "city authorities here acknowledge the population remains deeply divided," also giving an even-split of 30% for Kiev and 30% against, with some 40% "undecided, longing only for a return to normality." No 40% of people are that fuzzy; they just don't reveal their true feelings while they're under occupation like this. As a Kiev-approved body, these authorities will downplay opposing views to some degree. Still it seems Mariupol, taken together, is at least some majority pro-Russian and anti-Kiev - as the blance of citizen activism in May suggests.

There are reports, which I haven't studied or collected, alleging abuses in occupied Mariupol by the so-called "punisher brigades," especially the local-based Azov battalion, staffed with mercenaries, ultra-nationalists, and violent criminals released from prison, some say. These allegations paint a picture of widespread abuses including robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape and humiliation ("almost weekly" - example report). True or not, such stories are circulated and believed, both reflecting and directing attitudes against the occupation.

And it got worse, not better after the rocket massacre. On March 5, 2015 Ukrainian opposition hacker collective CyberBerkut claimed to have a batch of communications from the Ministry of Information Policy in Mariupol. These show worries that, as Sputnik News summarized, pro-Russian and anti-Kiev sentiments ran high in many sectors of the city, and Mariupol needed "a pro-Ukrainian social-psychological propaganda campaign," along with a "pilot project of military-civilian administration." Eventually, all citizens should be like the flag-draped zombies in the photos and videos cited above.

The documents also speak of an ongoing "sweep" of the city, in line with reports from the ground. Cyberberkut explain more than 100 people had been arrested just over the past few days, and Sputnik added that prior reports have "residents being taken away for questioning, some by armed men offering no official identification papers." The VoA report also mentioned "a spate of arrests in recent weeks as Ukrainian authorities try to root out suspected spies," highlighting the case of a man whose family says he was badly beaten and of course innocent, and is now missing.

Wells' report noted that "perhaps nowhere is Mariupol’s atmosphere of mistrust more evident than in the suburb of Vastochniy," using a different spelling. Despite Human Rights Watch blaming the rebels for the rocket attack there, he wrote "many continue to believe that the government was responsible, though they are too afraid to say so openly." One man with pseudonym Pasha said "75 percent of the people here are sure that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government.”

Whether behind it or not, it seems authorities used the attack to their advantage to start a crackdown, besides re-inforcing the city's military defenses. And the crackdown should probably be the sharpest in Vostichniy district; at the eastern edge of the city, it would likely be the first district rebels took, and be used as a base for further advances. If, as Eliasson says, this is one of the "ethnic Russian areas that support the local militia and where their families are located," wrecking the town and wounding everyone with rockets - deliberately - is one of the few ways they could manage to screw things up with the locals in an otherwise sweet situation.

Assessing What The Worms Got
The Azov Battalion's reconnaissance unit commander, Serhiy Korotkov, is the kind of guy one would send ahead into enemy territory to assess how an artillery strike worked. He and his armed men were sent into Vostichny on January 24 and made a short videotaped tour. A short edit of this was posted by anti-Kiev activist as Korotkov “explaining why Mariupol was shelled.” While the fires burn behind him, he explains (translated) "anybody can check for oneself that this is not an accidental hit. There is no Ukrainian military here, and never have been. In this area, as graffiti on some walls shows, some fans of the Russian World live. Those who want the Russian World - see, here you got it." Earlier in the video he reported from Kievskaya street; "what's noteworthy is that over here we have "Left Sector" (opponents of Kiev-allied fascist group Right Sector). The Communiaki (derogatory term for Communists) received what they wanted." As he explains this, he alternates between smiling with amusement, and trying somewhat not to.

Korotkov clearly considers himself and his Ukraine winners in the day's attack. Others who would be happy - or maybe conflicted - on seeing this destruction would include any foreign mercenaries working with his Azov battalion. What probably is not the only one of these was innocently asked a question in Ukrainian by a female reporter as he passed by. In a perfect American English, west coast street, he cut her off with "outta my face, outta my face, bitch" and moved on (video). Whoever this pro-democracy activist is, he's clearly worried about his face, covering it with his hand so the bitch's stupid cameraman couldn't record it. If they use mercenaries or foreign "volunteers," would they also use pardoned violent prisoners to enforce Europe's will on the people of Novorissia as some claim? They might.

On the losing side obviously are those effected and especially the 29 killed by the rocket attack. And from what we know, we should expect these to be largely anti-Kiev, if randomly-selected (as far as we know - some grenade assassinations could blend right in here). At least one such victim at least was found and published with muted glee by pro-Kiev sources like Euromaidan Press, and she makes a fine example. Olga Abdurashitova, at age 27, is not a Soviet-sentimental senior citizen. But she was a rebel-booster and some reports note she got what she "asked for," if not deserved; in this terrorist attack, at least one death to almost cheer.

Euromaidan Press' report "Girl cheers for Russian invasion, is killed by Russian artillery" cites some of her comments in favor of Russia and the rebels and against Kiev, striking a militant pose in at least one photo with a Kalashnikov rifle. They say "a Ukrainian blogger named Fedor Kulikov was the first one to notice Olga’s name in the list of those killed," with her body found "near Kyivsky market, where she was probably buying vegetables and meat for her family." She seemed like a good person otherwise, the report notes, and family-oriented. But by supporting the "Russian World" and inviting it to Mariupol, she clearly "want(ed) death and destruction on her own city" and became "a cheerer for her executioners."

DPR rebels do in fact draw near, almost near enough to link up hand-in-hand with their de-humanized local supporters - whatever percentage that really is - and finally liberate the city as they all see it. Aka "Russian invasion." Call it irony or state-sponsored terrorism, but no matter how soon that happens, Olga for one won't be there.

How these idiot Russian terrorists so often kill their own supporters - or how their victims keep failing to predict that and stop the support earlier ... it seemed a real mystery to Euromaidan Press. After some mental struggle, they suggest examples can be found in nature, citing "some forms of hair worms" that can be self-destructive like that. This kind of de-humanization has long been central to Kiev's war drive which is, by many measures, a literally genocidal operation.

Poroshenko, People (his and theirs), Promises, a Preview?
Consider that two days before this clear terrorist attack, the president of Ukraine's current government, Mr. Petro Porshenko spoke at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, brandishing a piece of the "Volnovakha bus." That was carrying DPR residents who were wounded and killed at one of his checkpoints on July 13 - by either a Grad rocket or a landmine - as they tried to return home, after chasing their pensions in government-held areas as his laws required. He lamented the ongoing "terrorism" with "Russian missiles" against what he called, incorrectly there, "my people."

In Vostichniy, edge of Mariupol, the victims were technically "his" people, but in imminent danger of sliding into the category of "their" people. Consider what the same Poroshenko declared about those folks, including the ones on the "Volnovakha bus," outlining his war strategy in a public speech from October 23, 2014:

"We will have our jobs. They will not. We will have our pensions. They will not. We will have care for children, for people, and retirees. They will not. Our children will go to schools and kindergartens. Theirs will hole up in basements [from shelling or bombing]. Because they are not able to do anything. This is exactly how we will win this war!"

This genocidal war strategy explains a lot of the horrible things on and near rebel-held areas before and since that bold admission. The bit of Hell on Earth his volunteers visited on Vostichniy, Mariupol that Saturday morning probably had as one of its signals a brutal message to the locals that might be verbalized like so: "do you really want to be "liberated" like Donetsk, Lugansk, Gorlovka especially? Do you want to suffer daily random shelling ... by your own terrorist friends, as we always say? This is what it's like. Get used to it if you break off with us and become "them" again."