Bellingcat

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Video And Picture Evidence Of A "Scud-Type" Missile Attack In Syria

In December of 2012 NATO and US officials claimed that the Syrian military had begun using "Scud-type" weapons, which was then widely misreported as claims of just Scud missiles being used in Syria.  The officials were referring to the range of surface-to-surface missiles used by the Syrian military, which includes the notorious Scud missiles, as well as other, less well known, systems.  Since then a number of videos have been posted online claiming to show these types of missiles and rockets launched in Syria (most of which I've collected here), along with reports from across the country of these weapons being used.  However, whenever it's been possible to investigate these attacks no debris evidence has been found to prove these types of weapons were used in the attacks.

Today we finally have very strong debris evidence from one of these attacks.  Videos and photographs from the village of Belioun in Jabal Zawiyeh shows the remains of a weapon that reportedly landed outside the village.  My understanding is this village has not been the scene of fighting for many months, and only occasionally sees attack from air.  Here are the video and photographs from the village (thanks to Al'Thowra Souria for providing these images)







The 3rd photograph allows us to easily identify the weapon used.  The markings read "9Д19TC" and "9M21TC", with 9M21 referring to the rocket used by the 9K52 Luna-M/FROG-7 short-range artillery rocket system, and the 9Д19 referring to the solid propellant booster used as part of the 9M21.  It's likely the string of 3 numbers under each of those markings refer to the batch number, factory, and year of manufacture of the booster and rocket, putting the year of manufacture as 1983. The 9M21 rocket has a range of 70km and a circular error probable of 500-700m.  It can carry a 500kg high explosive warhead, as well as a chemical or nuclear warhead.

To my knowledge this is the first time we've had identifiable debris evidence of these kinds of large rockets being used on civilian populations, and that's not the only video seen today showing possible evidence of these rockets.  This video was also posted showing as yet unidentified remains of another weapon used in Syria




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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Friday, 25 January 2013

Evidence Of Multiple Foreign Weapon Systems Smuggled To The Syrian Opposition In Daraa

Recently the following video was shown on Syrian State TV showing what was claimed to be a cargo of weapons destined for the Syrian opposition seized near Daraa, in the southwest of Syria


Generally I consider Syrian State TV to be a very poor source of accurate information, and I've occasionally written about some of the more obvious examples of propaganda they broadcast in the past, but one thing that I found very interesting about this video is the weapons on display.  What's interesting about this video is the types of weapons shown, and the quantity.  Here's the weapons that appear in the video

M79 Osa Rocket Launcher



The M79 Osa was originally a Yugoslavian anti-tank weapon, designed in 1979, and still manufactured and used in countries that once made up the former-Yugoslavia.  One interesting design element is that the rockets come in pods that attach to the rear of the rocket launcher, with the pods shown above in the first picture, and the launchers shown in the second picture.  A clear image of the rocket launcher, rocket pod, and complete system can be seen here.

RPG-22



The RPG-22 is a one-shot disposable anti-tank weapon produced from the early 1980's, and used in a number of countries, but not, as far as I'm aware, Syria.  A reference image showing the same markings as seen in the State TV video can be seen here.

M60 Recoilless Gun


The M60 Recoilless Gun is another weapon developed in Yugoslavia, and is not used by the Syrian military. Reference images are difficult to come by, but one can be seen on the right in this photograph.

Milkor MGL/RBG-6



This 40mm grenade launcher originates in South Africa as the Milkor MGL, but is manufactured under license in a number of countries, including Croatia, where it's known as the RBG-6.  Due to the poor quality of the video it's unclear which specific model it is.  The Syrian military does not currently use this weapon system.  Reference images of the RBG-6 can be found here, and it's important to note the folding stock for later.

Here we have four weapon systems, all with links to the same region, the former Yugoslavia, but I'm sure there's many people who will instantly discount anything shown on Syrian State TV as being propaganda or faked in some way.  What's very interesting about these weapons is they've all appeared in videos filmed by the Syrian opposition in Daraa at the same time, just as they make significant progress in that region.  

For a bit of background on recent events in and around Daraa I spoke to James Miller of EA Worldview, who has been tracking events on the ground in Syria
So, out of nowhere about a month or so ago, rebels overran a lot of the border crossings in Daraa.  I thought it was noise. At first I thought that maybe FSA units had left Damascus to pick a fight elsewhere as a diversion then, on January 14th, there came the paratroopers.  So basically, for at least 12 days the rebels have had total control over Busr al Harir, perhaps even longer, but for the last week and a half the regime has been desperately fighting to get it back, but they seem incapable of doing so.  Daraa is not a region where a lot of air bases have been lost, and the town is just not that big, so how are the rebels putting up this kind of a fight?  Bases have been captured near Damascus, but no significant base has fallen in this region for several months.

A number of Youtube channels have been used by groups local to Busr al-Harir, and I've spent quite a bit of time reviewing the videos posted on those channels over the last few months.  What I've found is around 3 weeks ago videos started being posted showing all the weapons I've listed above.  Here's some examples:

Milkor MGL/RBG-6



M60 Recoilless Gun



RPG-22



M79 Osa Rocket Launcher



There's many more videos on the same channels as the above videos showing these same weapons in use in Busr al-Harir, and it's very hard to not conclude that the Syrian opposition in that area has recently received at least one shipment of arms from abroad, likely from nearby Jordan, and with a strong possibility the shipment originated in one of the countries that made up the former-Yugoslavia.  A couple of examples of these same weapons have also recently been seen in the Deir Ez Zor and Aleppo regions, so that raises the question of whether or not this apparent smuggling operation is operating in those regions as well.

Related Articles
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Unexploded Cluster Bomblets Repurposed As DIY Rocket Warheads
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Clear Evidence Of DIY Barrel Bombs Being Used By The Syrian Air Force

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Hackgate - "Snakes And Ladders" At The Met

The latest from my regular contributor.

At her final appearance before the HASC - Home Affairs Select Committee - (4th September 2012), Sue Akers was asked how the three main Hackgate investigations were organised and what was the chain of command:
- Q54 Michael Ellis: "What about the rank of the officers involved? Do you have a number of officers of senior rank or are most of them detective constables and sergeants? Can you say something about that?"
- Sue Akers: "Yes, I can. I have a detective superintendent in charge of each strand, so there are three of those, one dealing with the phone hacking, one dealing with corrupt payments and one dealing with the Tuleta offences. They each have a detective chief inspector and a small number of detective inspectors." [The witness later clarified: Operation Tuleta does not have a DCI - only Weeting and Elveden]  The rest are sergeants, constables and a fair number of police staff... I have a detective chief superintendent who oversees or hovers above all three of the detective superintendents."
- Q55 Michael Ellis: "So he is your deputy, is he, a detective chief superintendent?"
- Sue Akers: "He is my deputy."
As well as these details of her team subordinates, HASC showed an understandable interest in MET arrangements for replacing Akers when she retired in October 2012:
- Q82 Chair: "Who will take over? Who will take your job?"
- Sue Akers: "Another ACPO officer has been identified and he will-"
- Chair: "Sorry, who is that?"
- Sue Akers: "DAC Steve Kavanagh."
- Q83 Chair: "Where is he at the moment?"
- Sue Akers: "At the moment he is in territorial policing but will-"
- Chair: "So he is at the Met at the moment, is he?"
- Sue Akers: "Yes, but he will be moving to a position where he is able to oversee...we will be moving towards case building and trials, and there will be no need for the amount of scrutiny and oversight that I have had to put in"
Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry (p3 6th February 2012), she was also asked about chain of command upwards:
- MR JAY:  "Owing to the size of these operations -- and you're going to tell us in a minute the number of staff who are dedicated to each of them -- your role is one of oversight."
- A.  "Yes."
- Q.  "And you report to the Deputy Commissioner?"
- A.  "My -- who I report who has changed.  I started by reporting to the Assistant Commissioner.  Then, when we had a change at the top, I reported to the Acting Deputy Commissioner, and then another Deputy Commissioner and now an Assistant Commissioner again."
 - Q.  "Of course"
Robert Jay's understated response "Of course" quietly underlined the seismic changes at the top of the MET as a result of the phone hacking scandal.  Chief of these were the resignations of the Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates.  In addition to high profile resignations, the MET has undergone senior management restructuring too during this period. Small wonder then that HASC showed concern:
- Q81 Chair: "You have a huge amount of expertise in this. Who is going to take over? We clearly do not want somebody absolutely new who does not know what is going on."
From this evidence above, the chain of command was fairly clear.  For the three main Operations (Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta), there are a number of constables, sergeants, detective inspectors, detective chief inspectors and detective superintendents. Then at senior level, a designated Detective Chief Superintendent oversees all three investigations.  He reports to a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, who in turn reports to an Assistant Commissioner.

So who are these three key senior officers?  And what IS their familiarity with Hackgate?

THE DETECTIVE CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT - GORDON BRIGGS

The first conviction of Hackgate was on 10th January 2013.  Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, a serving MET police officer in Counter Terrorism Specialist Operations (SO15) was found guilty of misconduct in public office (see here for background).  BRIGGS was the public face of the MET response to Casburn's guilty verdict.  He faced a throng of print press, broadcast news, and freelance photographers. (video).  From the Guardian
Det Chief Supt Gordon Briggs, who oversees Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta, said: "It is a great disappointment that a detective chief inspector in the counterterrorism command should have abused her position in this way. There's no place for corrupt officers or staff in the Metropolitan police service... In this case DCI Casburn approached the News of the World, the very newspaper being investigated, to make money.
January 25th 2012, BRIGGS wrote to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (CMS) as deputy to Sue Akers. He politely and firmly declined to provide CMS Chair, John Whittingdale, with required information as "To disclose the names of such individuals would require us to disclose private information concerning third parties without their consent."  Whittingdale had requested the names of all MPs and peers thought to have been hacked by the News of the World. (here)  The impasse was later resolved by CMS member Tom Watson MP negotiating with Sue Akers for the numbers of MPs and peers, without disclosure of individual names.

Further back in September 2010 (and coincidentally at the same time as Casburn's leak) NOTW was making news for other reasons:  "Two people have been found guilty of trying to sell an 11-month-old girl as a slave. A 48-year-old man and 29-year-old woman, from north-east London, were exposed offering the child in return for £35,000 in a News of the World sting...with an undercover reporter from the paper."  On their conviction BRIGGS, then heading MET child abuse investigations (here) said
This was an appalling case where individuals have attempted to sell a vulnerable child for their own personal gain and with no consideration whatsoever for her safety and future. We thank the News of the World for bringing this case to our attention and we are indebted to our partners in Newham social services who joined us in a fast-moving operation to recover the victim and remove her to safety.
Even further back, in 2004, BRIGGS attended senior Management Board meetings in his then capacity as Staff Officer to MET Deputy Commissioner/Acting Commissioner Sir Ian Blair. Also present was Commander Andre Baker (see here).

THE DEPUTY ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER - STEVE KAVANAGH 

September 2010 was an challenging month for Steve KAVANAGH at the MET. On September 1st, the New York Times published its exposé on phone hacking - triggering yet more criticism of MET refusal to re-open the investigation. 6th September, under intense public pressure, John Yates, Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations (ACSO) launched a scoping investigation into the New York Times claims. It was designated as Operation Varec. "John Yates (JY) explained that he wished to maintain the lead for phone hacking within SO (Specialist Operations)." Yates would therefore command 'Gold Group' oversight for Varec. Designated lead at "Silver Group' level for Varec was Commander Steve KAVANAGH.

The first Gold Group operations meeting was the next day, September 10th 2010.  It was some of the information discussed at this meeting which Casburn subsequently leaked to News of the World. Casburn was Detective Chief Inspector in SO15 (Counter Terrorism, Specialist Operations) - Counter Terrorism Command was headed by Steve KAVANAGH (see here).  A week later on September 17th, another substantive Varec Gold Group meeting was called, and later the same day, the MET were alerted to a potential terrorist plot just prior to the Pope's visit to London (p12 here):
At 0317 Commander Steven Kavanagh (a rank equivalent to Assistant Chief Constable in other police forces) was briefed. He reviewed and approved the plans for arrest... At 0340 the options were reviewed at a Gold Group meeting chaired by Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations (ACSO) John Yates.  As ACSO, Mr Yates is responsible for SO15...
In January 2011 Operation Weeting began.  The investigation was taken out of Yates' command, arguably to distance it from criticism and placed instead in the Special Crime Directorate under Sue Akers. 

KAVANAGH'S  hard work paid off as in March 2011 he climbed the ladder and gained promotion to Deputy Assistant Commissioner (here and p3 organisation chart):
...with John Yates, Acting Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and Catherine Crawford, MPA Chief Executive, acting as advisers to the panel... Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates, said: 'I´m extremely pleased that two such strong candidates have been successful at the board.' 
One of DAC KAVANAGH'S first duties was to deputise for Yates at a House of Commons Select Committee.  (column 8)

By July 2010 however, the MET was suffering severe reputational damage over its handling of the NOTW scandal. On July 17th Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson stepped down, the following day John Yates resigned too.  DAC KAVANAGH soon faced an even bigger challenge - coordinating the MET's operational response to the London summer riots.  Meanwhile, Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta gathered pace under Sue Akers.

THE ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER - MARK ROWLEY

Police in-house magazine 'The Job' saw a need to help the confused. (p6 The Job April 2012)

Over the past year, there’s been a lot of reorganisation at the top of the Met. We have a new Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, and two new Assistant Commissioners. It can be hard to keep track, so here's a chart of who's doing what.....
Akers is shown directly reporting to Assistant Commissioner Mark ROWLEY, Specialist Crime and Operations.  ROWLEY was appointed MET Assistant Commissioner in December 2011.  Prior to this, ROWLEY was Chief Constable of Surrey Police.  Before leaving Surrey, ROWLEY had had to admit on behalf of Surrey Police to the Home Affairs Select Committee that Surrey Police had known about the NOTW hacking of Milly Dowler's phone when it had happened in 2002. (Daily Mail) He was appointed Chief Constable of Surrey Police in 2008, succeeding Bob Quick.  ROWLEY'S Deputy Chief Constable was Craig Denholm.  At time of writing, Denholm is still being investigated for his alleged failure to act on his knowledge of the Dowler hacking for almost a decade.(Guardian)

The resulting IPCC Report is due shortly, though may be in redacted form so as not to prejudice ongoing trials.  Interestingly, ROWLEY had first joined Surrey Police in 2002 as Chief Superintendent, and subsequently was Senior Investigating Officer for 5 years of Operation Ruby - the investigation into the murder of Milly Dowler. It is not known whether or not Denholm informed ROWLEY on his knowledge of the Dowler hacking.

[UPDATE: Brown Moses added this pertinent 2011 observation in the Guardian from 2011]
If hacking's the problem, the Met has hired the right man... The last Met commissioner headed for the exit. Still, others survive and thrive. And that includes Mark Rowley, former chief constable of Surrey, now reborn as an assistant commissioner at the Met. Rowley headed Surrey's investigation into the murder of Milly Dowler [He took overall command for the investigation in 2006]. The News of the World first 'fessed up to hacking Milly's phone that same year. What happened next? Not much. Rowley quite reasonably told MPs no hacking investigation occurred because the murder itself was a priority. Still, it does have the potential to embarrass. Because if you looked at his official biog in July, it revealed that as a detective superintendent at the National Criminal Intelligence Service, he "led on the national deployment of covert techniques to combat organised crime such as telephone interception". Appraised of the facts, he would have realised that what the News of the World was doing wasn't legal. By the time of his move to the Met last month, his Surrey biog had been redrafted. By then, there was no reference to his telephony expertise at all.
(Hugh Muir, Guardian)

It must be difficult for the MET, from its small pool of senior officers, to identify an investigation command structure which might offer a clean break from any Hackgate baggage.  Which is why it is surprising to see yet another shift since Akers' retirement.  Tracing labyrinthine MET re-structurings is tortuous,but Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta -together with DAC KAVANAGH - seem to have migrated back to Special Operations reporting to Yates' successor Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick.  (Dec 2012 organisation chart here)

Past criticisms of the original phone hacking investigation questioned the wisdom of homing it with counter-terrorism, royal protection and so on.  Given the controversial and compromised history of Specialist Operations re the 2006 Goodman/Mulcaire Operation Caryatid, failures to notify victims, Yates "crap" cursory re-visit of 2009, Operation Varec leaks to the press etc  it's curious to find these high profile investigations right back where they started.


Related Articles
Hackgate - April Casburn's Conviction - Myths And Misconceptions
Hackgate - Varec Revisited - Dissent In The Ranks
Hackgate - Sue Akers' Swansong
Hackgate - "Newsdesk Here, Kelvin Speaking..."
Hackgate - Andre Baker - A Hackgate Footnote?
Hackgate - Ten To Watch For
Hackgate - Dear Surrey Police


You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Friday, 18 January 2013

More Information On The Equipment Looted From Taftanaz Air Base

Since the opposition capture of Taftanaz air base I've been trying to gather information on exactly what equipment was captured at the air base. This video from Ahrar al-Sham, a loose collection of Islamist and Salafist opposition groups, showing the attack on the base provides some more information


Two sections are of particular interesting, first of all at this point in the video we see what looks like at least a dozen UB-16-57UMP S-5 rocket pods stacked up in a warehouse


S-5 rocket pods featured heavily in the Libyan Civil War, frequently welded to the back of trucks and used as rocket artillery.  So far in Syria there's only been a few rare examples, including one welded to the back of a military truck in Taftanaz air base and used by the defenders, shown at the bottom of my earlier post on Taftanaz air base.

Of course, rocket launchers aren't much use without rockets, so later on in the video we see another warehouse filled with crates.  Unfortunately we don't get a good look at the crate marking, and only a brief look at a couple of rockets stacked on one of the crates, but what we do get a good look at this


What we have here is the warehouse stock list, titled "Aerial Munitions Available in Storage # 6".  The three columns with text in are, from left to right, the available stock, the description, and a sequential number.  The description includes Cyrillic descriptions of the items, and the list states the following items are in stock (thanks to Omar for translation)
1 - 3743 - S-5KO unguided rocket
2 - 3228 - S-5KP unguided rocket
3 - 3669 - V-5K fuze for armoured piercing rocket
4 - 115 - V-5M1 fuze for armoured piercing rocket
5 - 722 - Flare - Red Star
6 - 469 - Flare - White Star
7 - 680 - Flare - Green Star
8 - 564 - Flare - Yellow Star
9 - 949 - PPZ Fire suppressing round
The S-5KO and S-5KP are both types of rockets for the previously shown UB-16-57UMP rocket pods, and the V-5K and V-5KM1 are fuzes for S-5 rockets, more details of which can be found here.  While it's hard to know how up to date the warehouse stock list is does seem to indicate that the piles of crates in that warehouse do still contains various types of S-5 rockets, maybe thousands of them, so I fully expect members of Ahrar al-Sha, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other groups involved with the attack to be welding rocket pods to the back of truck and using them as artillery in the future.



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Are Yugoslavian Anti-Tank Weapons Being Smuggled Into Syria?

In the past few weeks a number of videos have been appearing from the Horan region of Syria showing a new type of rocket launcher, one that I believe had not been seen in use by the Syrian opposition until recent weeks





The weapon featured in the above videos is the M79 Osa anti-tank weapon, originally manufactured in Yugoslavia, and now manufactured in Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, and in Croatia as the RL90 M95.  Apart from a controversial report claiming they had been sold to the Syria government it appears the Syrian military does not use M79 Osas, and having watched pretty much every video of captured equipment that's come out of Syria I've never seen them being looted from the Syrian military by the opposition.  So this leaves the question of how the Syrian opposition are getting their hands on them.  Two videos from Syrian State TV may provide some clues.  First of all this video showing a haul of captured equipment, which gets very excited about the presence of Made In Israel bandages and "Israeli" M72 LAW anti tank weapons, but also features something else relevant to M79 Osas


Here we get a clear view of the markings, stating it's a M79 90mm round, and a good shot of the rocket container


The M79 rockets come in containers that attach to the rear of the rocket launcher, images of which can be seen here.  We also have a second video from State TV showing what's claimed to be a large haul of seized weapons, which includes well over 100 M79 rocket containers


Now State TV has a less than stellar track record when it comes to accurately reporting events, but what's interesting about the above video is State TV claims it was filmed in Daraa, in the Horan region, where the vast majority of the M79 Osa videos have been coming from.

Does this prove these are being smuggled into Syria?  It's hard to be certain, with the status of the report on their sale to Syria being up in the air, and State TVs past issues with reporting events in a truthful manner, but it's something worth keeping an eye on in he future.


Related Articles
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Unexploded Cluster Bomblets Repurposed As DIY Rocket Warheads
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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com



Monday, 14 January 2013

Hackgate - April Casburn's Conviction - Myths And Misconceptions

The latest from my regular contributor.

Within 24 hours, via Google search, there were 457 news artcles on-line reporting the conviction of Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn for misconduct in public office.  Casburn's trial (background here) was the first of Operation Elveden, the Metropolitan Police (MET) investigation into alleged multiple incidences of News International's bribery and corruption of police officers, prison officers, members of armed forces and other public officials.  The story generated interest beyond the UK and was published in, amongst others, the Vancouver Sun, LA Times, The Hindu, Oman Tribune, The Australian, and the Braintree and Witham Times.   

The accounts (thanks to the press wires) are pretty similar:  DCI Casburn of SO15 Counter Terrorism attended a meeting detailing a review of the phone hacking investigation named Operation Varec (for details see here).  Casburn phoned the News of the World (NOTW) the following morning, offering insider knowledge for payment.

It was reported too that Casburn was particularly resentful at what regarded as interference by John Prescott.  The day after Casburn's conviction, Prescott referred to her in the House of Lords debate on the Leveson Report:
The more recent case, which does involve me, is that of the chief superintendent (sic) who was found yesterday to have been paid by the News of the World. When they ring up to say, "Will you give me a few bob because I'll tell you Prescott's pressuring us for an inquiry", that is as serious as the actual payment. We in our job have to do what we think is right; and, in my case, I was pressing for a further inquiry because the conclusions of the first one were not true. I am right to do that as a parliamentarian, yet they can ring up a paper like the News of the World. She wanted to use the public interest defence but it was financial, as the courts found yesterday.
Even more surprising than the story's global reach is the sobering knowledge of just how much of the above is inaccurate.

- Myth 1:  DCI Casburn was paid by NOTW.

The evidence to the court was an aide-memoire NOTW internal email written by NOTW reporter Tim Wood, stating Casburn was willing to "sell" information on the re-opened investigation.  Coming at the exact time NOTW phone hacking was under scrutiny, Wood suspected her phone call was a sting.  Casburn denied asking for payment, no evidence of payment was presented to the court, nor did the prosecution even suggest that NOTW followed up Casburn's leak let alone make her a financial offer.

- Myth 2:  Isn't it only an offence if there is payment involved?

Casburn was convicted of Misconduct in Public Office.  Misconduct is a serious offence with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.  The standard of misconduct must fall demonstrably below that reasonably expected of the trust the public place in a public official.  Arguably it is the breach of trust which primarily the offence, whether or not payment was involved. Casburn's defence argued that names she gave of former NOTW journalists to be newly investigated were already in the public domain. Operation Varec's SIO (Senior Investigating Officer), Dean Haydon, gave evidence that Casburn's leak included crucial information not in the public domain - strategic, tactical and timing information which jeopardised the whole investigation - in addition to which legal offences were being considered by Varec.  In Haydon's view, Casburn's aim was to undermine the new investigation.

- Myth 3  Casburn was aggrieved by fellow officers' cavalier attitudes at SO15 meeting on Operation Varec.

No such meeting took place.  Casburn was not a member of the tight-security, 'need-to-know' Varec investigating team - she headed Counter-Terrorism Financial Investigations Unit.  Only one of her 60 staff was required to provide some short term support to Operation Varec on a confidential basis.  Casburn should therefore have had no knowledge of Varec details.

That key meeting when SO15 officers joked about meeting Sienna Miller, acted like "Life on Mars in the 21st century", and welcomed re-opening the phone hacking investigation as a "jolly" at public expense? Despite Heruclean efforts (including overnight as the trial itself continued), Scotland Yard could find no trace of the alleged meeting - no minutes, no notes, no records.  Those alleged to have attended had no knowledge of it.  It was not logged in any alleged attendees time-sheets or diaries - nor was it even in DCI Casburn's own diary.

The prosecution argued that, on arrest, Casburn offered no explanation as to how she knew the details of Operation Varec, nor why she had contacted NOTW.  It was only many months later, whilst on bail, that Casburn first mentioned the alleged meeting. Prosecuting counsel argued that her account of a meeting was invented later, in order to cover up how she'd really got access to the Varec information and to invent a justification for her contacting NOTW the next morning.  Clearly the jury agreed - though should any record of the disputed meeting surface it could of course be used in any appeal.

- Myth 4:  Casburn felt intimidated by her line manager who had an intrusive management style.

The line manager with alleged 'intrusive' style, Detective Superintendent Christos Kalamanianous, was only appointed as Casburn's line manager on 6th September 2010.  Casburn telephoned NOTW early on 11th September 2010 - just 5 working days after Kalamanianous' appointment. This was hardly enough time for him to demonstrate his management style, and certainly not a sustained period of stress-inducing bullying.  However the MET did not dispute that DCI Casburn had been disadvantaged previously by not being resourced with either a desk or an office.

DS Kalamanianous gave evidence in person, and brought to the court's attention that during a break in proceedings he had been approached by a member of the press for comment.  Justice Fulford, as can be imagined, was not best pleased and issued a firm rebuke to the press gallery on the inadvisability of attempting to talk to witnesses - particularly one who had yet to complete giving his evidence to the court.

- Myth 5:  DCI Casburn contacted the newspaper as a whistleblower.

Casburn asserted that she felt powerless to prevent the waste of counter-terrorism resources being spent on re-opening the phone hacking investigation.  Context is important here: the offence pre-dates large scale, resource-heavy Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta (here).  Casburn conceded though that she was not part of the Varec team, had no idea what resources were actually to be committed, made no attempt to find out through standard operating procedures, nor did she raise her strongly held reservations with any colleague.

The court heard that she had chosen NOTW because it was a large circulation paper to get her whistleblower story out into the public domain, and because NOTW was a Sunday newspaper it was most appropriate as she was made her call on a Saturday morning.  Casburn denied choosing NOTW because they were exactly the newspaper under suspicion - prompting prosecuting counsel to risk sounding like Humphrey Bogart by observing "Of all the papers, in all the world..." The unanimous guilty verdict seems to show the jury disagreed with Casburn's attempt to paint herself as akin to the high-minded Deep Throat of Watergate fame.

- Sentencing to follow

Justice Fulford is the judge who appears to be allocated all Hackgate-related hearings (known and unknown).  His sentencing remarks in a couple of weeks time will therefore be extremely interesting to Hackgate watchers.  Other police and public official 'Misconduct' arrests have been made and - whilst the circumstances and contexts of each individual offence are unique - Casburn's sentence may act as a weather-vane. Indeed the sequencing of Casburn's case as the first trial of Hackgate is significant in that respect - juries judge the evidence, but the judge deliberates on the sentence.  It is the first trial resulting from email information volunteered to the MET by News Group Newspapers' controversial MSC (Management and Standards Committee).  It is also the first conviction of Operation Elvedon - overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).  This may leave future defendants trying to read the runes on what kind of sentence they might anticipate if found guilty.  There can be little doubt that Fulford's name will become more and more familiar over 2013 and beyond.

And when more trials come to court there remains that salutory lesson on myths... You cannot believe all you read in the papers - or even all you might hear in the House of Lords.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Rare Video Shows A Surface-To-Air Missile Fired By The Syrian Opposition

Recently a new Youtube channel has been created for a group calling themselves the Martyr Issam Saleh Air Defense Battalion, part of the Farouq Brigade, one of the major armed groups in Syria.  What's very interesting about this channel is the amount of MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) on display




Above we see two examples of what I believe are SA-16 MANPADS, and one SA-7.  What we also have is a rare example of a MANPADS being fired in Syria, and while the quality of the video is too poor to be 100% certain I believe this is a SA-16 being fired


While it's unclear if the missile successfully reached it's target it does provide rare evidence of MANPADS being used by the Syrian opposition.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com


DIY Barrel Bombs (ADIEDs) Filmed In Storage At Taftanaz Air Base

As I wrote earlier this week footage has been emerging from the recently overrun Air Base near Taftanaz, and footage has now been posted that appears to show the DIY barrel bombs (ADIEDs) that have been dropped across Syria


In total there appears to be 10 ADIEDs (Air delivered improvised explosive devices), which appear to be of a similar style to some of the ADIEDs shown in videos on my Youtube ADIED playlist, for example


It also appears one of the Hip helicopters has had a trolley installed, presumably to make it easier to push the ADIEDs out of the helicopter



So with this find we now have evidence of ADIEDs in Syrian air bases, evidence of them being dropped, and plenty of UXO evidence.  All that's needed now is footage of them actually being built for their entire life-cycle to be on record. 

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Friday, 11 January 2013

Highlights From The Video Tour Of Taftanaz Air Base

Today it's been reported that a major helicopter base near Taftanaz, southwest of Aleppo, was overrun by the Syrian opposition and as with all overrun bases in Syria a series of videos have been posted online showing both the battle and the aftermath.  Among those videos is this lengthy 34 minute tour of the air base


As it's rather long I thought I'd pick out a few interesting highlights from the video.  First we have this brief shot of the building that the remnants of the forces defending the base retreated to, before being hit by artillery/tank fire, as shown in this video.  This screenshot shows the damage done to the building


This next section shows a Hip helicopter armed with UB-16-57UMP launchers loaded with S-5 rockets, with rockets waiting to be loaded in the background


This would seem to suggest that this aircraft was in use, not just rusting on the tarmac.  Later on we have this shot of a badly damaged Hind helicopter armed with a pair of what I believe are UPK-23 gunpods, and a pair of OFAB 100-120 high explosive fragmentation bombs.  There's also a number of bombs on the ground surrounding the aircraft

So this appears to be another aircraft that was in active service when it was destroyed.  What interesting about the OFAB bomb is Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the group apparently involved in the attack, has used unexploded bombs in VBIED attacks, so I'm very curious in the number of bombs that were captured in the air base attack, as it's likely they'll be parts of future VBIEDs.

Another example of a Hip armed with loaded UB-16-57UMP launchers is shown, and then we have this very interesting example of an RBK cluster bomb tail unit, something that's always left over when a RBK cluster bomb is used


Although it's hard to be 100% sure this might indicate that the Syrian Air Force dropped cluster bombs on it's own air base during the battle, something that could be confirmed with UXO evidence.

Another video tour was posted on Bambuser, which at the 22:14 mark shows a military truck mounted with a UB-16-57UMP launcher.  This seems to show that the Syrian forces at that base were building their own DIY rocket launchers to defend the base


At 16:18 in the Bambuser video we also see this cluster bomb on the ground next to a damaged helicopter



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Improving Syrian Oppositon Armaments Demonstrated During The Taftanaz Airbase Attack

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Unique Footage Of A Thermobaric Bomb Dropped Over Syria

The following footage, reportedly taken from a Syrian Air Force pilot, shows unique images of a thermobaric bomb dropped from a Mil Mi-24/Hind helicopter over Syria


We can identify the exact type of bomb from this brief view of the entire bomb


Take note of the tail fins and overall shape, which matches to the ODAB 500-PMV, shown below


Not to be confused with the very similar ODAB 500-PM


We can also identify the location the bomb was dropped by comparing the roads and structures on the ground to satellite images on Google Maps.  This image, taken from the video and rotated 90 degrees, gives use the clearest match


Here we can see the exact location on Google Maps



View Larger Map

This location is 2km east of Aleppo International Airport, with the location to the north being a military base, with the bomb being dropped just south of a factory on the south of the above map, near what appears to be an artificial waterway.

As far as I'm aware this is the first clear evidence of ODAB bombs being dropped by helicopters in Syria, and also demonstrates how close the fighting is to Aleppo International Airport.

Update January 10th Thank to Guardian_Mario for putting together this image from separate frames of the video giving us a much better view of the area



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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Consequences Of UXO Handling

As I've written about in the past videos showing the handling of UXO (unexploded ordnance) have been frequently uploaded to Youtube by activists in Syria, with great risk to everyone in the video.  For example, in this recent video from a village in the Hama region of Syria shows the cluster bomblets from an Egyptian Saqr 122mm rocket, launched from BM-21 Grads, being handled and shown to the camera


On the same channel we have a video of a man who tried to pull one of the Saqr bomblets out of the ground by pulling at the ribbon attached to the bomblet, which caused it to explode, destroying both his hands and killing him


Cluster bomblets used in the Saqr rockets have a very different arming mechanism from the bomblets used in the RBK cluster bombs dropped by aircraft in Syria.  The ribbon each one is attached to is connected to the arming pin, and when the bomblet is dispersed the ribbon stabilises the bomblet and arms the bomblet as it falls through the air by pulling the pin into the armed position.  The problem is, if the bomblet doesn't disperse correctly and the ribbon doesn't have chance to pull the pin, the bomblet is not activated, but still very likely to go off if the ribbon is pulled.  Think of it as a hand grenade pin, as soon as it's remove the munition is going to go off, and this is likely what cost the man in the above video his life.  It's very unlikely the people handling these unexploded munitions know how the arming mechanism relates to the ribbon, so they are taking huge risks handling these submunitions, as the above video clearly demonstrates.

The RRMA (Responsible Reseachers for Arms and Munitions) has put together a number of safety posters in English and Arabic with details of some of the cluster submunitions commonly sighted in Syria,  and videos of other examples of Saqr rockets seen in Syria can be found here.

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Clear Evidence Of DIY Barrel Bombs Being Used By The Syrian Air Force
Unexploded Cluster Bomblets Repurposed As DIY Rocket Warheads
Improving Syrian Oppositon Armaments Demonstrated During The Taftanaz Airbase Attack

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com