Wednesday 27 March 2013

A Great Example Of How Not To Write About Chemical Weapons And Arms In Syria

When I started this blog one of the rules I set myself was only to publish information I was sure was correct, and if I was unclear on a point I would make that clear in the post.  In the case of arms identification I feel it's very important to be 100% sure about what you are posting, especially when so many people read and share what you are writing.  Unfortunately it seems for some people writing about arms in Syria all you have to do is take a few videos and work up a story without having any real understanding of what you are looking at, with this latest article by Theodore and Walid Shoebat for being one of the worst examples I've seen so far in this conflict.

The article starts by reminding the reader of their earlier "scoop", where they "revealed that the Syrian rebels had in their hands potent chemical weapons and were testing them on rabbits".  This video did the rounds a few months ago, and show a man with the flags and various paraphernalia of the Free Syrian Army with a collection of chemicals, making various threats to the Syrian governments and various minorities, and then poisoning a rabbit with an unidentified gas.  The video was originally posted on a channel that wasn't established as being used by any activists or armed groups in Syria, and is of questionable authenticity.  Despite this, Theodore and Walid Shoebat seem convinced this is the work of the Syrian opposition, despite the lack of evidence to support that theory.

This attitude to the quality of evidence they are working with is reflected in their new article, where they claim
We have captured clips that were never translated (until now) showing rebels revealing heavy arsenals including weapons of mass destruction that contain chemical agents.
They start by not unreasonably questioning the accuracy of claims made by an activist in this following video

They ask "how can an FSA reporter film an exploded chemical rocket at a close distance and remain alive?", a claim made by the man filming the smoke.  My answer would be that the average Syrian doesn't know anything about chemical weapons, and this is very likely a thermite based ZAB incendiary bomblet or a cartridge from a ZAB 100-105 incendiary bomb burning off, both of which are used widely in the conflict.  But again, it's a fair question to ask, even if the authors seem unaware of the possible answers.

They follow this question by stating the following video shows the Syrian rebels have captured a "substantial amount of scud missiles"

The video has been helpfully translated by the authors, but it should always be remembered that, as demonstrated in the previous video, the people filming the videos don't always know what they are talking about, and anyone seriously investigating the use of arms in Syria should be writing about what they see, not what the people in the videos are saying they see.

Rather than being Scud missiles as the authors of the article claim we're actually see a variety of surface-to-air missiles, with this shot showing a clear example of a S-75 Dvina

This reference image clearly shows the distinct fin arrangement on the S-75 Dvina, quite unlike anything seen on any type of Scud missile

Next the authors take a look at a video of a Scud launch, stating "And just when you think that these rebels are too primitive to figure out how to fire these missiles, here is a video of them actually launching one"

While in this case it's an actual Scud missile when it was originally posted on Youtube by Syrian activists it was claimed this was a clip taken from the Syrian army, and there was a great deal of debate about it's authenticity, with a number of people claiming this was from an earlier military training exercise.  Of course, there's no way to know the exact origins of this video, but there's no way to any serious person could state with 100% certainty that this is the Syrian opposition launching the missile, and certainly wouldn't use it as the basis of making such a serious claim about the Syrian opposition's capabilities.

The article then goes on to repeat various claims made by the Syrian government and military about the latest alleged chemical attack in Khan al-Assal, with the latest claims being that the Syrian opposition fired a DIY rocket from Al-bab to Khan al-Assal, loaded with saline solution suspended "CL17, a type of chlorine that can be found at your local swimming pool".  This would require the following to be true:

- The Syrian opposition has developed a rocket with a range of 40km+
- That rocket is accurate enough to hit a target at that distance
- It carries enough saline solution suspended chlorine to kill 26 people, and injure dozens more
- The rocket is capable of dispersing that liquid in such away that it can cause those many injuries

Now if you look at the history of chlorine being used in recent conflicts the one series of events that stands out are the chlorine bombings in Iraq from 2006 onwards.  One thing to note about these attacks were they were all ground based attacks, a variety of IEDs and VBIEDs, and only in the largest examples were there the same number of injuries and death seen with the Khan al-Assal attack.  These attacks used massive amount of chlorine gas with explosives, with many deaths coming from the initial explosion rather than chlorine gas.  So it would seem that to produce the amount of injuries and deaths seen at Khan al-Assal a massive amount of chlorine would have to be delivered, far greater than could have been delivered by a DIY rocket, especially if it's the chlorine is suspended in liquid.

It's fair to say that the claims made about the Khan al-Assal attack are highly questionable, and will no doubt face great scrutiny by people who specialise in the area of rocketry and chemical weapons, but I think it's fair to say the authors themselves are not experts in these areas, nor have they spoken to experts in these areas.  One thing I have been following closely are the various DIY weapons used in Syria, and looking at the DIY rockets I've seen used, most of which are about a meter or two long, and would have trouble going 4km, let along 40km, I would be stunned if they had suddenly developed an accurate rocket capable of reaching a distance of 40km, especially one that was able to carry a warhead large enough to cause the deaths and injures seen in Khan al-Assal.  I'm happy for anyone to prove me wrong on that point, and if they can I'll dedicate a new post to this amazing new development in DIY rocketry in Syria.

In conclusion we have a selection of videos that don't support anything the authors claim, along with a few theories on the Khan al-Assal attack that don't really seem to be based on much more than claims made by the Syrian government and an extremely limited understanding of the DIY weapons used by the Syrian opposition and chlorine based weapons, not really something I would personally feel that proud about putting online for the world to read.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Saturday 23 March 2013

Evidence Of Jabhat al-Nusra With Croatian Weapons

In recent weeks I've been tracking the spread of arms purchased from Croatia by Saudi Arabia which were then sent to what were meant to be moderate Free Syrian Army groups via Jordan.  Already there's been examples of groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and other militant Islamist groups using these weapons, and there's now evidence that Jabhat al-Nusra has been using these weapons.

This first image of a M79 Osa  titled "One of JAN lions fighting to liberate Alsahweh brigade", taken from this Jabhat al-Nusra statement, comes from a joint operation with other opposition groups to capture a military base outside of Al Sahweh, Daraa that took place in the middle of February, and involved a number of groups using a large number of weapons provided by Saudi Arabia from Croatia in the battle.

The second image is taken from this report, and shows a M60 recoilless gun being used to attack an army outpost, Hajez Barad, in Busr al-Harir, Daraa, on March 2nd.  From late December 2012 onwards Busr al-Harir has been the scene of heavy fighting when multiple opposition groups attacked Syrian army forces in the town using large numbers of the Croatian weapons provided by Saudi Arabia.

In both cases multiple opposition groups were involved with the fighting, many of which were the original intended recipients of these weapons, so it's possible that Jabhat al-Nusra received these weapons from those groups during the battles.  It's unclear how many weapons they received, but it'll be another aspect of the Croatian arms story I'll be tracking in the coming weeks and months.

Thanks to @troublejee for his help with this piece.

Update March 28th 2013 This video from Al Jazeera Arabic shows a M79 Osa in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra in Damascus.

Related Articles
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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Friday 22 March 2013

State TV Shows MANPADS And French MILAN AT Missiles Captured From Syrian Opposition Fighters

The below video from Syrian State TV shows various weapons and ammunition reportedly captured from opposition fighters in the Hama region.

Among the dozens of large mortar rounds, thousands of bullets, and various heavy machine guns a few items stand out.  On the less unusual side of things we see a pair of Metis-M missile tubes, a wire-guided anti-tank system which hasn't been an uncommon sight in the conflict, and is part of the Syrian army's arsenal

What's far more interesting are the items in this shot

To the right there are two SA-7 MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence Systems), minus the grip-stocks required to operate both systems.  While not an unusual sight in the conflict, this is the first time I've seen any MANPADS captured and shown on State TV.  The three large tubes with the octagonal ends are something much more interesting, the first examples that I've seen of French MILAN anti-tank missiles in Syria.  While the quality of the video is quite poor I've numbered the two following images to demonstrate 7 matching features on both the items shown in the video and a reference image of a MILAN missile

1 - The octagonal end piece.
2 - Dark red stripe.
3 - Yellow triangle.
4 - Yellow arrow.
5 - Handle.
6 - Yellow text.
7 - Circular symbol.

When most followers of the various Arab Spring conflicts think of MILAN missiles they will probably think of the MILAN AT missiles provided to the Libyan rebels by Qatar, and seeing the same types of missiles apparently appearing in the possession of the Syrian opposition will also probably make them think about reports of Libyan arms being sent to Syria.  However, it's important to understand that not only does the Syrian military use MILAN missiles, but so do many other countries in the region, including Syria's neighbours Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey, so although it's the first sighting of these weapons in the conflict that I'm aware of, it cannot be assumed these are being provided the the opposition from abroad.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Saturday 16 March 2013

Croatian Weapons Arrive In Homs

When Croatian weapons, provided by Saudi Arabia, first appeared a number of people noted that while the weapons had been sighted in Daraa, Idlib, Aleppo, and Deir Ez Zor, they hadn't appeared in Homs, the scene of months of fighting.  Now, for the first time, these weapons have started to appear in the Homs region.  The first video shows a M79 Osa rocket launcher being used by opposition fighters in Baba Amr, Homs, south-west of the city centre

This next video shows a RBG-6 grenade launcher in Al Khaldiyah, Homs, north of the city centre, being used by a new group, Katiba al-Samoud - Janud Allah, which appears to be aligned with the FSA 

Here we see a RPG-22 being used by what appears to be the same group in the above video at an unknown location in Homs

This final video shows a M60 recoilless gun being used at near the Lebanese border, near Al Qusayr, south-west of Homs

All four videos were posted in that last two days, and I've been unable to find earlier videos showing Croatian weapons in the Homs region, so it appears these are all new arrivals in the Homs region, and it will be interesting if these weapons have the same significant effect in Homs as they've had in Daraa.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Friday 15 March 2013

More Videos Of Croatian Weapons With Non-FSA Islamists, Salafists, and Jihadists

A couple of videos have caught my eye today that yet again show weapons from Croatia, supposedly provided to FSA groups "viewed as nationalist and secular", turning up with groups that it's unlikely they were intended for.  Firstly, this video shows a pair of M79 Osa rocket pods with Tajamo Ansar al-Islam, part of the Syrian Liberation Front, a coalition of Islamist groups separate from the Free Syrian Army

Filmed in Daraya, Damascus, it's possible they have acquired these weapons from the Ababil Horan Brigade, who have previously been seen using large numbers of Croatian weapons in the area, or possibly one of the allies of the Ababil Horan Brigade.  The Syrian Liberation Front is regarded as a more moderate group of Salafists and Mulsim Brotherhood inspired Islamists, with this next video showing a Croatian M60 recoilless gun with a group fighting alongside members of the much less moderate Syrian Islamic Front

This video is from "Operation Ibshari Aleppo" led by the Syrian Islamic Front, aiming to capture the town of Khan Touman, as well as ammo depots in the surrounding area.  A statement announcing the operation states the following groups are involved:

- Syrian Islamic Front
Shura al-Mujahideen
- Jabhat al-Nusra
Liwa al-Haq

In the case of the first three groups it cannot be said that these groups are what would be considered "moderate Islamists", and they certainly aren't part of the Free Syrian Army.

What this yet again highlights is how despite the best efforts of those providing the weapons from Croatia it's really impossible to ensure these weapons don't spread beyond the groups they are intended for, especially when many Free Syrian Army groups fight alongside groups outside of the Free Syrian Army on a regular basis.

As an aside, it's also worth noting the large amount of ammo captured today at Khan Touman, including crates full of 122mm grad rockets, AT-3 anti-tank missiles, and other unidentified crates of ammo.

Big thanks to Charles Lister for help with this post.

Update March 16th 2013 Thanks to Mads Dahl for sending me this video of Liwa al-Islam, members of the Syrian Liberation Front, with a Croatian M60 recoilless gun to attack the 39th Brigade base near Adra, northeast of Damascus

It's also worth noting that this is by far the furthest north I've seen any Croatian weapons that have been involved in fighting in Daraa and Damascus.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Monday 11 March 2013

Syrian Channel Listings

The following is a list of Syrian Bambuser profiles, Youtube channels, and Facebook pages sorted by order of district and town/city whenever possible.  To my knowledge the channels I've listed are used by activists to upload videos, and are not channels that repost videos from other channels.

Collected Live Streams from across Syria can now be found here.

These list are by no means complete, and I'm always looking for suggestions for additional channels and any corrections.  You can comment below, or send me suggestions and corrections to my email or Twitter account.

Freedom Aleppo - [Facebook]
halab stu
jaber Syrian
Jaish-e-Mohammed in the Levant
Kataib Alislam
lewaa syria  
Majid Abdelnour
menagh syria
Mhajry Alsham  
Military Council For The Province of Aleppo
mohammad alhalabe
omar alsham  
oscar ta
robenvv robenvv
Salman the Persian Battalion
Salman the Persian Battalion 2
shero kashosh
Syrian GID
syria love
The banner of monotheism
The banner of devotion to God
The banner of free Syria
yasser satoof
Ugarit News Aleppo
Union of Aleppo -[Facebook]

Aleppo - Al Bab

Aleppo - Andan
anadaaan - [Facebook]

Aleppo- Ashrafiyeh/Sheikh Meqsud 
Birayeti - [Facebook] Kurdish districts

Aleppo - Ayn-al-Arab
salih koban

Aleppo - Bab al-Hawa Refugee Camp

Aleppo - Eben

Aleppo - Hanano

Aleppo - Haritan

Aleppo - Jarablus

Aleppo - Marea

Aleppo - Tel Rif'at

Aleppo - Izaz

Abu Omar Allahu Akbar
Abu Omar Joulani
abo omer
abrahem sham
Ahfad Al Rasoul Brigade [Facebook] [Facebook]
bab srija
Banner of Islam 1
The banner of Islam 2  
Banner of Islam 3
Battalion Abdullah bin Salam
Brigades Jundallah
Commando Ghouta
faroq alsham
Free Qudsaya   
Haedra Alkrar
haytham hamoo
Isa ibn Maryam battalion
Islamic movement in Syria
Jobar Revo
Junction local council chamber
ktebt alquds
Laith al-Sham
Lewa Jaishalmouslemin
Mazen Al-Atrash
moaweiah battalion
mohajreen waansar
mrkzmoadamia alsham
My rights Golani  
nader nader Saif al-Islam Brigade
noor alhak
Nasser Brigade
Network news Gbagb
omr baker
Qusay al-Halabi
Saad bin worship
Samer Moselly
Strangers Sham
Syrian Ma'araba
tahreer alsham
Ward AL-Ksweh

Damascus - Agraba
Damascus - Al Kesswah
Keswah Coordinators

Damascus - Arbeen
abo osama

Damascus  - Damascus City

Damascus -Daraya
maestro Darya
shuhadaa daraya

Damascus - Hamouriya
Hamouriya Coordinating

Damascus - Irbin

Damascus - Jedaideh Artouz

Damascus - Mazzeh 
Mazzeh Freedom - [Facebook] [Facebook] [Facebook] [Facebook] [Facebook]
mazzehrevolution - [Facebook]

Damascus - Rukn al-Din

Damascus - Yabrud

Abohasin Hourani
Abou El Nour Rifai
Abu Abdullah
Abu Daniel Daniel
Abu Siraj Lajat
Abu Urwa Rifai
Coordinating the town of Zell
Daraa Co-ordination - [Facebook]
Daraa Freedom
daraa hora
Hawks Horan N N
Hourani free
Information Office In Alhbit
kaesar zezoon
Knights Zaidi
Loaa Alama
Martyrs Brigade Sidon
Mohammed Zoubi
Muhammad ALmasri
Naemeh Information Office
nour ali
Tafas Wen
waseem alhorane

Daraa - Al Yadudeh
Flower Horan

Daraa - Abotta
Coordinating channel revolution in Abotta

Daraa - As-Sayh Miskin

Daraa - Atman

Daraa - Busr-as-Sam
Almorabitteen Kateeba
We are all martyrs Bosra Sham panel TVs

Daraa - Dail
Daraa - East Gharriyya
Media Office in East Gharriyya

Daraa - Horan

Daraa - Kherbet Ghazalah
Coordinating Khirbet Ghazaleh

Daraa - Nawa

Daraa - Tafs
News, moment by moment Tafs
Tafas News

Daraa - Tenseekiet

Deir ez-Zor
Abdalmaan Aldndl
Abdul Baqi mast
alfurat2freedom [Facebook]
Brigades gathered right
derrevolutio11 [Facebook
Folks impact
In sham
jolyan seezar
liwaa hmza
Mahmoud Turkish
Mohammad Azam
obada aljasme
Rahman Commission
RYE Syria
Supporters of the right  
yanni sam

Deir ez-Zor - Abu Kamal
albokamalfree [Facebook]
Banner of Alluha Akbar
reda alhosane

Deir ez-Zor - Ar Raqqa
Emro Qays
Islam Ansari
Raqqa News Network
raqqa UMC
tabqa revu
tabqah lcc


Abu Atiya
Amer Sabri
Battle Algesdaluahd the
Brigades of Abu redemption
Brigades Muawiyah
Freelance journalist
Hama News Network [Facebook]
hama0homs [Facebook]
HamaRevolution2011 - [Facebook]
samer alHamwi Halfaya

Ahmed Magd

abo abdo
abu islam homs
Anas Abo Taeara
bebars telawe
Big Al Brand  
cmo algota
Farouk Homs 
frree syria

Homs - Al Ghantoo
sare swes

Homs - Baba Amr
bshaaralnsr - [Facebook] - Shouda Battalion

Homs - Deir Balba

Homs - Houla

Homs - Qusair


Idlib - Afamia
Abu Sadeq Castle Strait

Idlib- Armanez

Idlib - Binnish

Idlib - Jisr ash-Shugur

Idlib - Kafr Nabl
Ahmed Martyrs - Mount - corner

Idlib - Kafar Takharim
Tkafartakharim  [Facebook]

Idlib - Kastoon
Saif al-Hamwi

Idlib - Maarat al-Numaan

Idlib - Salqin
lewaa read
Office of Media Central Western Front

Lattakia - Jableh

Rif Dimashq - Douma
douma900 - [Facebook]
free syr
Thaer Alshami
Videosdoouma - [Facebook] [Facebook]

Rif Dimashq - Ghouta
Abu Mansur Algotani
Descendants of the Umayyads
Gathered Raaaat victory
harrany hor
jsreenalhura [Facebook] [Facebook] [Facebook]

Rif Dimashq - Harasta

Rif Dimashq - Kafar Batna
Coordinating Kafr Batna [Facebook] [Facebook]

Rif Dimashq - Kafar Souseh

Rif Dimashq -Zabadani

Nazrul Islam Brigades in Banias

News Channels
aenn aaee
Ala Azadi [Website] [Facebook] [Twitter]
Idleb News Network [Facebook]
SHAMSNN - [Facebook]

Misc Channels
FSA Help - [Facebook] Video guides for the FSA
Talbisah Comedy - Humorous videos from Talbisah

Subtitling Channels

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at