The alleged Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack

April 9, 2017 — 10 Comments

The alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun led rapidly and directly to the attack by the US on a Syrian airbase, shared with the Russians, so it is important to look at the evidence in order to discover the truth of what happened.

The accusation is that a Syrian air force plane dropped chemical weapons on the town and the US have reportedly backed this up with evidence showing the flight track of a plane which put it over Khan Sheikhoun at 0333
7Z and 0346Z, corresponding to 06.37 and 06.46 local Syrian time, that morning:

The photo above is not featured on the Department of Defense web site but was featured on ABC who say:

“Officials decided to declassify the photo to prove that Syria’s Shayrat air base was linked to the chemical attack, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesperson said Thursday night.”

Now, a video uploaded to YouTube at 4:59am UTC (7.59 Syrian time) by an anti-Syrian government source claims to show the airstrike during which the alleged chemical attack occurred:

The video shows no aircraft but four plumes – three of which appear to be conventional explosions.

It is worth noting that the third plume in the series panning left to right appears different to the others and hugs the ground more closely whilst it does not seem to be creating a mushroom type cloud.

A Sarin bomb would include high explosive only as a detonator in order not to destroy the substance and in order to distribute the Sarin droplets over the area.

The Syrian Arab News Agency reports Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem denying Syrian involvement saying:

The Foreign Minister explained that the campaign of accusing the Syrian army of using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun started at 06:00 am, while the first air raid carried out by the Syrian army was at 11:30 am of the same day targeting an ammunition store of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists that included chemical weapons.

The question of what type of chemical was released in Khan Sheikhoun, by whom and under what circumstances remains open and should be the subject of an impartial international investigation.

So, can the account of the Syrian Foreign Minister and the US flight map and the video evidence be reconciled? Perhaps only if we posit a theory in which a Syrian jet does indeed fly over Khan Sheikhoun but does not release any weapons, whilst jihadists time their explosions (including one which at least mimics a chemical release) to dovetail with the overflight, making sure to release a video which makes the process look like an airstrike.

(Article substantially revised 10/04/2017)

Update on developments of 12 April 2017

The White House published an “intelligence report” aiming to justify their belief Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack.

The report was quickly answered by Professor Theodor Postol of MIT who in a quick assessment described the report as amateurish and argued the crater and rocket used in evidence point “to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft.”

On 13 April Postol wrote an Addendum to his earlier assessment, including the photographic evidence which proved that the alleged site of the chemical attack had been tampered with.

10 responses to The alleged Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack

  1. 
    Charles Wood April 9, 2017 at 04:19

    There are also reports of missiles being fired in a strafing run and a single photo of a spent S5 missile. They are tiny missiles with an 800 gram warhead.

    S5 missiles have never been used to carry chemical agents. If they had been used in this case there would be dozens of spent missiles to see and they would be hot with Sarin. This hasn’t been seen.

    Jerry Smith, who led the UN-backed operation to remove Syria’s chemical weapons in 2013 stated in an interview that an accidental release from a weapons store was entirely feasible.2:20 onwards at https://www.channel4.com/news/syria-chemical-attack-reaction

  2. 

    How do we know this video is taken on the right place at the right time?

  3. 

    So a chemical attack would not cause an explosion and because the attack shows explosions there could not have been a simultaneous chemical attack. That makes no sense whatsoever.

    • 

      The US has produced a flight path of a plane to justify their attack on another sovereign nation, in fact on an air base shared with the Russians. The video evidence strongly suggests this particular plane was engaged in a conventional attack.

      So, if we try and explain this in layman’s terms. The (world) police (in this case the USA) produce evidence of Person X in the grounds of a house that was burgled, saying it is proof they burgled the house. Video evidence then comes to light showing Person X had a lawful reason to be on the premises.

      Of course the analogy breaks down as the police (in this instance the USA) have already destroyed a lot of the actual evidence and killed a number of people who have some connection to the accused.

  4. 

    The video shows the smoke plumes being blown eastwards by the wind. Any Sarin gas from the bomb crater should also be blown in the same direction, towards the industrial area in the left of the satellite photo (you have to zoom in on the red arrow in the Bellingcat image). There are no houses in that area, and at six in the morning there should be no children either.

    A heavy gas like Sarin can linger around for a long time and seep into basements if it’s in a sheltered area. But the impact crater on the road is exposed to the wind, which should allow any Sarin to drift safely away from the nearby houses. And there doesn’t seem to be many houses around there anyway, in any direction.

    Sarin is an extremely powerful nerve gas, but it’s hard to see how a fairly small missile at that location could contain enough of it to kill so many people.

  5. 

    Important information. If this is true, it sure puts the bombing by Trump in a strange perspective. But what did actually happen? Is there any way to find out?

  6. 

    If you look closely you’ll see the wind has a component East to West at ground level and a component West to East at higher levels. This is consistent with a low level inversion and a sharp spiral of wind direction with altitude. It’s also consistent with district wind measurements of a light breeze with a mostly East to West direction at 10m above ground level. My conclusion is there is a strong inversion as expected after a clear cool night with low wind.

    The bombs have significantly varying strengths based on the size of the mushroom clouds. Three of the bomb clouds broke through the inversion layer and rose substantially. Those clouds are beige consistent with an Ammonium Nitrate based charge. The difference in size is consistent with either incomplete detonation of some bombs or simply different sized bombs.

    The fourth bomb cloud did not break through the inversion layer. That could be because it was a ‘fizzer’ and failed to explode completely or because it was some form of chemical weapon with a small bursting charge. (It could also be a failed FAE explosive)

    The anomalous cloud smoke colour is not really beige. However, that could be because the bomb was a ‘fizzer’ and only the primer charge exploded and not the main charge. You need a reasonable size primer to detonate Ammonium Nitrate based explosives – typically RDX or sensitized gel explosive based, both of which have a different oxygen balance to bulk Ammonium Nitrate based explosives and have different smoke colours.

    What is also significant is the lack of debris being displayed from the anomalous explosion site. In all circumstances there would be large pieces of a bomb casing that would help identify the type of weapon. This has not happened, so it raises suspicion that the bomb wasn’t a chemical type.

    See https://miningandblasting.wordpress.com/tag/anfo/ for some informaton on detonating Ammonium Nitrate (ANFO) based charges. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_balance for oxygen balance.

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