The purpose of this post is to spark some investigation around the alleged Douma chemical attack and to introduce a small piece of potential evidence which has not been identified.
Many people are aware that the scenes broadcast of the hospital in Douma, with adults and children being washed down, have been claimed to have been staged. It has been claimed armed men and photographers ran into the medical centre shouting “Chemical attack,” sparking panic and world-wide consternation.
However, it may be a mistake to assume that just because the hospital scene may have been a hoax, there were no chemical weapons used in Douma on the 7th April.
It is clear that a house in Douma was full of dead bodies, bearing the marks of chemical exposure, including some typical of nerve agents. Some of these symptoms on the bodies may have been faked, but maybe not all.
We have been presented, through the White Helmet organisation and other sources, with evidence of two chlorine gas canisters: one on the roof of the house in which victims were filmed and another lying unscathed on a bed in another location.
The latest research suggests the canister on the roof may not have been dropped from a helicopter on that day (if at all). It is possible the canister valve was opened deliberately or a fuse on the canister was deliberately blown in order to flood the house with chlorine.
One of the canisters , with closeup of nozzle, allegedly dropped from a helicopter onto a bed in Douma
An important part of this episode is the claim that a nerve agent was also used. So, as well as possibly using widely available chlorine canisters to stage a false flag attack, is it possible Jaish al-Islam militants or some other shadowy group in Douma could have used some kind of nerve agent?
That this might have been the case is strongly supported by the words of Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, previously Commanding Officer of the UK CBRN Regiment and NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion and chemical weapons expert, who is quoted in the Daily Mail in an article published on 22 April saying, in relation to alleged victim’s statements, “What they’re describing is chlorine and what we suspect is a nerve agent mixed with chlorine.”
Robert Fisk has written an article which quotes the testimony of a local doctor in Douma, who says, “There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”
Many have mistakenly assumed that this means there was no genuine use of chemical agents on that day. However, we would caution that those who claim that a nerve agent was used should not be dismissed so quickly.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is hugely experienced in this area. According to his biography on Military Speakers he “is one of the most operationally experienced CBRN practitioners in the World and is regarded as one of the leading experts in Chemical and Biological Counter Terrorism and warfare.”
What is more, he “is helping and advising civilians in Syria on Chemical weapons matters on behalf of a number of NGOs and has deployed to the Region a number of times since the current conflict began.”
His biography on Military Speakers states he has traveled to Syria often and “has reported with the BBC on some of the very high profile chemical attacks. He has also worked with US networks and British newspapers to smuggle chemical samples out of Syria for verification in UK and France.”
He was Chief Operating Office of SecureBio Ltd (a specialist CBRN consultancy) before that company was reportedly sold to Avon Protection part of Avon Rubber. SecureBio went into liquidation shortly thereafter but his current employer is based near Porton Down and a market leader in CBRN protection.
So when de Bretton-Gordon says that “A sophisticated nerve agent was used at Douma, not just chlorine.” and if he was able to ascertain this before the OPCW even started work, his words should be taken very seriously.
If “a sophisticated nerve agent” may have been involved, we have to consider how it might have been deployed. Such an agent may have been weaponised by being converted into an aerosol, which could have deadly effects in a confined space.
David Collum, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Cornell, has commented, that it “Seems unlikely you would mix chlorine with anything if you wanted it to survive.”
Crucial to the investigation of what happened in Douma is video footage taken shortly after the event, apparently by a White Helmet camera team, who went through the house filming the dead, as well as the hole in the roof above which a chlorine gas canister was later filmed perched.
The full video is too gruesome to be published here. Only by watching it frame by frame is it possible to discern some kind of device on the stairs of the house. The item has a metal body and tube attached which looks as if it may have a chimney releasing some kind of vapour.
Here are close-ups from two stills:
Witnesses have described hearing a pssssss sound in the house shortly before the gas hit and this would tally with the sound a rapid fumigator (as used to rid a house of pests)..
It is obviously important to identify this device, which may bear similarities to a rapid fumigator or be part of a battery operated portable smoke machine, perhaps used to send an aerosol of “a sophisticated nerve agent” into the building.
No one yet knows the horrifying details of what happened in that house in Douma. If anyone can definitively identify the item above, they may hold a key part of the puzzle and they may choose to contact the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) which was set up in 2014 “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Speaking of the OPCW, de Bretton-Gordon says, “Their antiquated procedures produce reports so long after the event that they have little impact or effect.” So anyone with any useful information may join the discussion on Twitter or is welcome to comment below.
NB – No potentially libelous comments will be accepted.