Chemical weapons Human rights Syria

A Douma false-flag attack?

Was there a false flag attack in Douma and was a sophisticated nerve agent employed?

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.

Film crew gas mask
One of the camera crew can be made out wearing a gas mask (bottom of pic)

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.

adidas on stairs

Here are close-ups from two stills:

closeup e
Closeup d

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.

3 replies on “A Douma false-flag attack?”

Good find, worth investigating. The ‘pipe’ looks like some real object, but could it be an artifact caused by video compression when the camera is moving quickly? It seems to have gas coming out of the top but it’s not clear what the bottom part is attached to. You say “The full video is too gruesome to be published here”, but is there a shorter clip available that shows the object on the stairs?

What deserves less attention is the opinion of Hamish de Bretton-Gordon. I’ve counted at least four different versions that he gave of another incident, the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury, and they all contradict each other.

In the Salisbury case, he first said it was not a nerve agent, then he thought it was Sarin, followed by Novichok in powder form in a parcel, and later as a liquid on their clothing. The latest version from him that I’ve read is that it was “a boutique chemical weapon specifically designed for assassinations”, whatever that is exactly.

He seems to say whatever he thinks, as long as it does not contradict the latest official story. That could be true in the Douma case as well.

The quality of that video is terrible, really hard to tell but the object looks like a metal zipper to me. Perhaps I’m wrong to assume they wouldn’t film anything that incriminating but it is seen again at about 1:48 when they go back down the stairs.

The video is bizarre in some ways: they don’t seem to do anything with any of the people apart from film close ups (no body retrieval or rushing anyone to hospital only ~300m away) and some rooms such as the kitchen to the right of the room with the hole they just plain ignore.. so if this was the ‘discovery’ they already seem to know where to look.

A real contrast with Khan Sheikhoun where we saw all victims being rushed to hospitals- in some cases more than one hospital even though they had died some hours before according to witnesses- a medic being asked to check a child was really dead and so on.

This AJ video has another clearer shot from a video later that night showing the zipper

Has some previously unseen footage of the cylinders (including moving the L2 cylinder into the hole –

The base of a lamp is shown below the OPCW’s ‘funnel cap’ which is quite clearly a lampshade –

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