Exclusive: New Photograph Possibly Showing a Volcano Rocket Launch in Rural Damascus from a Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada Facebook Page

By Christopher Kingdon.

This photograph was uploaded to a Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (hereafter KSS) Facebook page on February 2nd, 2014. It could possibly show a Volcano launch. If confirmed, this is the second image of a Volcano launch from a KSS page in a space of ten days. I’ve run the image through Google Image back-search and Tineye and it appears to be new and genuine. Unfortunately I will not be linking to the page due to the frequency of these page’s deletion once the links are shared publicly. 

The photograph was uploaded on a Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada Facebook page, under the caption: “ابطال كتائب سيد الشهداء يدكون أوكار الإرهابيين.داعش التكفيري السعودي القطري باالصواريخ في ريف دمشق.” This translates to: “Heroes of Kata’ib Sayyid Shuhada strike terrorists’ dens of Saudi-Qatari takfiri da’esh with missiles in rural Damascus.” Thanks to Aymenn Al-Tamimi for the translation.

Here is a snapshot of the screen upload:

Here is a close up of the launch:

It could show a Volcano rocket moments after its launch. Here is an image of a Volcano rocket from the Brown Moses blog. From the image above, it is impossible to determine if it’s a 107mm, 122mm or larger type.

The picture shows a rocket moments after its launch. The launch originates from a wooded area. Around the launch site are parked four white Toyotas. To the left-hand side of the photograph is a small town on a hill. Atop the hill are a tower and a mosque.

Elsewhere in the picture is a tower with windows and an aerial atop:

It looks similar to this tower featured in this video from East Ghouta.

Elsewhere in the picture is a mosque:

Hopefully with these two landmarks, it will be possible to geolocate the image.

These munition types are of particular interest to weapons experts as a chemical-version are widely believed to be the delivery system for the August 21st East Ghouta chemical weapons attack.

It comes after the upload of this image to a KSS page on February 7th, which I write about here: EXCLUSIVE: New Photograph of Volcano Rocket Being Fired.

And this image that I found the day before from a pro-Hezbollah Twitter feed that was posted on February 7th: Exclusive: New Photograph of Two Volcano 122mm Dual-Launchers Allegedly in Yabroud, Syria Posted on Pro-Hezbollah Page.

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EXCLUSIVE: New Photograph of Volcano Rocket Being Fired

By Christopher Kingdon & Joey Bromirski.

After yesterday’s exclusive, Analysis: New Photograph of Two Volcano 122mm Dual-Launchers Allegedly in Yabroud, Syria Posted on Pro-Hezbollah Page, I found an image of a Volcano rocket being fired from a Tweet posted on February 7th, 2014:

I have run the image through Google image back-search and Tineye and no prior images have been found. It appears to be new and genuine.

The image shows a Volcano rocket just after its launch.

I cannot determine the type of Volcano rocket from the picture; it could be one of the types we’ve already seen: 107mm, 122mm or larger. Elsewhere in the picture, on the ground a fighter holds a camera towards the rocket, he may be photographing the rocket’s launch. Around him are a flatbed truck, a van and a SUV with its window slightly rolled down. It is impossible to determine from the photograph when and where the Volcano rocket was fired without further context.

Here is a snapshot of the Tweet from which I found the photograph:

The Tweet poster claims that the rocket was fired in Syria, but there is no evidence from the photograph to back this claim.

There’s no way to tell from the evidence at this stage  who superimposed the logo in the bottom-left corner over the photograph. It could have been original, or it could have been added at a later date.

The image superimposed over the photograph is from the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada group; an Iraqi Shia militia fighting in Syria. Once again, there is no evidence linking the Volcano to this group yet, and the logo may have been superimposed at a later date.

UPDATE: We have since traced this photograph to a FB page:

Once again, this does not link the Volcano conclusively to this group, and the group may have simply superimposed their logo  over the original photograph.

UPDATE 2:

/u/StoneMe on the /r/syriancivilwar subreddit spotted that there’s a reflection of a tank on the SUV.

It looks like it would be difficult to determine its type, but doing so may lead to some pointers of where this was photographed.

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Exclusive: New Photograph of Two Volcano 122mm Dual-Launchers Allegedly in Yabroud, Syria Posted on Pro-Hezbollah Page

By Christopher Kingdon; thanks to Joey Bromirski and Eliot Higgins for helping me with some quick analysis of this photograph.

A new photograph has been posted to a pro-Hezbollah page (now erased) of two Volcano dual-launchers.

The photos were uploaded under the following caption: 

The caption translates to: “Yabrood now (“Right now in Yabrood”) and volcano missiles pray for the Mujahideen and the Syrian army.”

The Facebook page is titled “أسود الشيعة شبكة الأخبار,” in English – “Shiah Black News Network – Southern Suburbs 2.”

The photograph shows a soldier stood in front of two trucks which appear to be locked in firing position as they are raised on bricks. The rockets are behind a soil embankment and parked on a road. There is a four-digit number printed on one of the rockets, though the compression makes reading its digits unclear. It appears to be 1–2.

The photograph matches prior videos and photographs of the 122mm Volcano rocket model.

I have run the photograph through Tineye and Google image back-search, and cannot trace any earlier versions of it. It appears to be genuine.

This is significant for at least two reasons. 

First, Elijah J Magnier recently wrote in his article on the Yabroud offensive that “Hezbollah used in this attack self-made Volcano (Burkan) rockets to advance on the ground from Nabak and Deir Atiya re-taking Al-Jarajeer and all the surrounding hills between Lebanon and Syria.

Later he commented, “He pointed out “Hezbollah SF who have participated in the battle of East Ghota, Idlib and Qusayr have been deployed in the battle with their experience and full equipment, including their special Burkan (Volcano) to open the road.”

If confirmed, we appear to have clear evidence of their use in the Yabroud offensive. Charles Lister notes: “Worth noting that #Hezbollah successfully deployed Volcano IRAMs in the May-June ‘13 Al-Qusayr offensive – reportedly very effectively.”

More evidence of their use may appear, which would be critical for understanding how these rockets function more fully.

Second, questions have long been asked about the links between Hezbollah and the Volcano rockets. This piece on Syria Deeply asks: Volcanoes In Damascus: Was Hezbollah Involved With Developing Chemical Munitions? For now, if confirmed, this photograph above would add to the evidence that there is a connection between Hezbollah and the design of the Volcano munition, specifically the 122mm version. 

If anyone has anything to add or detract from this analysis, please Tweet me here @Rsyriancivilwar

UPDATE 1:

It appears the Pro-Hezbollah Facebook page that posted the pic of Volcanos has since been deleted. Here is a snapshot of the link to the source now:

UPDATE 2: Within an hour and a half of my posting a link to the page, the entire page has disappeared from the Internet. When you search for the page name now under “أسود الشيعة شبكة الأخبار”, this link comes up:

If you follow that link through, it now simply redirects to your home page. This may be the fastest recorded report and FB delete yet.

UPDATE 3: The page is cached through this link. As you can tell, barely any information remains:

As Mathew Ingram and others have written, “Critics say Facebook is erasing pieces of history by deleting pages about the war in Syria,” this is developing into a major problem. Facebook is erasing history from its servers. I hope Facebook changes its policy.

There may still be time to catch this photograph in its servers.

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Debunk: Al-Arabiya is using an old photograph of a Hercules C-130 crash (possibly stock-footage) as part of the Algerian plane crash coverage, Feb. 11th 2014

Today a military plane crashed in Algeria killing over a hundred of its passengers.

The Al-Arabiya Twitter feed tweeted  a picture as part of its coverage in a Tweet that stated “#BreakingNews: Algerian Civil Defense: one survivor, 102 killed in plane crashara.tv/b7a8k  pic.twitter.com/dCW1tlxlNR

Source

The image was also on their website in their main story:

Source.

While neither of the websites claimed that this picture was of the crash, its prominence and the caption underneath on their website, made it appear as if it was.

I used Google image back-search to track the image. This brought up numerous old images including this photograph from 2004 of a Hercules C-130 crash in Afghanistan.

This image was posted on the Break.com website on October 19th, 2005:

It was also posted on this forum in 2006:

Source.

Evidently Al-Arabiya are recycling an old stock photograph to add to their coverage of the Algerian plane crash.

UPDATE:

After posting this to Open Newsroom, Storyful traced the image to a photograph from January 9th, 2004.

This is the source.

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Analysis: Photograph of Jabhat al Nusra with Map Printout Planning Aleppo Central Prison Assault; Not a “Professional Military-Grade Map,” but Google Earth

By Christopher Kingdon

On February 10th a pro-Jabhat al Nusra Twitter account @azoozf Tweeted a photograph of Jabhat al Nusra commanders and possible commanders from other rebel groups planning their February 7th assault on Aleppo Central Prison.

This is the source of the photograph.

The Tweet translated to “Meeting of field commanders before the assault on Aleppo Central Prison.”

The photograph shows three men crouched around a map of the Aleppo Central Prison area and two men stood behind them; the map was laminated and had a grid overlaid it. One of the men held the map down with his fist.

Charles Lister, a Visiting Fellow at Brookings Doha Center, commented: PT: Worth noting re. the top image – that looks pretty close to a professional military-grade satellite imagery map.

I wanted to examine Charles Lister’s off-the-cuff theory. I turned to Google Earth to see if the image on the map matched what Google Earth displayed of the prison area.

I aligned Google Earth with the map displayed in the picture; this was difficult as as you can see the map is not flat and the curves lead to a sheen developing on the map’s lamination.

I decided to focus on the structure in the bottom-right quadrant of the map and the road leading vertically in the center.

I matched these with Google Earth.

This allowed me to orientate Google map to the angle of the photograph that @azoozf had Tweeted and get a rough picture of the quality of Google Earth’s map.

As you can from the angle of the original photograph and then the Google Earth compass, we look at the picture from a northeast perspective, meaning that the men printed or received the map on a standard NESW perspective.

Next I marked structures visible on the photograph.

Then I matched them with Google Earth.

As I had now confirmed that the images showed the same map from the same angle it was necessary to compare the quality of the map shown in @azoozf’s image with the quality of the Google Earth. To do so, I chose the structure in the bottom-right quadrant of the picture:

And here is the same structure on Google Earth:

As you can tell, the quality of the photograph and Google Earth are almost exactly the same. Furthermore although the photograph and Google Earth have the same shading  and shadow.

I then chose to look at the grid overlaid on the map. Using Google Earth’s Ruler tool, I measured the structure in the bottom left Quadrant. It measured to 100 meters (roughly). I then counted that the same building covered two squares in the photograph. Thus it is possible to estimate that each side of the overlaid quadrants are  50m long.

There are numerous tools available within Google Earth or freely online that permit such a grid overlay including earthpoint.us.

In sum, after examining this photograph there is nothing in the photograph that suggests it originated from ‘military-grade satellite imagery’; in fact, the photograph’s quality is, if anything, worse than what is available on Google Earth. The grid overlay is a feature freely available and lamination is a service than any layman can access.

This should come as now surprise. There are numerous articles on rebels using Smartphones and IPads as weapons of war, Syrian Rebels Use iPads and Smartphones to Aid Weaponry, and even videos of rebel groups using Google maps to aim mortars. 

I would say, with confidence, that this map did not originate from a foreign military as part of a package of military aid, but rather is a tool that many rebel groups within Syria can access and replicate simply with an Internet connection. However, it is important that we recognize that rebel groups have these capabilities and understand that satellite imagery is no longer purely the domain of governments, but a tool that sub-state groups have and will continue to access to further their military successes, or even terror attacks.

UPDATE:

@Arkenstoneblog on Twitter point out that the Syrian Army has long used Google Earth for its assaults. This video from August 30th shows the SAA using Google Earth to prepare for assaults in East Ghouta.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODmwocrURag&feature=youtu.be

The area shown in the video is at co-ordinates 33.518493°, 36.326536° which is in west Jobar

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Debunk: A Widely Shared Photo Purporting to Show Fighters Inside Aleppo Central Prison on January 6th, 2014 Is From October, 2013

By Christopher Kingdon

A photograph widely shared on Twitter purporting to show rebels inside Aleppo Central Prison’s walls today, February 6, 2014 is from October, 2013.

Activists are sharing this photograph as part of the evidence that rebel fighters made it inside the prison’s walls on Thursday, February 6.

However a quick Google Image back-search reveals that the photograph is from at the earliest October 18 2013.

This is from Etilaf‘s page in mid-October:

This is not to say that the opposition did not have made it inside the walls today, nor that they might not still be fighting within the complex, but that this particular image should not be shared to reinforce these claims or be apart of this story.

In other news,  this photograph of the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) that initiated today’s attack is new and appears genuine. The photograph originated on a Jabhat al Nusra Twitter account. It really demonstrates the efficacy and power of this type of munition.

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Analysis: The Curious Case of Redditor /u/anonymousenojk, a Swede Who Posted About Syria’s Civil War, Then Joined Al Qaeda in Syria

January 20th, 2014
A Swedish redditor, anonymousenojk, has gone to Syria to join the al Qaeda faction Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

Introduction

On January 20th, /u/AlbnSAmin submitted a post to the /r/syriancivilwar subreddit titled /u/anonymousnojk has migrated to Syria.

His submission indicated that /u/anonymousenojk. who had been active on the subreddit for about a month until his ban for violently anti-Shiite language and ad hominem attacks, had gone on jihad to Syria.

Evidently, a Twitter account, @Anonymousenojk which was under the same name as the reddit account, had made contact with ISIS fighters, traveled to Turkey and then migrated across the border to Syria.

On January 15th he contacted a ISIS Tweep:

@Abu_Qaqa_ Akhi please follow me i need to talk to you

Then on January 16th, he celebrated his success in reaching Syria:

Brothers and sisters in deen do dua for me i am in sham alhamdulillah!

This translates to: “Brothers and sisters in way of life (Islam) make supplication for me, I am in Sham (Greater Syria) all thanks and glory are to God.”

His presence on the subreddit was highly controversial at the time. He made no pretense that he was fiercely anti-Assad and a supporter of the opposition and even sported a jihadist flair. His account netted 172 link karma for external submissions and -159 comment karma for his comments.

After mining his submissions to the subreddit, it’s clear he was a Swede. One of his comment linked to his blog at islamicsweden.blogspot.com. While the blog has been deleted, you can view a cached version here.

On the blog he wrote, These shias are supposed to act good because they call themselves muslims, but dont fall for their tricks because they have many and they will decieve you and you wont even know it. There is nothing to prohibit them from lying about what their religion is and they will lie about it to make you convert. If you knew what they teached you would be disguisted by their illogical and immoral teachings.

Involvement in the Subreddit

One of his comment’s from late December stated: I can hardly wait till i see more decompousing communist bodies littering around Til Hamis. The smell must be horrible but it will be good for the crops. Earlier he had written Well who wouldnt kill pro-Assad clerics considering the barrelbombs and the surge of refuges adn the stories they have to tell the Lebanese muslims. Also on the 60% sunni, that is only when you exclude the kurds and turkmen who are mostly sunni. And even then a 60% sunni arab population is on the lower end of the spectrum.

His top post  was a photograph of Syrian rebels having a snowball fight.

His second highest post linked to the Brown Moses blog post: Brown Moses Blog: A Case Of Weapon Misidentification By ‘Jihadists’ And Assad Supporters.

He provided an update when Baghdadi Bridge fell into rebel hands in Adra, and another on the rebel assault on Kindi hospital (which involved Jabhat al Nusra).

In his least popular comment he defended the forced conversion of Druze to Islam: Are you making a statement or a joke? The Druze did what they did according to their own will and were not forced to do anything, in fact in Islam it is impossible to force anyone to convert to Islam. It is clearly stated in Surah Baqara 256; “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion…” For guys that do everything according to the Quran it would be weird if they went against it.

In another he felt that rebels dying was not a ‘sad’ occurrence, Why is that sad? They only took arms to establish a muslim state or die in combat, both of those options are just as good for us.

In others he linked to videos of SAA war crimes.

Eventually he far surpassed our limits for participation in the subreddit. He was banned. What follows is that conversation:

The account is worth mining for information, which I believe the International Center for the Study of Radicalization will start doing tomorrow.

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