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Foley video with Briton was staged, experts say - New analysis casts doubt on role of UK suspect
Hostage murdered after faked video, say experts
Times, The (London, England) - Monday, August 25, 2014
Author: Deborah Haynes
The video of a British jihadist beheading an American hostage was probably staged, with the actual murder taking place off-camera, according to forensic analysis.
Footage of James Foley's death at the hands of a man with a London accent provided a powerful propaganda tool for the USIslamic State (formerly Isis) when it was uploaded on to the internet and broadcast around the world last week.
Now it has emerged that the Briton might be a frontman and not the killer. His identity has almost certainly been established by the security services, but they have yet to act for fear of endangering the lives of 20 western hostages still being held. A study of the four-minute 40-second clip, carried out by an international forensic science company which has worked for police forces across Britain, raises a number of questions about what really happened on a patch of desert land, thought to be somewhere in northern Syria.
No one is questioning that the photojournalist was beheaded [why not?], but camera trickery and slick post-production techniques appear to have been used.
"I think it has been staged," said one expert in visual forensics, after he was commissioned by The Times to examine the footage. "My feeling is that the execution may have happened after the camera was stopped."
Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum think-tank, suggested that "they show it's an English guy because he is English-speaking for an English-speaking audience".
He said: "It sends a message to both the UK and the US who are intervening at this stage in some way in the conflict. I think it sends a powerful message that it doesn't matter where you are from, your allegiance is with the Islamic State and one day the Islamic State will encompass the entire world in terms of their thinking."
He added: "Islamic State really revel in beheading. They have definitely improved the production quality of their videos over the past couple of years."
The analysis came as:
Lord Carlile of Berriew, a former government reviewer of terrorism legislation, called on Muslim leaders to make way for a new generation of young professionals to combat the radicalisation of young people.
The Iraqi ambassador to the United States warned that Britain must take responsibility for preventing new recruits to Islamic State, while warning of the dangers of conflating the group with mainstream Muslims.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton and a former shadow home secretary, David Davis, called for Britons who join the militant group to be stripped of their passports.
The analysis highlights a number of discrepancies that could indicate that the beheading scene broadcast to the world was not the genuine killing. Firstly, no blood can be seen, even though the knife is drawn across the neck area at least six times. Secondly, sounds allegedly made by Foley do not appear consistent with what may be expected. The forensic analysis expert said that no incision could be seen on Foley's neck, though the right hand of the jihadist partially blocked the shot.
The commentary provided by the forensics company, which requested anonymity, did not reach a definitive answer. It concluded: "No one is disputing that at some point an execution occurred."
The video begins with a clip of President Obama raising the prospect of US airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. This footage appeared to have been downloaded directly from the White House website. Interference was imposed on to the picture, making it look dated and old-fashioned.
Footage of Foley, 40, with his head shaven and kneeling upright in a bright orange robe, is filmed from two cameras running at the same time. Foley's words, which run for one minute and 26 seconds, appear to have been scripted. The analysis highlighted a blip in the imagery that could indicate the journalist had to repeat a line. Scrutiny of the subsequent speech by the masked jihadist, in which he warns the US of attacks, indicate that the words are spoken by the militant even though his mouth is obscured by his headscarf.
Next comes the beginning of the supposed beheading. The militant wraps his right arm around the journalist's head, holds his chin in his right hand and makes quick slicing movements with the knife in his other hand.
"After enhancements, the knife can be seen to be drawn across the upper neck at least six times, with no blood evidence to the point the picture fades to black," the analysis said. The next shot is of Foley's decapitated body, with his severed and blood-covered head on his upturned back.
The video concludes with the jihadist standing next to Steven Sotloff, a second kidnapped US journalist. Analysis raised the possibility that this clip was filmed before the footage of Foley.
It emerged yesterday that Foley wrote a last letter to his family, saying he hoped to be back in the US for his sister's wedding. He was banned from sending it but a Danish photojournalist, who spent 13 months imprisoned with Foley, committed the words to memory. When Daniel Rye Ottosen, 25, was released in June his first call was to Foley's mother, Diane. He dictated every word.
Are these men linked to Foley killing? Amer Deghayes aged 20, a student from Brighton, went to Syria, where he was INJURED and one of his brothers was killed. The US held his uncle in Guantánamo Bay. Deghaye may have had access to Isis leaders but claims that he fought with other groups.
Junaid Hussain 20, from Kings Heath, a suburb of Birmingham, was Jailed for six months in 2012 for stealing personal information relating to Tony Blair and his family, and posting it online. He has posted photographs of himself on Twitter brandishing an assault rifle and wearing a scarf to hide his identity. On June 4 he tweeted a reference to the black flag that has been adopted by Islamist extremists: "One day the flag of tawheed will fly over 10 Downing Street and the White House."
Abdel-MaJed Abdel Bary 23, from Maida Vale, west London, is an aspiring "grime" rapper called Lyricist Jinn. He was radicalised after mixing with associates of the preacher AnJem Choudary. A neighbour said the Bary's family home had been raided last week.
Abu Abdullah Albritani Has kept his identity under wraps but is thought to be one of the men who left Portsmouth with Mashudur Choudhury, who was Jailed on his return.
Also among the group were Iftekhar Jaman, 23, and Hamidur Rahman, 25, who are both thought to have been killed since leaving the UK.
Al-Britani looks similar to Foley's killer and keeps himself masked, but his fixation with social media makes it less likely that he is the man holding Western hostages.
Ismail Jabbar The 22-year-old Islamist has posted images of people that he claims his group, "Unit Bin Laden", have killed, including one of him apparently standing on a corpse. Although he has clearly been close to killing he is probably not tall enough to be Foley's killer.
Aine Davis Born to parents of Gambian heritage, Davis, 30, left for Syria in July last year. He was sentenced for a firearms offence in 2004. He has a London accent but may be too well-built to be "John".
Jihadists appear caught offguard by release of Steven Sotloff video
Analyst for US private intelligence firm SITE discovered the video apparently before Islamic State was prepared to release it
By Raf Sanchez, Washington
9:33PM BST 02 Sep 2014
The video of Steven Sotloff's apparent murder appears to have been found by a private US intelligence firm before it could be released by the Islamic State.
News of Mr Sotloff's death was broken by the SITE Intelligence group, a private company that monitors jihadist activity and has close ties to the American intelligence community.
The group's analysts found the video on what a spokesman described as "a file-sharing site" and send it out to its subscriber list. SITE's subscribers include government officials, journalists and academics involved in analysing terrorism.
The news immediately spread across the world, and it appeared to catch some jihadists off guard when SITE began spreading the video and a transcript of the remarks by Mr Sotloff and his killer.
The Twitter account @JihadWitness, which tweets in English in support of the IS and other jihadist groups, expressed surprise when the video began to appear online.
"How did this leak out to news before the publication?" one tweet read.
The apparent leak of the Sotloff video is in stark contrast to the carefully choreographed release of the video showing the killing of James Foley, another American journalist, on August 20.
That video, entitled "A Message to America", was posted on Youtube and then publicised by accounts linked to IS.
It is not the first time that SITE has released jihadist material before the jihadists themselves.
In 2007, the group published a video of Osama bin Laden a full day before it was released by al-Qaeda's official propagandists.
The video was especially significant because it was the first time the terror leader had been seen since 2004, and his absence had led to speculation that he may have died.
The SITE spokesman refused to give more details of where the Sotloff video was found.
SITE was originally formed in 2002 and is led by Rita Katz, an Israeli who was born to a Jewish family in Iraq in 1963.
Her family was expelled from the country after Saddam Hussein seized power, and resettled in Israel.
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Sinclair @ May 8 2013, 11:37 PM wrote: How lucky of the Daily Telegraph to get an exclusive insight into Jabhat al Nusra for the article of December 2012:Inside Jabhat al Nusra - the most extreme wing of Syria's struggle
One of the men behind a series of jihadist attacks inside Syria tells Ruth Sherlock about their battle to overthrow President Assad.
By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut
7:30AM GMT 02 Dec 2012
This was one of the growing number of suicide bomb attacks that are changing the face of the Syrian rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. They have shifted the balance of power away from the regime by bringing destruction to some of its most sensitive and well-guarded strongholds, often in the capital, but in doing so have also killed or maimed many civilian bystanders.
Sitting on a threadbare carpet in small room with concrete walls in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, the jihadist who called himself Yasser al-Sibahi spoke to me only after being introduced by a childhood friend with whom he grew up in the city of Homs, and whom he trusted.
His accounts of the operations conducted by his wing of the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra provide an exclusive and terrifying glimpse inside the most extreme wing of the Syrian rebellion – one which many members of the more secular Free Syrian Army loathe, and which may prove to be the West's worst nightmare.
They also give an insight into the further conflict to which Syria may descend, if or when the Assad regime finally falls.
The group, which has parallels with al-Qaeda, is the largest and most hardline of a score of jihadist organisations whose brutal methods – including beheadings – have shifted the dynamics of what had previously been a mostly moderate Sunni opposition.
The first attack for which Jabhat al-Nusra claimed responsibility came on Jan 6 this year – 10 months after the first anti-Assad protests began – when a suicide bomber blew up buses in the central Damascus district of Al-Midan that were carrying riot police to an anti-government protest. More than 26 people, mostly civilians, were killed.
Since then the use of suicide bombings or remotely detonated car bombs has dramatically increased, with Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups launching dozens of attacks against government positions each month. Almost two years into the conflict, such attacks have become a near daily reality in the capital Damascus.
The key to Jabhat al-Nusra's extreme violence is its recruitment of radical fighters from abroad to join Syrians who follow its secretive official leader, known as Abu Muhammad al-Julani – whose fiery speeches on jihadist websites are electronically distorted to make his voice unrecognisable.
Mr Sibahi's brother is the leader or "Emir" of Jabhat al-Nusra in the northern countryside of Homs province, while he has become a key figure in smuggling foreign volunteers and weapons across the border from Lebanon.
"I have sent in brothers from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkmenistan, France and even from Britain," he said, with evident pride
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America siding with 'terrorists' like al-Nusra? It's not a conspiracy theory
History suggests otherwise, as well as intelligence reports
Robert Fisk |@indyvoices |Sunday 14 June 2015 19:18 BST|
Al-Nusra and its supporters wishes to rebrand itself as a completely different and more moderate entity than Islamic State (Rex) Rex
No apologies for returning today to the strange case of the “moderate” Jabhat al-Nusra rebels, the throat-cutters and executioners who are playing the anti-Isis card to woo the US.
Their leader, you may recall, told Qatar’s Al Jazeera channel that his al-Qaeda affiliated warriors will oppose both Isis and Bashar al-Assad – and even protect Syria’s Christian and Alawite minorities. The usual American nomenklatura are telling the world this is tosh. It’s the “conspiracy theorists” who are to blame, they say, for suggesting that the US might send barrel-loads of new weapons to such men. No. The US would never deal with those who are on its infamous, though pointless, “terrorist list”. Besides, Qatar would never promote these killers as moderates – would they?
Well, first, let’s take another look at all these conspiracy theorists. By chance, that inestimable French journal Le Monde Diplomatique this month carries a wodge of articles under the title “Did you say conspiracy?”, painfully dissecting how many false-flag stories turned out to be true. There’s the Mukden incident, for example, a 1931 Chinese attack on imperial Japan which turned out to be a Japanese attack on China and led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the Rape of Nanking, et al.
•Then there’s the 1933 burning of the Reichstag which might have been started by the Nazis rather than the communists; the successful – and real – CIA-MI5 plot to overthrow Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, in which bombs were supposedly planted by (yet again) communists; Israel’s 1954 “Operation Susannah” in which Israeli-organised attacks on UK and US buildings in Cairo were blamed on Egyptian nationalists; and the 1964 Tonkin incident, when America reported totally imaginary North Vietnamese attacks on a US warship, which led to the very real launching of the Vietnam War. Interestingly, Latin America provides even more proof of real US plots: Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Cuba, you name it.
The French monthly also carries a very fair critique of those who believe George W and his chums engineered the 9/11 attacks – as if a US president who screwed up everything he ever did in the Middle East was capable of bringing down the World Trade Centre – and of the Arab world’s obsession with Western conspiracies that allow dictators and nations to duck their own responsibility for terrible events.
Thus, the lie that a female Israeli official had sex with Arab leaders to blackmail them into supporting pro-Israeli policies; the perpetrator of this nonsense, the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, later apologised – but, courtesy of the internet, the lie is still repeated.
Western powers, Arabs are told, conspired to create the 2011 Middle East revolutions to produce instability and civil war in the Arab world. The Americans planned the insurgency against Assad and the coup against Mubarak – the former to rid Israel of its most powerful neighbour, the latter intended to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power and “diminish the greatness of Egypt”. Egyptian activists protesting the brutality of the coup’s winners – the army – are accused of taking money from Western intelligence agencies to further their cause. Even Brigadier-General-President al-Sisi believes this stuff. Algerians still claim that the French Deuxième Bureau (an institution that ceased to exist in 1940) is today the puppeteer behind all Algerian political movements.
So I join, I think, the average reader of The Independent in responding to this tomfoolery with a great English expression: what a load of old cobblers! But wait.
When I was in Syria a few days ago, I heard several times that the Iranians, who have lost their own men defending the Assad regime, are stingy when it comes to economic assistance. One source in Damascus told me that they demand guarantees of real estate on any expenditure for the Syrian military. I don’t know if this is true, but just take a look at the latest estimates of the extremely undistinguished UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura who now announces that Iran spends, as much as £4bn a year on the Syrian regime – excluding, by the way, the cost of Iranian military personnel, the Hezbollah and Iraqi Shias fighting for Syria – a figure only outdone by a gentleman at the “US Institute of Peace” who puts the amount close to £13bn.
And all this money supposedly comes from a country whose economy has been broken by sanctions? It doesn’t take a pea-brain to work out that if Iran still intends to manufacture nuclear weapons – the Israeli line – and has so much money to splurge on its allies, then it remains a far greater threat to Israel and Sunni states than al-Nusra or Isis or any other crackpot Islamists in the region. And thus the Qataris are today officially joining the campaign to “clean” the al-Qaeda killers of al-Nusra. A conspiracy theory, of course.
Think again. Read the words of the Qatari Foreign Minister, Khaled al-Attiyah, in an interview with Le Monde last month. “We are clearly against all extremism,” he stated, “but, apart from Daesh [Isis], all [sic] these groups are fighting to overthrow the [Assad] regime. The moderates cannot say to the Nusra Front ... ‘We won’t work with you’. You have to look at the situation and be realistic.”
In other words, al-Nusra’s sole aim is to destroy the Assad regime and, ergo, it is on the same side as the “moderates” and worthy of the same military assistance. If the “moderates” can’t say to al-Nusra, “We won’t work with you”, then how could the US?
Intelligence reports to the French government have been recording US air strikes against Isis that have avoided endangering positions held by al-Nusra. When Isis arrived in its thousands to assault Palmyra last month – for the most part, in broad daylight – not one US plane appeared in Syrian skies. And all this when US pilots have been returning from almost 75 per cent of their missions against Isis with bombs still on board because they couldn’t find targets.
You don’t have to be a reporter, let alone a conspiracy theorist, to see the warning lights around the “war on terror” story in Syria. Because some of the terrorists are soon going to be our terrorists – as long as they fight the even more horrible terrorists and the Assad terrorists at the same time. All they need is more cash and more weapons. And I bet you they’ll get them, courtesy of the ol’ US of A. Just don’t mention the word conspiracy.
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Kidnapping of John Cantlie and Jeroen Oerlemans was a new and unexpected hazard for those trying to report the Syrian conflict
Kim Sengupta Author
Wednesday 10 October 2012
The civil war in Syria has claimed the lives of a number of journalists, most notably those of Marie Colvin and Remy Ochlik during shelling by the army in Homs, highlighting the dangers of covering the most brutal episode of the Arab Spring.
British hostage John Cantlie is shown in new Isis propaganda video
Kidnapped journalist talks about bombing of Mosul University in first video featuring him to appear since March
John Cantlie speaks in the latest Isis propaganda video in front of the bombed-out Mosul University. Photograph: screengrab
This article is 8 months old
Wednesday 13 July 2016 01.25 BST
Last modified on Wednesday 26 October 2016 07.30 BST
John Cantlie, the British journalist who has been held hostage by jihadis since 2012, is shown in a new video made by Islamic State.
Cantlie looks noticeably thinner in the video, the first to feature him since one that emerged on 19 March.
Once again, his skills as a journalist have been exploited by Isis in an attempt to lend credibility to propaganda films. On this occasion he discusses the bombing of Mosul University and is filmed by a camera that appears at a later stage to be attached to a drone as it flies over a city landscape strewn with rubble.
Wearing a long shirt and black trousers, he introduces himself before telling viewers that he is standing in front of the remains of the university. “You have to ask yourself: why did the coalition decide to destroy the university?” he says, adding: “Normal, social everyday life has been destroyed and if you are going to destroy a university, why bother?”
The Hampshire-born reporter was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012, during his second visit to report on the country’s war, alongside the US journalist James Foley, who was later killed on camera by Isis.
He has been used to front several films and he writes a column in the Isis magazine Dabiq, in which he veers between attacking and praising his captors.
Cantlie’s father, Paul, died in 2014, [link at source] after pleading for his son’s freedom. The journalist’s sister, Jessica, has attacked the government’s inability to bring him home.
The Foreign Office said it was aware of the video and was “analysing its contents”.
In a video in March, Cantlie also appeared to be in Mosul, and again was shown as if presenting a news report.
He was shown standing by bombed-out shelters near a main road, asking why the US uses planes to destroy kiosks that are used to distribute Isis propaganda pamphlets and cost “about $50 to build”. Addressing the camera as if presenting a television programme, he said: “After 20 months and $5bn, America has successfully destroyed an Islamic State media kiosk.”
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Dutch photojournalist Jeroen Oerlemans shot dead in Libya by sniper
The 45-year-old, previously kidnapped in Syria with Briton John Cantlie, was killed in the former Isis-controlled city of Sirte
This article is 5 months old
Associated Press in Amsterdam
Sunday 2 October 2016 23.39 BST
Last modified on Monday 3 October 2016 07.24 BST
A sniper has fatally shot a Dutch journalist in the Libyan city of Sirte, Islamic State’s last bastion in the chaos-wracked north African country.
Jeroen Oerlemans was killed on Sunday while he was out with a team that clears mines in the part of the city that has been freed from Isis control, according to Dutch national broadcaster Nos and Belgian publication Knack. Both cited fellow journalist Joanie de Rijke of Knack, who was reporting with Oerlemans in Libya.
The Dutch ambassador to Libya, Eric Strating, tweeted: “Rest in Peace. Your photographs of #Sirte #Libya and other places will live on forever.”
Foreign minister Bert Koenders said in a statement that “Oerlemans is a journalist who kept going where others stopped. Driven to put the news into pictures in the world’s hotspots. It is profoundly sad that he has now paid the ultimate price for this.”
Dutch journalist Jeroen Oerlemans was described as ‘prudent, and very smart’ by a friend and colleague. Photograph: Twitter
Oerlemans, 45, is survived by a wife and three small children, according to Eike den Hertog of the Beeldunie photo agency, who had worked with Oerlemans for much of the past two decades. Oerlemans had been scheduled to return home Monday.
He mourned the loss of a friend and a powerful photographer who “managed to capture what he wanted to say in pictures”.
“He wasn’t a cowboy. He was prudent, and very smart,” den Hertog said. He was surprised that Oerlemans wanted to return to Libya so soon after a previous assignment, also in Sirte, two months ago.
Oerlemans was abducted and wounded in Syria in 2012 with British photographer John Cantlie, and freed a week later. Cantlie was later abducted again, and is believed to still be in captivity.
Oerlemans had covered wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Libya and the journey of migrants to Europe. Oerlemans studied photojournalism at the London College of Communication, according to his Facebook account.
It is especially difficult and dangerous for journalists to work in Libya, in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Much of the country is ruled by a patchwork of local and tribal militias, and Islamic militants have also gained a foothold.
Militias from Misrata have recently driven Isis militants out of most of Sirte, their last urban stronghold, with the help of US airstrikes.
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