Aleppo aid convoy attack: Russian bomb remains 'recovered from site'


Open data analysts match debris to Russian-manufactured munitions and debunk ‘militant truck’ fire damage theory  

Friday 23 September 2016 11:04 BST

Debris amid the destruction of the Syrian Red Crescent and UN aid convoy attack which killed 20 people and destroyed humanitarian supplies destined for thousands of Syrian civilians matches Russian-manufactured equipment, open data experts have said.

Bellingcat, a UK-based organisation of self-taught open data experts and citizen journalists, well regarded for their work geolocating and identifying weapons in the Syrian conflict, say that news agency pictures and pictures taken by rescue workers of the aftermath of the attack clearly show the tail section of a OFAB 250-270 high explosive fragmentation bomb.

Images and analysis provided courtesy of Bellingcat
Images and analysis provided courtesy of Bellingcat

Image and annotation provided courtesy of Bellingcat
Image and annotation provided courtesy of Bellingcat

The device is extensively used by Russian aircraft assisting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and not used by aircraft manufactured in NATO countries or by American Predator drones, the report added.

While Bellingcat said the pictures prove it was an air strike that hit the convoy, founder Eliot Higgins told The Independent it was too early to say yet whether Russian or Syrian planes had carried out the attack.

Both the Russian and Syrian governments have denied involvement in Monday’s incident, which destroyed 18 of 31 trucks and around 100 tonnes of blankets, food and medical equipment and destroyed a health clinic.

The Russian Ministry of Defence released drone footage which it said showed a militant pick up truck carrying a heavy mortar travelling next to the convoy. Russian officials claimed that the device must have started large fires, which were responsible for the damage.

Russia denies Syria aid convoy attack with release of footage

Conflict Intelligence Team, a similar outfit to Bellingcat based in Russia, claims to have debunked this explanation, saying that geolocation tagging proved the vehicle passed the convoy hours before the attack took place, and six kilometres away from the site of the incident.

Eyewitnesses reported the attack as coming from the sky. In video from the scene, the sound of aircraft passing overhead can be clearly heard.

Two unnamed US officials said that intel showed two Russian Su-24 bombers were in the vicinity of the convoy within one minute of when the attack took place. Another source told the Wall Street Journal that two Russian planes were tracked taking off from a nearby Russian base.

Syria: UN aid convoy hit by airstrikes in Aleppo

Several Russian bloggers have disputed Bellingcat’s identification of Russian-made bombs, claim, pointing out that the debris might not necessarily date from the aid convoy attack, or been planted there, or that the pictures are fakes.

Higgins said the response was fairly typical of pro-Kremlin social media commentators “whenever there's any evidence of something that reflects negatively on the Kremlin or Assad.”

“According to them every cluster bomb, barrel bomb, chemical weapon attack, and mass killing was staged by Syrian activists to fool the Western media,” he said.

The Syrian and Russian defence ministries could not be immediately reached for comment.

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