This Is How Russia Bombed the U.N. Convoy
Despite Kremlin denials, the open-source evidence implicating Putin’s warplanes is overwhelming.
Pierre Vaux
09.21.16 3:06 PM ET

The international reaction to Monday night’s devastating attack on an aid convoy in the Syrian town of Urem al-Kubra has been swift and furious. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in an unusually forthright speech at the General Assembly, described the attack as “savage and apparently deliberate.” He concluded by saying the fate of Syria could not depend on the “future of one man,” namely Bashar al-Assad.

According to a statement released Wednesday by the Free Syrian Army, 31 people in total died—19 civilians and 12 aid workers. The director of the local branch of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), Omar Barakat, was among those killed. At least 18 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were destroyed, along with a SARC warehouse and a health clinic.

While aid agencies are naturally hesitant to ascribe direct blame, suspicion fell at once upon the Assad regime and Russia, which are the only air powers operating in this area of Syria.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has gone to great lengths to deflect blame, even claiming that video of the aftermath of the attack shows no sign of damage from an air strike, and suggesting the convoy was attacked by Syrian rebel fighters on the ground. To lend weight to the latter scenario, the MOD released drone footage of a pickup truck towing what it said was a mortar, moving past the convoy in rebel-held territory.

The Russians also have claimed the trucks might have been destroyed by spontaneous combustion.

However, there is a mounting body of evidence that makes it clear the Syrian regime and, in particular, the Russian military, hold responsibility for the atrocity.

Let’s start with the witness statements.

Mahmoud Abu Zaid, a relief worker, told the BBC’s Newsnight program:

“What happened was—almost two hours before the bombing we heard and saw a drone, as soon as the regime announced the end of the ceasefire. I had concerns that it would start bombing, because it flew over us for a long time. After two hours the helicopter came and dropped the first barrel bomb. After half a minute it dropped two barrel bombs together, afterwards there were six air strikes by the military jets. Then the jets with guns launched an attack. Afterwards the helicopters came back dropping barrel bombs, and then the jet with guns came back and started firing.”

Hussein Badawi, head of the Urem al-Kubra branch of Syrian Civil Defense (known as the White Helmets), told the Associated Press that he could hear helicopters, fighter jets, and ballistic missiles overhead.

He, too, reported the presence of a reconnaissance aircraft before the attack began.

Video from Aleppo 24 News captured some of the attack.

The sounds of jets and automatic cannon fire, probably from Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships, are distinctly audible. We can also see explosions from bomb or missile strikes.

Mohammed Rasoul, who is credited by the AP for the Aleppo 24 News video of the attack, told the agency that the attack began “around 20 minutes after sunset” and continued for two hours.

In another video, recorded in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, a White Helmet volunteer shows the cameraman parts he said came from a barrel bomb dropped by a helicopter.

With the daylight came more evidence, this time in the form of photos and a video shot by the BBC.

In these images we can clearly see the crushed tail fin of a Russian-made OFAB 250-270 high explosive fragmentation bomb in a crater in the SARC warehouse.

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