How Bashar al-Assad Gassed His Own People | NYT – Visual Investigations

Posted by

The U.N. has accused
the Assad regime of repeatedly committing
war crimes in Syria. Including a chemical attack
in April on a town called Douma. It killed dozens of people and triggered U.S. led
strikes inside Syria. To this day, Syrian officials
and their Russian allies deny the attack
ever took place. Finding out what really
happened matters. Entire families were killed, and the regime went to great lengths
to conceal the evidence. Our investigation is the
most detailed reconstruction of the attack so far. We analyzed a trove of
videos and interviewed dozens of witnesses and experts. We scoured some evidence with
the investigative group Bellingcat, and we teamed up with the
agency Forensic Architecture to create a virtual
model of the crime scene. We center on one building that confirms
where the attack happened. One bomb, that shows
who carried it out and when. And the victims, whose symptoms
tell us what happened: a lethal chemical attack. The evidence combined exposes
Syria and Russia’s lies. “Where is your concrete evidence
about what happened?” The concrete evidence is right here. First, it’s important
to understand why Douma was a target that day. The Syrian military had
launched a brutal campaign to retake the eastern
suburbs of Damascus held by rebels for five years. The strategy: to terrorize the
population into submission. It worked. The regime began gradually
seizing town after town and Douma was the last
enclave holding out. We’re going to focus
on this one street. Ambulances used it to
reach an underground tunnel that linked up with Douma’s
last functioning hospital. And the street may
have been targeted for that reason. In just two days,
the bombing leveled entire buildings,
one after the other. And then, on this
apartment building a chemical weapon was dropped. Assad has offered two
explanations for the attack. “Either the terrorists
had chemical weapons and they use it intentionally. Or there was
no attack at all.” Initial investigations
became nearly impossible because his forces
took control of Douma and the crime scene. Many witnesses and media
activists were bused out. The first outsiders
allowed to visit the site were Russian media,
who broadcast their own distorted version of events. But that propaganda
unwittingly gave us visual
evidence to find the truth of what happened. We couldn’t visit the site. But we worked with
forensic architecture to reconstruct the
crime scene and study the clues it contained. And here is where the
trail of evidence begins. We confirmed it’s
where the bomb fell by geolocating this mosque, this school, and apartment block
seen from the building’s balcony. And we made a model
of the building by analyzing the videos taken
inside soon after the attack. And mapping architectural details as first responders moved from floor to floor and into rooms. Gruesome as the videos were, they confirmed these bodies
were found at the building that was hit. We counted 34 victims. Men, women, and children spread across two floors
and in the stairwell. Now we look at the bomb. Its rigging and casing
tell us who dropped it. Frost tells us
when it happened. And black residue
indicates chlorine was used. The bomb itself
is a crude chemical weapon, a pressurized chlorine tank
designed to blow open on impact. And this debris tells us it was
rigged to fall from the sky. This matters because
Syria controls the airspace, and opposition
fighters don’t have aircraft. Scattered around are
small wheels and axles. And here, in the tangled remains, we see straps,
and other wheel, and fins. When we reassemble
this twisted metal in our model of the balcony it
becomes a cylindrical rigging and it fits right
onto the canister. This is almost
identical to the rigging on a second bomb found
in Douma that day. Straps and hooks so it can attach
to a helicopter’s release system. Rear fins to create drag and
stabilize the bomb as it falls. And small axles and wheels so the bomb alternatively
can be rolled out of a helicopter. Clearly, the bomb
on the balcony was designed to
drop from the sky. And the damage to the casing tells us that it did. These deep dents mean
the tip of the bomb made first impact, consistent with it falling
nose down from above and piercing the ceiling. But most importantly,
this imprint revealed on the underside of the canister. Lying beside it
is a crumpled metal lattice that we think covered the balcony. Its dimensions precisely
fit the pattern seared onto the canister. Our analysis suggests
that this imprint was made by the
force of impact when the bomb crashed
through them metal lattice and onto the concrete below. Our conclusion is it had
to drop from the sky. We have evidence of regime
helicopters dropping them all across Syria during this conflict. In the campaign to retake Aleppo. In this attack on a
hospital in Al-Lataminah, in Saraqib, just two months
before the attack on Douma. And on many more occasions. Flight observers reported
Syrian helicopters leaving this military airbase on the night of the attack. It was the staging point for
many bombing runs that day. Soon after, the helicopters were
seen circling close to Douma. This was around the time
that medics and activists in Douma began reporting the attack
on Twitter and WhatsApp. We verified they were in Douma,
and the details match other witness interviews we took. Now, the evidence that the bomb was also dropped
around this time. This video was filmed by
one of the first people to enter the building
after the attack. His camera light
catches a white object. We know it’s the bomb because
our model of the building shows it’s in the
precise position that the bomb landed. It even matches the shape
and contour of the canister. But what about the color? The white is a layer of frost that experts tell us coats
the underside of a tank when it empties and the
liquid left inside cools. They call it auto-refrigeration, a phenomenon we’ve seen
in previous chlorine attacks. The frost supports the thesis that chlorine was released
quickly and recently. This video was shot around 10 p.m. We know because we tracked
down the cameraman, who sent us the video file data
from his cellphone. Experts told us the frost
can remain for hours. And this lines up
with the time frame given in witness
accounts of that night. The last clue on the bomb
is this black residue. A metals expert told us
that when chlorine mixes with water, or in this case, frost, it forms an acid that
corrodes the metal creating a dark compound. So where we once saw frost,
we now see black corrosion. It’s further evidence that
this was a chlorine attack. So far, this collection of evidence helps us understand where
the attack happened, when it happened, who did it, and the chemical that was used. Our final and perhaps most
damning evidence are the videos of the
victims that we verified were taken at the building. Filmed by medics
and media activists, they show that this was
a lethal chemical attack. We weren’t qualified to
diagnose the symptoms, so we enlisted the help of experts
with decades of experience in chemical weapons exposure. A warning: this raw
footage is very graphic. We’ve obscured it
to focus on specific details. Some experts identified two clear
signs of exposure to chlorine. Chlorine gas actually
turns into an acid and the tissues
produce a lot of mucus. It’s often referred
to as a frothy mucus. There appear to
be corneal burns the eyes appear almost whitened. This could happen from
exposure to a chlorine gas. We have reporting that
the chlorine exposure here was extremely high. A US official told us chlorine
and the nerve agent Sarin were found in blood samples
taken from Douma. So a second chemical
may also have been used. But the experts all agree
that these victims were not killed
by conventional weapons. And the scenes were not staged,
as Syrian officials have claimed. You don’t really see
evidence of physical trauma from blast injuries
or shrapnel injuries or gunshot wounds. Lastly, the locations
of the victims suggest what happened inside. Chlorine gas is twice as heavy as air and sinks instead of rising. After years of war,
many Syrians know exactly what to do if they smell it. That helps explain why
many of the victims were found near
water sources and on the staircase. Sheltering in the basement
from the intense bombardment, they moved upstairs
once they smelled chlorine. They couldn’t have known
it was coming from the roof or that they were moving
into a death trap. The Douma attack was not
an isolated incident. It’s just the latest in a
string of chemical attacks that date back to 2013. And leaked material
we obtained from the UN has implicated the Syrian regime
in six attacks in 2018 alone. Taken as a whole, they represent what we believe
is a deliberate strategy of Bashar al-Assad
to poison his own people. These are war crimes. But the prime suspect
continues to roam freely.


  1. A New York Times investigation found that the Syrian government dropped a chlorine bomb on this apartment in Douma, Syria in April, killing dozens. Explore the evidence in augmented reality:

  2. Whether America, Russia or Syria, it doesn't really matter anymore. Some wicked souls calling themselves leaders of the world are just fulfilling the devil's agenda. Only the poor and the innocents souls pay the price. At the end of the day those dead innocents are seen as COLLATERAL DAMAGE, so sad. Leaders of the world are only toying with us.

  3. Convincing work on WHERE HOW and WHAT, but you didnt actually prove WHO did it. if as you said Assad was already winning the war and there was a tiny part (The Douma) to be taken over, why would Assad risk bombing his own people(not even the terrorists, just some civilians) knowing full well that it would turn the world against him and cost him a lot more. There is no logical motivation for him to bomb a civilian building when he has won already. These bombs can be easily made and used by Saudis, rebels, and many other groups including CIA who want regime change and would frame Assad. You should reconsider your conclusions as to who did it..

  4. I heard about this but didn't decide to look into it much later– this is horrifying. Why wasn't this reported even more. I mean, only 225,000 views? And what about all the other attacks these sick regimes carry out? I can't imagine the suffering attacks like this cause. I literally can't process it.

  5. This coward is one of few so called leaders stupid kids and followers do the bidding of, bombings and murders as he kills his own people and followers!

  6. Chlorine gas turns to hydrochloric acid when it interacts with moisture but it doesn't cause black soot, hydrogen sulphide on the other hand does. That doesn't even matter as the whole thing was staged by a pro-west militia which was used as a excuse to bomb syrian targets. Shame on you NYT

  7. NYT is a cess pool of propaganda. This guy is at the point of a lot of garbage disinfo reports from NYT. Assad did not gas his own people. Obama and McCain backed terrorists got gas rat lined from Lybia. The group claiming the attack has a long history of staging false flags and even using actors in videos to stage attacks. Seriously, go look up staged attacks syria.

  8. Analysising videos and Being on the scene at the area are two different things. The New York Times have never been the Chemical weapons side and know anything about the area. they based there lied of videos that posted online. the OPCW is there were no chemicals but an airstrike, the bomb look intacted and not damage, a bomb is mean't look like after being dropped. Fat dumb American Falling for dumb fake stuff again.

  9. Ian Henderson of the OPCW disagrees with you. If you think this reporting is accurate then please read his report.

  10. A theory I never hear: what if Russia did it to frame the Assad regime?
    They come in to "help". They build international pressure to remove Assad, to the point where they tell Assad they can no longer support him.
    Then they double cross him and take the country.
    That sounds very Russia geopolitical strategy 101 to me.

  11. If OBAMA had only kept his promise about the original "line in the sand". This blood is on his hands. What a coward.

  12. Why would someone within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) write a contradictory report to an April chlorine bomb attack on an apartment building in Douma, Syria?

  13. To NYT staff. These detailed investigative reports are so deeply appreciated, an ongoing act of mercy in support of the world’s most vulnerable people. I have seen some pathetic attempts to discredit these reports, but know that – aside from this tiny number of loud and clueless trolls – the world is in your debt for helping to expose the lies and atrocities of tyrants. They want proof? Well, their deceit is no match for your work. Here’s their proof, care of the exemplary journalism of the NYT. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  14. this is u.n propaganda .. its been proven they used paid actors .. the u.n are scum that want a global government and will do anything to succeed … just like isil was created by the u.n and americans too, all lies.

  15. except the that international experts on chemical weapons have come to the conclusion this and many other chemical attacks have been staged. a cylinder like that, plummeting trough a concrete roof. and not a scratch on them? in some locations holes in the roof that are not even big enough to let the canisters pass trough?

    to date there is NO verifiable evidence that the Syrian Government has used Chemical weapons, in-fact, according to the OPCW Syria destroyed its entire chemical stockpile under the eyes of OPCW officials in 2014. the dismantling of Syrian Chemical weapons is well documented by the OPCW, its funny the MSM never mentions them when they talk about Syria.

    btw how is the dismantling of the US's chemical stockpile going? still the largest chemical weapons stockpile in the world, and by far.

    the only chemical weapons ever found in Syria were mortar rounds fabricated in Saudi Arabia. as well as household chemical stockpiles in many suburbs previously under rebel control.

  16. All thinking ppl know that this provocation was organized by White Helmets in cooperation with USA, British and Saudi Arabic special services. Asad already taking control over territory. And that provocation is only work in favor of those who want to send troops in Syria.

  17. Never forget that America supported Saddam Hussein when he used chemical weapons in the Iraq-Iran war.

  18. How possibly bombing your own people who support you through, while you are winning the war? does not make sense…. there something/someone else.

  19. What happened afterwards?
    I mean the evidence is pretty big now, does stuff like this has consequences, and if so, by who and what?

  20. American Force drop ton of chlorine Bombs on Iraq civilians but it was all cover under infrastructure Rubbles from apartment Building , body of family that never saw a Burier .

  21. I'm so damned confused.. I don't know who or what to believe anymore.!!
    Every side is so bloody convincing..
    I'll read/listen/watch one side of a story & think.. "Hmm. Yeah.. I agree"..
    Then a day or so later I'll read/listen/watch an alternative side of that same story & think.. "Huh.. I agree with this too".!!!
    Sooo.. FUCKIT.. I'M DONE.!
    I'm going to my bedroom, closing the curtains, climbing under my quilt with my Dog for company & I'M NEVER COMING BACK OUT.!

  22. 10:43 U shouldn’t never showed that particular footage. Ohh I forgot , its NY Times , they do anything for views.

  23. What's the reason for Assad to bomb his own people during war? No reason.
    The only ones who were and are interested in excolation are the US, NATO and Saudis.

  24. Hahahaha this has been proven to be a complete lie the bomb was placed there the investigators proved this what say you now you fkn liars

  25. The people that work at the NYT must be going crazy now. They didn't get the wars they wanted. I have yet to find one war that CNN or NYT didn't want. They a the biggest warmongers in the world. I had to turn to Tucker Carlson, f***ing Tucker Carlson, for some truth about what really happened in Syria. Any rational person knows Assad was winning the war and the only thing he could've done to get the US to attack him was to use chemical weapons. It just never made sense to why he would use chemical weapons against his own people when he was clearly winning the war. Then I realized that the " peace loving rebels" also possessed chemical weapons, and it made more sense for me that it was the rebels who gazed the Syrian civilians and not the government.

  26. He never used any mda's and it has been proven that US supported rebels used chemical weapons not Syrian government

  27. Omg this is unspeakable ! This is sick and twisted ! Kiev I see that ! That's Jan ! My buddy ! Thing is as powerful as those people are it's nothing to what this evidence can provide and the fan army of my girlfriend is way more overwhelming than any protestors or dictator ! Billions of people are on our team ! It's only the whites house that's the problem !

  28. Assad didn't do it, this is a lie. Remember, these same people lied about, 9/11, Iraq, Libya and Kadafi also! These Zionists are pure Satanic to their core.

  29. Israel has Weapons Of Mass Destruction Too,They Are An Evil Bunch, Not Denying Syria Wouldn’t Do It, Just Don’t Believe Anything Coming From Arabs,Or Jews, A God Forsaken Bunch Of Devils.

  30. Dear NYT-team, thank you very much for producing these high-quality videos! They are gruesome but fascinating. Although they are a great source of information and analysis, I often wonder if there is any way for me to help the people affected. Maybe you could include links to places where you can sign petitions or something similar. It would make me feel less helpless against these horrific acts. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *