Terrible surprises in liberated Aleppo

28 December 2016 Timur Abdullayev, Vzglyad
Recently liberated parts of eastern Aleppo present a shocking picture, with mass graves and mutilated bodies and little visibility of the “moderate” opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.
Russian sappers
Sappers of the Russian Armed Forces search and clear mines in a street of eastern Aleppo. Source:Timur Abdullayev / TASS

The Russian military uncovered mass graves with mutilated and disfigured bodies in areas just liberated from insurgents in Aleppo. Major-General Igor Konashenkov, the official representative of the Ministry of Defence, said on Monday that the outcome of investigations in various parts of the city “may shock many”.

“We uncovered large-scale dumping of dozens of Syrians, subjected to torture and violence before their deaths. Many are missing body parts, most were shot in the head,” said Major-General Konashenkov.

He suggested that this was “just the beginning”, adding that that all the facts are being thoroughly documented, as the most serious war crimes committed by the terrorists, and will be published, “so that the European backers of the so-called opposition, in London and Paris, become well aware of what their wards are actually doing, and aware of their own responsibility for these atrocities.”

According to Interfax, he also reported finding seven “huge depots” of ammunition, “with enough weapons for several infantry battalions. In recent days, when Russian officers brought buses into areas controlled by the insurgents near Aleppo, the terrorists started mining these areas.

“Mining was literally all that they had enough time for, and sufficient ammunition – booby-trapping the streets, the entrances to premises, cars and motorcycles lying on the road, and even children’s toys,” said Major-General Konashenkov. “On a tiny patch of the urban area, we found three tanks, two cannon, two multiple rocket launchers, and countless homemade mortars and rocket systems.”

In addition, he said, they could not find any volunteers and rescuers from the so-called White Helmets in the east of Aleppo.” These people have been solemnly received in the best houses of Paris and London, and almost nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Anton Mardasov, Head of Research into the Middle East Conflict and the Armed Forces in the Region at the Institute of Innovative Development, noted that eastern Aleppo has been under the control of the Syrian armed opposition since 2012. The various quarters of the city were captured by many groups, including the Islamic State (IS) or the Al-Nusra Front. He suggested that members of the Shabiha (pro-government paramilitary formations) of criminal clans and certain renegades or Syrian officers could be subjected to torture.

Viktor Murakhovsky, Chief Editor of Arsenal of the Fatherland Magazine, recalled that previous reports were submitted by the General Staff and the Ministry of Defence, which indicated that certain apartments in the city were held by the group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki (part of the Al-Nusra Front). In November, this group, which the West considers as the moderate opposition, had announced that its fighters were not going to leave Aleppo. Together with the group Harakat Ahrar al-Sham (its members being called the “moderate” supporters of terrorists), the Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki held thousands of civilians in the eastern neighborhoods of the city, and stopped their attempts to escape through the humanitarian corridors designated by the army. The analysts noted that in Syria, there is not just a civil war being waged, but also a religious one and, as is well known, all these groups shot and beheaded their opponents, as did the various militias.

“That is why when Russia intervened in the conflict, and is now carrying out cleanup activities, all this is now more tightly controlled, in order to prevent collisions, as brutalization was committed by all parties,” said Mardasov.

“There is a rather well-known group in Syria, also known for the atrocities it has committed against civilians. Recently, they cut off the head of a boy of about twelve years of age. They even filmed this event. Judging by the arrangement, according to the persons that supervised the evacuation of the territory to the east of Aleppo – this was exactly that group,” Murakhovsky told VZGLYAD Newspaper.

“After the withdrawal of the militants/terrorists from the city, local groups have remained behind, which may belong to the umbrella coalition of Jaish al-Fatah factions,” that is, the same Al-Nusra Front. “They are fighting on their own. Among them, there may be people completely dazed. These are the local groups, and one and a half weeks ago, they made a breakthrough into the Ramos Quarter... They refuse to negotiate with anyone. It is clear that those groups are willing to fight to the last man, and will be mining the approaches,” said Mardasov.

Speaking about the situation in the city, Mardasov noted that they had not positioned themselves in the east of Aleppo. “The area where they mostly operate – this is the area of ​​Idlib, an area outside of the Aleppo ring,” he said.

He did not rule out that in August, when the corridor was unlocked, all who could, including representatives of the White Helmets, could have left the city. And if these White Helmets are being manipulated by representatives of Western intelligence, then they are unlikely to be in Syria now, and it is more logical to assume that they are working through centres in Turkey and Jordan, as well as through contacts with regional security forces.

“I do not know what the tracks of the White Helmets were supposed to have been? Branches, parties, offices? These do not exist east of Aleppo. In the east of Aleppo, perhaps the opposition had filmed some videos, where allegedly the White Helmets were there to help someone. Once these videos were taken, the representatives of these organizations were supposed to appear, but they have not been found anywhere... Or all of these videos were just propaganda created by the opposition, or those remaining in Aleppo had simply decided not to advertise their affiliation to these White Helmets, as there was a lot of fear in those who surrendered... Being afraid to be captured by the Syrian secret services,” summed up Mardasov.

First published in Russian by Vzglyad.

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