A disturbing video capturing a mass execution of civilians in 2013 by Syrian armed forces loyal to President Bashar-al-Assad, is being shared online with a false claim that it shows Turkish soldiers killing contractors for shoddy construction work that exacerbated the impact of the devastating earthquakes this year.
Turkish building contractors are under government scrutiny over allegations that sub-par construction work may have led to the flattening of thousands of buildings in the country magnifying the devastation of the earthquakes of February 6, 2023 that struck parts of Turkey and Syria and claimed more 50,000 lives. Read more about it here.
BOOM found that the viral video is not linked to Turkey but shows a war crime committed by pro-Assad forces in April 2013 in Damascus, Syria that was recorded by the soldiers themselves.
The 4 minutes and 35 seconds long clip shows soldiers dressed in military fatigues leading men who are blindfolded and whose hands have been tied behind their backs using plastic straps, to a large pit filled with bodies of other victims and tyres. The men who are led to the pit one-by-one are shoved inside the pit and shot at close range by Syrian soldiers. The entire execution is recorded on video and even shows one of the soldiers speaking to the camera.
BOOM has not included the distressing footage in the article.
The clip is being shared with a two line caption that claims, "Turkish soldiers shooting contractors whose shoddy work killed thousands of innocent people."
"They were paid for Seismic Dampers to absorb earth quakes but they buried car tyres under the foundations of huge High Rise buildings," the caption further claims.
The video is being shared on WhatsApp and Facebook with the same false claim. We also received it on our WhatsApp helpline (+91 7700906111) from a reader asking to fact-check it.
BOOM found that the viral video is not related to Turkey or the earthquakes that took place in February this year.
The video shows chilling war crimes committed by pro Assad military personnel in the neighbourhood of Tadamon -a suburb in the southern part of Syrian capital Damascus. The mass execution took place on April 16, 2013 but only came to light in 2022 after multiple videos were leaked to researchers in 2019.
The videos show soldiers of the Syrian Armed Forces belonging to branch 227 of the Military Intelligence Directorate carrying out mass executions in cold blood.
The footage show the soldiers enjoying themselves carrying out nauseating war crimes in broad daylight.
News outlets New Lines Magazine and the Guardian state that 41 civilians were killed in the incident recorded in the viral video. However, New Lines estimates the toll to be around 288 victims when Syrian soldiers took civilians to isolated neighbourhoods with pre-dug mass graves and killed them.
Video Shows Syrian Military Intelligence Personnel Killing Civilians in April 2013
Using keywords to describe what is visible in the video we found an article dated April 27, 2022 by American magazine New Lines Magazine that is said to have first reported about the video. New Lines said it verified the authenticity of the footage.
The lead image of the story shows the same soldier seen in the first few seconds of the video and identifies him as Amjad Youssef. The other perpetrator seen in the video, who turns the camera on himself is identified as the now deceased Najib al-Halabi, a.k.a. Abu William, according to New Lines.
The article states that videos of the massacre were leaked in 2019 to the authors Annsar Shahhoud and Uğur Ümit Üngör, who investigated the footage and reported on it in 2022.
"In three separate videos that each last about seven minutes, these two men show themselves in broad daylight while executing 41 civilians. Then they dump the bodies in a pre-dug pit prepared with car tires for incineration," New Lines reported.
The article states longer versions of the video show the soldiers setting fire to bodies of the victims using the tyres that were already placed in the execution pit.
We also found parts of the same video featured in an article by the Guardian on April 27, 2022. Read about it here.
The Guardian's Martin Chulov called it "one of the most indictable videos from the whole Syrian conflict" and “gives us a glimpse into a previously untold part of the 10-year war".
The over decade long civil war in Syria began in March 2011 as part of the wider Arab Spring movement and stemmed from discontentment against the rule of President Bashar-al-Assad.
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