Did NBC’s Richard Engel speak to BBC “napalm victim”?

In light of recent revelations surrounding the 2012 kidnapping of NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, NBC’s reporting of the Aleppo “playground napalm bomb” of 26 August 2013 warrants scrutiny.

A 30 August 2013 NBC article (subsequently deleted) by Elizabeth Chuck states:

A girl who witnessed the attack told NBC News’ Richard Engel that the plane attacked the school twice.

“As we were going inside the classroom, it hit again. I didn’t hear anything. We just saw people burning,” said the student, who was not identified. “My classmates were burning. It felt like Judgment Day.”

However as noted here the words of the unidentified “student” who “told” her story to Engel appear to be directly lifted from this You Tube video, shot at Atareb Hospital on the evening of 26 August 2013 (the most strikingly similar sections are italicised):

… while escaping they called us to return to the school as the war-plane has not finished bombing yet .. they were sure that it will bomb again .. and then the war-plane bombed us .. I did not hear any sound but all what I saw is people burning .. I got burnt and so my friends .. we did not know what happened and why .. a war-plane bombed us and bodies in flames all over the place .. I felt like it is the judgement day. [1] [2]

Wider questions regarding the authenticity of this video are discussed here.

The NBC article is also noteworthy in that it cites the contemporary assessment (“days after the attack”) of Dr Rola (“Roula”) Hallam that the seven month old infant who in most accounts is claimed to be the first victim received at Atareb Hospital “was covered in full-body burns”. [3]

The BBC distanced itself from Dr Hallam’s November 2013 statement that the infant had suffered “80% burns” partly on the basis that it was a single claim made “after the event”. [4]

Questions over the severity of the baby’s alleged burns are noted here. [5]

Picture49

“I did not hear any sound but all what I saw is people burning .. I got burnt and so my friends… .. I felt like it is the judgement day”. The words of the alleged napalm victim in this You Tube video http://bit.ly/1Otl5cA are strikingly similar to those “told” to NBC’s Richard Engel in a now-deleted NBC article of 30 August 2013 http://bit.ly/1bgmaIv

baby2

The NBC article cites Dr Rola Hallam as saying that this infant “was covered in full-body burns”. See further image below and http://bit.ly/1zcKgI3

baby1

Notes

[1] Fuller translation/summary of the woman’s words:

We are students in Orm Alkubra academy .. we were at Ikra’ school in a mathematical lesson .. suddenly a war-plane bombed a nearby building .. as we panicked we rushed out and saw the building in flames .. teachers encouraged us to escape .. while escaping they called us to return to the school as the war-plane has not finished bombing yet .. they were sure that it will bomb again .. and then the war-plane bombed us .. I did not hear any sound but all what I saw is people burning .. I got burnt and so my friends .. we did not know what happened and why .. a war-plane bombed us and bodies in flames all over the place .. I felt like it is the judgement day .. everybody is trying to put out themselves .. corpses all over the place .. people scrubbing their bodies to the ground .. why this happened ? .. we got up and ran .. we hid at the neighbourhood, they soaked us in cold water .. once we came it is an indescribable scene .. all bodies on the floors .. all students are burnt .. we are education seekers .. what is our guilt? .. are we carrying weapons? .. we are carrying pens and notebooks writing in maths lessons .. what is our guilt? .. teachers are not guilty .. watching teachers burning in front of us and cannot do anything .. we were in flames and no one there to put us out .. suddenly people gathered and begun aiding us .. we came here to find people all over the place .. students are innocent .. many of the corpses cannot be identified … we all kids haven’t turned 18 of age yet” ……….. (the rest of what she said is wailing and also blaming and threatening Bashar Alasad and appealing to god to curse him and burn his children).

[2] The NBC piece cites the witness as claiming “that the plane attacked the school twice”. The BBC and Human Rights Watch (p13) claim there was one strike on a residential building followed by a second on the school, as indeed does the alleged victim/witness herself in the fuller translation of her words above.

[3] On Australian radio on 27 November 2013 Dr Saleyha Ahsan provided a different account of the first victim she encountered at Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013 in which the baby and his father do not feature. This version of events entirely contradicts what BBC viewers saw from 31 minutes in Saving Syria’s Children.

[4] BBC Editorial Complaints Unit Provisional Finding, 23 April 2014 (pp 4-5, appendices here)

[5] Inconsistencies between accounts of the baby’s injuries are noted here. See also point 4 (“Burns to the baby’s face appear to have been exaggerated”) in this letter to the BBC Trust Unit.  

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2 responses to “Did NBC’s Richard Engel speak to BBC “napalm victim”?

  1. Engel has some keen instincts, huh?

    I was reading that woman’s detailed account and wondering, basically, where is all the wailing and also blaming and threatening Bashar Alasad and appealing to god to curse him and burn his children, that these people always have as 50-90% of their message? Ah, the numerous elipses … good move, saves a lot of redundancy. The remaining 10-50%, as usual, is a bunch of dramatic allegation that clashes with others …

    … and still probably offers some hint of a real crime that happened, like an Islamist attack on a school that teaches girls, and maybe the home of a teacher or principal there. Curious if you have looked into what might really have happened. There are photos of a torched home with a little swimming pool I recall seeing, seemed like people might really have died there, and horribly.

  2. David Macilwain

    Hi Robert – and you must be seeing the similarities between what is now being paraded as the latest war crime of Assad in Sarmin last month – ‘Chlorine barrel bombs killing children’… It’s impossible not to see a connection between these two stunts and links between those associated with them in media and NGOs. Thanks too for exposing this link with the now naked Richard Engel and his support team..
    Watch out for a revival of this Napalm story too, as the claims of Chlorine use by Syria in Sarmin were backed up by the ‘fact that Assad has used Chlorine in the past’…. that from HRW!
    As for how we get them, I don’t have a clue.
    ( also interested in the possibility raised in CL’s comment that something nasty could have happened at the school perpetrated by the ‘rebels’ and used in the videos in some way, or other videos; it IS their modus operandi…

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