Guardian “barrel bomb” caption “clarified”

Please note this post does not directly relate to BBC Panorama “Saving Syria’s Children” which remains the main focus of this blog.   

The Guardian has responded to my complaint about its 12 August 2015 report Syrian civil defence group accuses Assad of napalm attack near Damascus.

The report originally contained an image of what appeared to be an opposition “Hell Cannon” mortar device accompanied by the caption: “An unverified photo of an unexploded barrel bomb alleged to contain napalm gel.”

The caption has now been “clarified” to read: “An unverified photo of an unexploded gas cylinder alleged to contain napalm gel”.

Screengrabs of both versions are below.

With regard to my referenced observations on the violent and partisan character of the Syrian Civil Defence/White Helmets, the Guardian responds that this “is clearly a matter of dispute”.

From: on behalf of Readers’ editor (Guardian) (
Sent: 12 October 2015 10:40:25
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

That caption has been clarified to state that the picture is “An unverified photo of an unexploded gas cylinder alleged to contain napalm gel”.​ As I understand it, the Syrian army is also known to have used gas cylinders in its barrel bombs –

As for the earlier change, while the line saying the Syrian Civil Defence is “aligned to the opposition” was removed from the body of the article, it remains in the footnote along a line saying the SCD argues that it is not. It is clearly a matter of dispute, and I think that is made clear by the wording of the footnote.


Rory Foster​

Guardian Readers’ editor’s office

Original caption, August 2015Picture1before2

“Clarified” caption, October 2015Picture1after2

Opposition “Hell Cannon”


About cerumol

Working with @TVOFFAL on feature documentary exposé of the 2013 BBC Panorama special Saving Syria's Children

One response to “Guardian “barrel bomb” caption “clarified”

  1. Charles Wood

    The only gas cylinder I’ve ever seen in a Syrian helicopter was a single instance of a standard industrial gas cylinder, not a domestic propane cylinder.

    And the industrial cylinder was in the very early stages of the bombing where I believe disarmed insurgent IEDs were given impromptu fuses and ‘returned to sender’. You can see the standard IED designs in various videos and images.

    Actual made-for-purpose helicopter bombs came along later and were fabricated to useful dimensions significantly larger than a household propane cylinder.

    I won’t even go into the link to the Bellingcat site where it’s pretty clear neither Foster nor Bellingcat have any real idea about the weapons. Sort of blind leading blind.

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