Second unidentified European at Atareb Hospital

The broader context to the matters discussed in this post are summarised in this recent piece on the website OffGuardian.

At 21 seconds in the below You Tube video (higher quality source copy here) shot outside Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 a white male can be glimpsed snatching a piece of patterned fabric from the back of a pickup truck. Moments later a hand – perhaps belonging to the same man – is seen flicking a dark sheet over an unseen object in the truck. [1]

The man appears to be European, is wearing a microphone headset and seems to be in military garb:


Another view of the back of the pickup truck is provided in this video from the same day:

However it is only in the sequence commencing at 2 minutes 26 seconds in the video below [2] that it is clear that the object bundled in blankets appears to be a burned corpse. As the English captions relate, this sequence consists of a mother, having purportedly searched for her daughter Wala’a [3] in the environs of Atareb Hospital, discovering her child’s corpse in the truck but failing to recognise her.


Alleged victim Wala’a from above video

The presence of a militarily attired westerner at the Aleppo hospital to which alleged victims of the alleged Urm al-Kubra napalm attack were transported would appear highly incongruous.

Apart from BBC reporter Ian Pannell, BBC cameraman Darren Conway and British doctors Rola Hallam and Saleyha Ahsan (whom the Panorama crew were following in Syria), all of the medics, alleged victims, relatives and others seen in the BBC’s two news reports of the incident and in the related segment of the Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children (from 30 minutes 38 seconds) appear to be – as one would expect – indigenous to the locale.

The sole exception is the unidentified European male who is glimpsed carrying a bulky camera, using a walky-talky and – most strikingly – hastily ducking out of view upon noticing that he is being filmed by Darren Conway. When questioned about the identity and/or role of this individual Saving Syria’s Children’s editor, Tom Giles, snappishly commented that he had “no idea” who he was.

giphy (11)Unidentified European male in BBC footage of the aftermath of the alleged Urm al-Kubra incendiary attack. The man, wearing a grey shirt and spectacles and carrying a camera, ducks out of view at 2:06 in the BBC News report of 30 September 2013.

untitled (62)

Same man at 31:39 in Saving Syria’s Children, checking device as alleged casualties are rushed into Atareb Hospital (

untitled (61)

At 35:52 in Saving Syria’s Children, outside Atareb Hospital on a walkie-talkie (

What role did these two men play in the events of Monday 26 August 2013 at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo? Who were they each in communication with?


Update April 2020: The man in the grey shirt and spectacles has been identified by a former BBC employee as a member of the BBC High Risk Team. I am withholding his name on this blog.

In August 2014 Dr Saleyha Ahsan, one of the British medics who had featured in Saving Syria’s Children a year previously, presented a segment on BBC2’s Newsnight programme about HOSPEX (Hospital Exercises), a “macro-simulation” used by British Army medical services in preparation for deployment to battle zones. In HOSPEX exercises, Dr Ahsan explains, “actors and make-up artists mimic even the most severe of injuries” with the aim of “replicating exactly the conditions medics will face in the field”. [4]

There is a personal connection between the army brigadier “in charge of the whole operation” featured in the Newsnight report, Kevin Beaton, and Dr Ahsan: “he was my squadron commander in Bosnia and inspired me to study medicine”.

The company which provided the highly sophisticated injury simulations seen in the Newsnight report is TraumaFX, which proudly claims to be “UK’s leading provider of realistic casualty simulation”.


Post on TraumaFX’s Facebook page, 12 August 2014. The post has subsequently been deleted: The simulated foot injuries are described in the report as “degloving”, a type of alleged injury which features on several of the alleged victims in Saving Syria’s Children.

TraumaFX’s website states that it “support(s) various military forces internationally” and “can easily travel international as we are a mobile team and can work in any location”. The company has over 10 years’ experience of supporting UK military training exercises.

In addition to providing clients with “Casualty Role Play Actors & Amputee Actors” and “SIMWOUNDS” (“practical, realistic” wound effects), TraumaFX is specialist “in simulating CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] injuries and conditions”.

The company, which is based in Thirsk, North Yorkshire – just over 20 miles from the Army Medical Services Training Centre (AMSTC) at Strensall, near York, where HOSPEX exercises are conducted – also creates “SIMBODIES” – “life like dead bodies and body parts designed and produced to appear extremely realistic, heavily weighted and ideal for use in CSI, disaster victim identification and mortuary training exercises.”


Some of the highly realistic “SIMBODIES” and body parts created by TraumaFX

With this level of craftsmanship available to the British military from a “mobile team” which “can easily travel international” and which “can work in any location”, the tragic image of Wala’a’s burned corpse in the back of a pick up truck at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 – just three days before a crucial UK parliamentary vote on military intervention in Syria [5] – may perhaps begin to assume a different complexion.






[1] As can be seen in the screen grab below, this video was originally uploaded by the You Tube channel “Aleppo and Idleb” on 26 August 2013, the day of the alleged Urm al-Kubra incendiary attack. At some point prior to 8 April 2015 this channel was terminated and the original posting of the video hence deleted.


As observed here, the video is notable for the reference reportedly made in it by the fighter in camouflage clothing to “seven martyrs and about 50 wounded from the religious college for women and girls”. The majority of alleged victims who appear in the BBC’s reports of the alleged incident are adolescent and older males.

Update: The fighter in camouflage clothing has been identified as Yusuf Zou’a, formerly a commander of the Ansar Brigade and military commander of Jaysh al-Mujahideen (Army of Mujahideen), which is allied to the al-Nusra Front. Zou’a was recently killed in Aleppo. See here, here and here.

[2] This short three minute video is also included towards the end of this longer report by the Aleppo News Network. In the sequence (from 20 minutes 33 seconds) a number of the individuals filmed by the BBC’s Darren Conway can be observed, including the woman who appears to have exchanged clothes with another alleged victim during the course of the day and Ahmed Darwish, as well as Drs Rola Hallam and Saleyha Ahsan. Of particular note is the fleeting appearance, at 20 minutes 36 seconds, of a woman who appears to be the same individual who made contact with me on Facebook in June 2014, apparently anxious at being identified as having been present at Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013.

For analysis of the interview with the medic (who also appears in the BBC’s reports) from just after 12 minutes in the video, see here and here.

[3] Syrian opposition activist organisation the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria lists a female child victim of the alleged attack as Walaa al-Ali. See here for a discussion of conflicts between the VDC’s list of casualties and the BBC’s reports.

[4] See also this discussion of HOSPEX “macro simulation” techniques and their possible relationship to the alleged injuries seen in the BBC’s reports of the alleged Urm al-Kubra incendiary attack.

[5] Ian Pannell’s initial report of the alleged incident was broadcast on the BBC’s 10 O’Clock News on Thursday 29 August 2013, just as the parliamentary vote was taking place. As OffGuardian observes:

As it happens the motion for intervention was unexpectedly defeated by a narrow majority. If this had not happened the BBC’s footage would unquestionably have served as very timely and useful PR in support of the coming war against Assad.

About Robert Stuart

Researching the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria's Children and associated BBC News reports.

5 responses to “Second unidentified European at Atareb Hospital

  1. Pingback: Second unidentified European at Atareb HospitalAlternative News Network | Alternative News Network

  2. Pingback: Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children – Stop de Bezetting

  3. pmr9


    Comments by David Habakkuk on this thread are relevant to your investigation:-

    Specifically, there is evidence that Ian Pannell misled BBC viewers in an earlier report from Syria, and that he was part of an organized information operation on behalf of some agency that concealed its identity.

    Pannell reported for the BBC on 16 May 2013 on the alleged chemical attack in Saraqeb on 29 April 2013. This report included a commentary by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, who was presented as an independent expert on chemical weapons who had not been present. Subsequent statements by Bretton-Gordon make it clear that he was at the scene with Pannell, and that he was collecting samples from this and other alleged chemical attacks in Syria during 2013. The publicly available documentation on Bretton-Gordon’s now-defunct companies (Secure Bio and Secure Bio Forensics) suggest that the funding of these activities began in 2012 (before any chemical attacks in Syria had been alleged) and that measures were taken to conceal the source of this funding (nominee director, “loans” never repaid).

  4. Pingback: Wie immer alles gelogen, Fake-Propaganda über das #Atareb-Hospital in #Aleppo | Fortsetzung urs1798

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