Al-Marsad Uncovers the Truth on the Video of the Attack on Syrian Mercenaries and the Egyptian Army’s Photos in “Tobruk” – Al Marsad

A clip obtained and broadcast by the Military Information Division of the General Command of the Libyan National Army this week sparked controversy among GNA loyalists. The dramatic footage captured the moment when the LNA forces attacked an entire group of Syrian mercenaries who were hiding in a villa south of Tripoli. The Military Information Division said it “obtained the clip from a camera attached to the helmet of a pro-Turkish Syrian terrorist in Tripoli fighting for the Government of National Accord (GNA); although he aimed to document their battle, he ended up recording the killing of at least 10 of the mercenaries.” Al Marsad investigates the authenticity of this video which pro-GNA media activists claim was shot in Syria, along with also the Instagram posts published yesterday by GNA-affiliated accounts claiming they proved Egyptian military presence in Libya.

[Libya, 4 May 2020] – Social media accounts close to the GNA and pro-GNA media outlets challenged the authenticity of the clip published by the LNA, with some arguing that it was from Syria warzone and not Libya. They even claimed that the Syrian government in Damascus provided it to the LNA to broadcast it as if it were in Libya and to use it as part of the media war against the GNA.

Al Marsad’s team of journalists looked into the matter and found the coordinates of the house in Tripoli that is said to be the scene of the attacked that was recorded on video and our findings were as follows:

THE FIRST IMAGE

After matching the image of the house as it appeared in the video clip with the satellite images we confirmed an exact match with a house located in Khallet Al-Furjan quarter behind the Police College south of the capital, Tripoli, with the coordinates 32.791113, 13.227043.

Aerial view of Google Earth for the house that was the scene of the killing of the Syrian terrorists on the coordinates: 32.791113, 13.227043.

First, in video footage while the Syrian terrorists were fleeing the first bombing that targeted them outside the house, we found the following matches: (1) the trees (2) the location of the first bombing at a back door through which they were trying to escape, (3) dirt path in the middle of the garden with traces of car tires, (4) an external wall, (5) location of the Syrian terrorist in relation to the design of the house, (6) a house in the background along with a neighbouring house with has a red cellar.

THE SECOND IMAGE

This shot of the video was taken when they fled into the house to escape the bombing. We found the following matches: (1) house walkway design pattern, (2) car lane, (3) concrete in the garden, (4) main entrance, and (5) tree.

THE THIRD IMAGE

This footage was captured before the deadly shelling inside the house when the Syrian terrorists were trying to escape. We found the following matches: (1) house entrance (threshold), (2) part of a semi-circular garden, (3) main entrance trees, (4) other trees, and (5) other entrance to the house.

THE FOURTH IMAGE

This was a snapshot from the video when the cameraman tried to escape from the house into the street. We found the following matches: (1) design of a neighbouring house entrance, (2) design of a building next to the house, and (3) trees.

It is clear beyond doubt that this footage of the LNA attack on the Syrian mercenaries was indeed recorded in Tripoli.

EGYPTIAN SOLDIERS IN TOBRUK?

There was additional controversy yesterday over the alleged presence of Egyptian soldier in Libya, which once again underscored how media is misused by pro-GNA media activists, analysts and militants without due diligence for accuracy of source and then use it for propaganda purposes.

Accounts and media outlets loyal to the GNA, including by troll accounts in Turkey, photos of Egyptian soldiers claimed to be “secretly” present in Libya, even though their Egyptian insignia is very clear in their badges and uniforms with the words “Egyptian Armed Forces”. One set of photos circulated by pro-GNA loyalists were the one posted by a certain Ziad Muhamed on his Instagram with Tobruk marked as the location of the photos. GNA loyalists who posted the pictures implied these soldiers were inside Libya as a hostile power conducting operations. They also said that they had an armoured Humvee that the United States had sold to Egypt on condition that the later did not use or resell the same to a third party, especially in a country like Libya.

Picture of Egyptian Border Guard soldiers, which Instagram specifies its location in Tobruk.

Al Marsad looked into this issue. It could not access the photos on the account of the soldier Ziad, who changed his account from public to private after the harassment and comments received from accounts that belonged to those connected with GNA’s Operation Volcano of Anger, claiming that he is an enemy in Libya.

The February Channel claimed that he deleted the photos after the scandal, but the account is still active, though now private. The Qatar-funded Arab 21 claimed that these soldiers are inside Tobruk.

We continued our search and found dozens of other photos in personal Instagram accounts belonging to Egyptian soldiers wearing the same uniform as Ziad and with the same epaulet of the Egyptian army and with military vehicles with Egyptian number plates, all dated around the same period.

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Through the accounts of these Egyptian soldiers and the comments on the posts, it became clear that all of these photos were taken publicly on the Egyptian side of the border, specifically in Amsaed, at Egyptian observation points and gates. Instagram, however, specified the location of some of them automatically at the borders checkpoint while located others in Libyan Tobruk or Egyptian Salloum.

When searching for the Libyan-Egyptian borders on Instagram, it presents the borders within the scope of Greater Tobruk and sometimes within the scope of Egyptian Salloum.

Ultimately, through searching and tracking maps of the publishers, we managed to identify the way Instagram located the places in that border region on its maps. We found that when a photo taken approaches west from the land checkpoint at the Libyan-Egyptian border, it classifies the boundary as a subpoint located within a major site, i.e. Greater Tobruk. If the person taking the picture moves away from it towards the east, Instagram classifies the location under the category of Egyptian Salloum.

Instagram’s GPS determines the Egyptian-Libyan border point at Amsaed within Greater Tobruk area.

Therefore, we find that Instagram may locate the photos of this Egyptian military personnel working on the border in a site sometimes called “the Libyan-Egyptian border” under Salloum but at other times it automatically locates the same under Tobruk. This applies to the citizens traveling in both directions who publish their photos taken at the borders.

THE EXAMPLE OF THE WESTERN BORDER CHECKPOINT

A map showing the distance between Zarzis and Ras Ajdir at the western border.

Another example of the inaccuracy of the automatic Instagram GPS was in the western border checkpoint at Ras Ajdir. We present it through these photos published on 26 May 2019. A foreign tourist at the Tunisian Zarzis beach, located about 50 km from Ras Ajdir.

Instagram’s GPS automatically determined the location of the photos taken by this tourist at Ras Ajdir—yet they were actually taken on a tourist coast in the nearby Tunisian city of Zarzis. Just as this tourist cannot bask with an exposed swimwear in Ras Ajdir border checkpoint given the conservative nature of the area, these Egyptian soldiers also cannot have been in the middle of Tobruk with their full armband, emblems, flags of their country and their US armored vehicles with Egyptian number plates.

If Egyptian soldiers were in a “secret” mission as pro-GNA sites claimed that would be more irregular. The secret foreign missions of any regular army in the world make it imperative for its members to observe two obvious things: first, not to publish any photos to the public via the media, and second, to use the uniforms and armoured vehicles of the host country to avoid exposure.

WEAPONISING MEDIA AND FAKE NEWS: THE CASE OF AMRU SALAHUDDIEN

The GNA used such fabricated interpretations to only only fool Libyans but also the international community. One case in point, for example, are the recent tweets by the pro-GNA Canadian-Egyptian photojournalist, Amru Salahuddien, who is embedded with GNA militias on the frontlines in Tripoli and is an Islamist affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Last month, on 22 April, Amru Salahuddien posted allegations that the LNA was using chemical weapons on the frontlines in Tripoli.

It was later that there was no evidence for such allegation, yet as soon as he posted his original tweets (which have not been retracted) on the alleged “nerve gas”, the pro-GNA media machinery immediately used it to attack the LNA and generate even more propaganda without calling for an investigation by UNSMIL or even doing the necessary fact-checked

The GNA Minister of Interior, Fathi Bashagha, jumped on it too. He was quoted by the Qatari-funded media publication The New Arab saying: “In [southern Tripoli’s] Salah al-Din axis, our fighters were exposed to nerve gas from Haftar’s forces, and were paralyzed and then sniped.” He immediately blamed it on the supposed “Wagner” group.

Within minutes of Amru publishing his post, it was immediately retweeted by foreign pro-GNA Libya analysts and journalists, none of which verified the information and used it for propaganda purposes against the LNA.

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Several other pro-GNA activists posted the same post but have since deleted from their pages. Amru also posted the Instagram image on the Egyptian soldiers and said it was prove enough of Egyptian involvement. He deleted his tweet after it was found to be baseless although he offered no apology.

As the war intensifies, GNA loyalists are making greater use of fake news as a weapon of war. Fact checking and editorial due diligence therefore needs to be ensured by all media establishments covering the Libya crisis.

© Al Marsad English (2020)

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