Pentagon, kill more Syrian civilians, New York Times says


This video from the USA says about itself:

Iraq Reports Civilian Casualties in U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS

13 October 2014

Iraq has reported civilian casualties resulting from U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS. According to the Los Angeles Times about 18 civilian casualties were found after a building was bombed in Euphrates River Valley town, Hit. The U.S. military has denied that there is any evidence of the reported casualties. Are these casualties inevitable when carrying out airstrikes in highly populated areas? We discuss it, in this Lip News clip with Mark Sovel and Elliot Hill.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

The New York Times calls for blood in Iraq-Syria war

27 May 2015

The New York Times published a major front-page critique Tuesday of the Obama administration’s military tactics in the air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The article quotes several US and Iraqi military and intelligence officials, most of them unnamed, denouncing the supposed restraint on bombing due to excessive fears of killing civilians.

The article’s headline, “With ISIS in Cross Hairs, U.S. Holds Back to Protect Civilians,” gives the flavor of the piece, suggesting that ISIS could be easily crippled or destroyed if only the White House were not so squeamish.

Reporter Eric Schmitt—one of a group of Times correspondents who are regular conduits for the CIA and Pentagon—begins the article, “American intelligence analysts have identified seven buildings in downtown Raqqa in eastern Syria as the main headquarters of the Islamic State. But the buildings have gone untouched during the 10-month allied air campaign.

“And just last week, convoys of heavily armed Islamic State fighters paraded triumphantly through the streets of the provincial capital Ramadi in western Iraq after forcing Iraqi troops to flee. They rolled on unscathed by coalition fighter-bombers.”

An accompanying photograph shows ISIS fighters brandishing weapons atop an armored personnel carrier parading through the streets of Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital in eastern Syria. The obvious implication is that what could be targeted for a photograph could also be targeted for a smart bomb or drone-fired missile.

Schmitt continues: “American and allied warplanes are equipped with the most precise aerial arsenal ever fielded. But American officials say they are not striking significant—and obvious—Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians.”

According to Schmitt, “But many Iraqi commanders, and even some American officers, argue that exercising such prudence is harming the coalition’s larger effort to destroy the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh, and that it illustrates the limitations of American air power in the Obama administration’s strategy.”

And further, “A persistent complaint of Iraqi officials and security officers is that the United States has been too cautious in its air campaign, frequently allowing columns of Islamic State fighters essentially free movement on the battlefield.”

The language is provocative. The US targeting process is “often cumbersome”; critics “say there are too few warplanes carrying out too few missions under too many restrictions.” Pilots hover over targets for hours waiting “for someone to make a decision to engage or not.” US officials responded to Iraqi targeting requests by attacking “the least important 5 percent” of targets, and “either neglected our requests or responded very late.”

Schmitt quotes exactly one critic by name, a Major Muhammed al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi officer in Anbar province, who blames alleged US “restraint” for the loss of Ramadi and other Iraqi military defeats. Two other sources are described as the “pilot of an American A-10 attack plane” and an Iraqi “army commander in Salahuddin Province, of which Tikrit is the capital.” Otherwise, the critics are merely referred to in the most general terms, suggesting that the article is not the product of genuine investigation, but a semi-official trial balloon, alerting the television producers and newspaper editors who take their lead from the Times that a significant shift in US military tactics is being prepared.

When Seymour Hersh published his recent exposé of US government lies about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, he was harshly attacked by critics in the corporate-controlled media for relying heavily on witnesses whose identities had to be kept secret for their own protection.

Schmitt uses anonymous sources for the opposite purpose—not to debunk US government lies, but to spread them, putting into circulation the propaganda of the military-intelligence apparatus, backed by powerful political forces, including the entire Republican Party and significant sections of the Obama administration itself. But there will be no media pundits denouncing Schmitt and the Times for their “thinly sourced” report on the US bombing campaign against ISIS.

As Glenn Greenwald points out today in the Intercept, the Times article fails the most elementary test of journalistic objectivity, since it accepts without question the claims of the Pentagon and CIA that the US bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria has up to now spared civilians. Greenwald cites credible claims from independent observers of nearly 1,000 civilians killed by US bombing since the air war against ISIS began last summer.

The actual figures given in the Schmitt article are 12,500 ISIS fighters killed and only two Syrian children as collateral damage—ludicrous Pentagon numbers that echo CIA Director John Brennan’s claim, at one point in the drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that there had not been a single civilian casualty.

It is notable that Schmitt directly compares the supposedly feeble US air campaign against ISIS—only 15 strikes a day, with three quarters of planes returning without dropping their bomb loads because of restrictions on targeting—to the more aggressive campaigns in Libya (50 strikes a day), the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 (85 strikes a day), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq (a staggering 800 strikes a day), in what was described by the Bush administration as an effort to produce “shock and awe” among the Iraqi victims.

The conclusion is ominous: the US government and its Arab and imperialist allies are preparing to escalate the air war in Iraq and Syria to produce thousands, if not tens of thousands, of civilian casualties.

Schmitt’s article is a signal to begin preparing the American people to accept war crimes on the scale of the previous US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is a demonstration that the Times, which sets the political agenda for the bulk of the American media, will play its role in justifying and covering up for these crimes.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that the US had agreed to provide air support for so-called “moderate rebels” being trained in Turkey, once they cross the border into Syria: here.

United States warplanes killing Iraqi civilians again


The identity document of Danya Laith Hazem, eight, killed in air strike on 4 April in the village of Fadhiliya. ‘The US-led coalition needs to be far more open about who it is killing,’ says one critic. Photograph: Courtesy of Family

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Slaughter of Iraqi family in suspected US-led air strike hints at cost of war

Five members of one family, including a pregnant woman and girl aged eight, died in one village. Other victims of the anti-Isis air campaign may go unrecorded

Fazel Hawramy in Irbil and Raya Jalabi in New York

Thursday 14 May 2015 20.01 BST

Mustafa was jolted awake by the thunderous sound of two large explosions. As the ground shook beneath him, he could hear a young woman screaming in the distance.

Bolting out his front door, he found several hundred men running through the dark towards an olive farm on the outskirts of the village of Fadhiliya, 10 miles north of Mosul. The farm, home to a family of seven, had been hit by an air strike some time after midnight, the local imam said.

Outside the ruins of the two-storey farm house – now a tangled mess of iron rods and concrete slabs – the men found 16-year-old Lina Laith Hazem in hysterics.

They sifted through the rubble for hours, looking for other survivors amid the surrounding chaos. They found only one, Shahd Hazem Abdulla, Lina’s 25-year-old aunt.

“We used our bare hands to pull the bodies out,” said Mustafa, a farmer in his late 40s.

By 9am on 4 April, five corpses had been pulled from the wreckage, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old child. All five were members of the same family: Hazem Abdulla Shahin, 69; his wife Nadya Nouri Dawoud, 60; their son Laith Hazem Abdulla, 43; his pregnant bride Hana Ali Abdulla, 43, and their eight-year-old daughter Danya Laith Hazem.

“We wrapped the dead in blankets and buried them the same day,” said Rahim, a relative of the family who helped uncover the bodies.

Since 8 August a US-led coalition including Canada, Britain, France, Jordan and other countries, has carried out several thousand air strikes, as part of its campaign against the Islamic State militant group, which last year declared it had established a caliphate across vast swaths of Iraq and Syria. …

Until last week, the US denied that any civilians had been killed in either Syria or Iraq during the nine-month campaign. Following reports that 52 civilians had been killed in an air strike in Syria, the Pentagon announced that it would launch an investigation.

But watchdog groups, like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, warn that many more civilian casualties have gone uncounted. By SOHR’s count, at least 66 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes in Syria alone since last September.

A local Iraqi member of parliament said he was in no doubt that the Abdulla Shahin family were killed by a coalition air strike.

“It was a mistake,” Mala Salim Juma Mohammad said. “The coalition needs to compensate the family adequately.” Juma said that although he had not known the family personally he had ascertained they had no connection to militants.

Chris Wood, the founder of Airwars.org, a not-for-profit transparency project aimed both at tracking and archiving the international air war against Islamic State estimates that at least 167 – and as many as 455 – people have been killed during more than 2,100 air strikes in Iraq.

“It’s very difficult to be precise about civilian casualties in the context of a fast-moving air war, in which those areas being bombed by the coalition are firmly under the control of Islamic State/Daesh,” said Wood.

“What is absolutely clear is that coalition claims of no confirmed civilian deaths are untenable. The US-led coalition needs to be far more open about who it is killing – and to swiftly admit its mistakes when strikes go wrong.” …

The deaths of the Abdulla Shahin family, was but the latest misfortune for Fadhiliya, which was overrun by Islamic State militants in August 2014.

Many of the village’s residents, including the five victims of the air strike, were members of the Shabak ethnic minority. Unlike other minorities such as Christians, Turkomans and Yazidis – who are considered devil worshippers by Isis militants – the 300,000 Shabaks are predominantly Sunni Muslims, and have largely escaped being targeted by Isis. But some Shabak are Shia, and have been targeted for abuse by the militants. Many Fadhiliya residents told the Guardian they did not initially flee the Isis advance because they had nowhere else to go and because they did not consider themselves a target. …

But the men, who still live in Fadhiliya, denied there were any Isis units stationed near or around Hazem Abdulla’s olive farm.

But all current and former residents who spoke with the Guardian agreed that Hazem Abdulla and his family had no links with the militant group.

A relative of Hazem – who asked not to be named because some of his relatives still live in the village – told the Guardian that his uncle had no relationship with the militants.

“[The coalition] are killing innocent people in the name of fighting terrorism,” he said.

But he said that after the air strike, the militants used the incident in their propaganda, telling residents of the village that the attack revealed the US-led coalition’s “true” intentions for the region.

“The incident has been hard on the village,” said Mustafa, the neighbour. “It was a shock to everyone. Hazem was a good man.

The day after the bodies were recovered, relatives of Hazem who had previously fled Fadhiliya, held a memorial service for their deceased in a village near Dohuk.

A sombre black banner hung in the village, the names of the dead written in yellow.

“They were martyred with the fire from a coalition strike in the village of Fadhiliya on 04/04/2015,” the banner read. “We come from Allah, and to Him we shall return.”

Al Qaeda’s war in Syria, paid by United States taxpayers


Syria's provinces

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US-Al Qaeda offensive against Syrian regime

29 April 2015

In a series of battles in which a group linked to Al Qaeda has fought alongside a group armed and backed by the United States, rebel forces have made significant gains against Syrian Army troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, taking control of most of the critical northwestern province of Idlib.

With the fall of city of Jisr al-Shughur Saturday, the remaining government forces in the province are cut off and surrounded, and can only be resupplied by air. Rebel forces captured the provincial capital, the city of Idlib, on March 28, the second of Syria’s 14 provincial capitals to be lost to the Assad regime.

Idlib province occupies a critical strategic position, separating the coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus, where Assad has a strong political base among the predominately Alawite population (a branch of Shiite Islam), from Aleppo, the country’s largest city and one of the bloodiest battlegrounds of the four-year civil war. According to press reports, rebel forces were only five miles east of the nearest Alawite villages in Latakia province.

Syrian government media reported the fall of Jisr al-Shughur Saturday, and a nearby military base at Qarmeed the following day. The government blamed outside powers, including Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States, with the state news agency SANA saying that its forces were “facing the terrorist groups flowing in huge numbers through the Turkish border.”

That this claim is not mere propaganda was confirmed by numerous reports in the American and European press, generally hostile to Assad, describing the alliance of Islamists and US-backed “rebels” in the struggle in Idlib province.

The headline of the McClatchy News Service report on the fall of Jisr al-Shughur left nothing to the imagination: “U.S.-backed rebels team with Islamists to capture strategic Syrian city.”

“The latest rebel victory came surprisingly quickly, apparently aided by US-supplied TOW anti-tank missiles,” McClatchy reported, adding, “accounts of the fighting made clear that US-supplied rebel groups had coordinated to some degree with Nusra, which US officials declared a terrorist organization more than two years ago.”

This article cited conflicting claims by “moderate” and Islamist groups about which had played a greater role in the capture of the city. McClatchy noted, “The battle itself was announced by the Fateh Army, an umbrella group that Ahrar al Sham [another Islamist group] and other groups established on March 24, just four days before they and the Nusra Front seized the city of Idlib.”

The rebel-linked television station Orient News reportedly showed video of rebel fighters in the central square of Jisr al-Shughur, raising the black flag that has long been the symbol of Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups. Photographs also appeared of “rebel” trucks bearing poster-sized photos of Osama bin Laden.

The New York Times and Washington Post reported many of the same facts—the fall of Jisr al-Shughur and nearby bases to the offensive of a rebel alliance—but sought to downplay the link between US-backed and Al Qaeda forces, with the Times publishing its article under the headline, “Islamists Seize Control of Syrian City in Northwest.”

McClatchy, citing many local eyewitnesses, described an active fighting alliance between Free Syrian Army forces armed with TOW missiles, destroying nearly a dozen Syrian Army tanks, and Al-Nusra suicide bombers who attacked concentrations of soldiers.

The Times sought to conceal these connections, suggesting that the TOW missiles had fallen into the wrong hands. By its account, “Last year, the United States provided a small number of TOW antitank missiles to some rebel groups. But those groups were largely routed or co-opted by the Nusra Front, further complicating what was already a murky battlefield that has left American officials wary of providing more robust aid to insurgents.”

The Post concentrated on the political benefits of the offensive from the standpoint of the US State Department, suggesting that the military setbacks had dealt a severe blow to the morale of Assad supporters in both Aleppo and the capital city, Damascus. Its account carried the headline, “Assad’s hold on power looks shakier than ever as rebels advance in Syria.”

The Post also glossed over the ties between the US-backed groups and Al Qaeda, writing, “The result has been an unexpectedly cohesive rebel coalition called the Army of Conquest that is made up of al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, an assortment of mostly Islamist brigades and a small number of more moderate battalions.”

The Idlib offensive demonstrates that the claims of successive US governments to be waging a “war on terror” are propaganda lies. Al Qaeda has its origins in the CIA-organized guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan against the Soviet Army and the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul. Osama bin Laden was one of the reactionary anticommunist mujaheddin mobilized for the Afghan struggle along with thousands of other Islamists from throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Bin Laden broke with his US allies over the influx of American troops into Saudi Arabia during the 1990-91 Gulf War, targeting US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and a US Navy warship near Yemen, and, of course, staging the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

But Al Qaeda forces were later mobilized by the CIA in support of the 2011 US-NATO war against Libya, with many of these fighters then transported to Syria for the fight against Assad. Similarly, Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, supposedly the most dangerous branch of Al Qaeda in terms of mounting attacks on the United States itself, has become a de facto ally in the US-backed Saudi war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In the Syrian civil war, the relationship between Al Qaeda and US imperialism has been even more complicated. The Al-Nusra Front was formed as the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, as part of the mobilization of Islamists who comprise the main fighting force against the Assad regime. Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emerged in competition with Al-Nusra and publicly broke with Al Qaeda, in pursuit of territorial objectives in both countries.

Obama launched airstrikes last summer against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, after the group seized control of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and staggered the US puppet regime in Baghdad. Since Al-Nusra and ISIS were engaged in bitter conflicts within Syria, the US became the de facto ally of Al-Nusra, despite protestations to the contrary.

US airstrikes in Syria killed dozens of civilians in a predominately Arab-populated village in the eastern part of Aleppo province Friday. The death toll was still rising as more bodies were found and missing family members were accounted for: here.

Some ten thousand troops began military exercises in Jordan on Tuesday, in the fifth annual “Eager Lion” war games led by the Pentagon. The drills are in preparation for a greatly expanded military conflict in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. A total of nine Arab countries—Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, and Iraq—join the US, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Poland, Australia and Pakistan for the exercise: here.

US soldiers have begun training some 100 Syrian fighters in a “secure location” in Jordan in preparation for military intervention in Syria, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed Thursday. Other contingents will soon begin training at camps run by the US military in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, Carter said: here.

The Syrian war stalemate appears to be over. The regional powers surrounding Syria — especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan — have re-ignited their war against the Syrian government. After over 200,000 dead and millions of refugees, the U.S. allies in the region recently re-committed to deepening the war, with incalculable consequences: here.

‘Dutch government not stopping misguided young people from joining ISIS’


This video from the USA says about itself:

It’s Time to Talk About GW Bush’s Role in Creating ISIS

4 February 2015

Thom Hartmann says we need to have a conversation about how U.S. foreign policy under Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan has led to extremist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Some background with this story: in August 2013, warmongers like British Prime Minister David Cameron, United States Senator John McCain, and others, almost succeeded in starting a war of NATO countries against Syria.

In such a war, these NATO countries would have been on the side of ISIS and Al Qaeda.

General Peter van Uhm in 2008-2012 was commander-in-chief of the Dutch armed forces. Which then, as now, were involved in war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In 2014, retired General Van Uhm expressed sympathy for confused Dutch teenagers going to the bloody war in Syria. Boys who often end up there in fanatically religious sectarian paramilitary organisations, with big chances of getting disabled or killed. Or girls, who may end up as ‘religious military prostitutes‘, and have big chances of getting disabled or killed too.

Translated from regional TV RTV West in the Netherlands:

14-04-2015 | 18:17

LEIDEN – The Netherlands has done too little to stop jihadists who wanted to go to Syria. This says a group of parents whose children went to Syria. Together they want to sue the government.

The group of parents claims that previous warnings about their children were neglected. They do not feel that the government listened to them.

The initiative for the indictment has been taken by Leiden father Mohamed Nidalha. He is in contact with a group of nine parents and family members of people who went to Syria.

Leiden woman

The reason for the action was a 27-year-old woman from Leiden, who last week was returned by Turkey to the Netherlands because she wanted to join ISIS in Syria. She was registered with Interpol as ‘wanted’.

Nidalha: “With an indictment of the government, of course, I will not get my son back, but I do this for other parents. I do not want them in the future to have to deal with what I went through”, he told the Dutch news agency ANP.

Police

Nidalha says that he tried in vain to contact the police, the secret intelligence service AIVD and the municipality when his son last summer went to Turkey with a plan to join ISIS.

“The police said they could do nothing because he is not a minor. The AIVD came six weeks later for information and the local authorities gave me a leaflet about social work. I do not understand it, why they have stopped this woman, but not my son?”

Recognition

Meanwhile the son of Nidalha is in Raqqa, the capital of ISIS, where he supposedly is fighting on the side of ISIS. Nidalha hopes more parents will recognize themselves in this story and will join the initiative.

Nidalha, in an interview in Dutch Witte Weekblad weekly, 22 April 2015 (translated):

If your son joins ISIS, then your whole world collapses.

Translated from regional TV RTV West in the Netherlands:

15-04-2015 | 11:02

THE HAGUE – “He was a regular guy, who went to the disco and loved girls,” says Leiden father Mohamed Nidalha about his child. Nevertheless his 20-year-old son Reda left to Syria to join the armed struggle against the Syrian army. Reda joined the jihad in Syria, but according to Nidalha the Dutch government could have prevented this. Along with other parents of children who went to Syria he is now suing the government.

From one day to the next day Reda changed from an ordinary boy to a radicalized Muslim. Mohamed Nidalha did not raise his children in an Islamic way. Almost a year after the departure of Reda, Nidalha can still not get used to the idea that his son is in Syria. “A strange situation,” he calls it.

Reda radicalized not in a mosque or through bad friends, but on the Internet, Nidalha knows. He was brainwashed by jihad recruiter Abu Jihad in Syria. Last summer he went “to help small children and raped women,” he said over the phone to his sister on the day he left for Turkey.

See also here.

In the wake of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overrunning of Ramadi, the US military has stepped up air strikes, while the Iraqi government has taken the highly explosive decision to deploy Shia militias in an attempt to retake the largely Sunni city. The fall of Ramadi, the provincial capital of the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, represents a debacle for both the Baghdad government and the US war strategy in Iraq: here.

Des milliers de Frères Kouachi ravagent le Nord syrien avec l’aide de l’Occident: here.

Syrian journalists’ kidnappers Sunni, not Shia


This video from the USA says about itself:

16 April 2015

Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent at NBC News, was a member of the six-member news team that was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. He has recounted the group’s ordeal after information recently unearthed by the New York Times suggested that Engel had been wrong about the identity of their kidnappers. …

During the ordeal, the crewmembers thought that their kidnappers were Shiite militiamen loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times, however, has uncovered information suggesting that the Syrian rebels who ‘rescued’ the journalists had some kind of relationship with the kidnappers.

By Michael Calderone in the USA:

NBC’s Richard Engel Reveals Syria Kidnappers’ Ruse Misled Him And Fellow Journalists

Posted: 04/15/2015 11:47 pm EDT Updated: 04/16/2015 12:59 am EDT

NEW YORK — NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel revealed Wednesday night that the masked men who kidnapped him and five colleagues in Syria in December 2012 misled the captive journalists about their affiliation, leading him to misidentify them in accounts of the ordeal.

During a Dec. 18, 2012, appearance on the “Today” show following their escape, Engel identified his captors as members of the shabiha, a Shia militia loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. But as The Huffington Post reported Wednesday afternoon, new questions about the kidnappers’ affiliation recently prompted Engel and a team of journalists to revisit the harrowing five days in captivity.

After reporting for the past several weeks, Engel wrote Wednesday that his kidnappers were Sunni, not Shia, and had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince” the captured journalists they were the shabiha and linked to Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah. Engel had previously described the men as part of the Shia militia in TV interviews and a first-person piece for Vanity Fair in March 2013.

Though California State University professor As’ad AbuKhalil expressed serious doubts early on about Engel’s captors being the shabiha, and aligned with Iran and Hezbollah, the correspondent’s account was never seriously challenged in the news media. On the day Engel surfaced in Turkey, AbuKhalil wrote that graffiti visible in a video of the captured journalists included “clearly fake” slogans intended to falsely suggest the captors were Shiites. “If this one is believable” he wrote, “I am posing as a dentist.”

Following publication of Engel’s piece on Wednesday, AbuKhalil told The Huffington Post that the episode “shows the extent to which Western media were going out of their way to protect the armed thugs and terrorists of the Syrian armed groups.”

“Engel did not want to believe that he was kidnapped by the very ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels that he and other correspondents were promoting on a daily basis,” AbuKhalil wrote in an email. “This is a scandal of major proportion. The moderate rebels are the ones who perfected the art of kidnapping for ransom, of journalists and sectarian kidnapping of innocent Lebanese and Syrians. This should raise questions about the quality of Western reporting on Syria.”

The 28-month-old ordeal gained renewed attention in recent weeks after The New York Times asked Engel about the kidnapping. The Times reported late Wednesday that NBC News executives were informed during and after Engel’s captivity that a Sunni criminal gang may be to blame, but “moved quickly to put Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.”

The Times story raises questions about NBC News’ handling of the ordeal and brings more scrutiny on a network still reeling from “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams’ false claims of coming under RPG fire while reporting in Iraq. Williams was subsequently suspended.

There’s no dispute that Engel and his crew were kidnapped and endured psychological torture for several days. But Engel’s original conclusion about the ordeal — that a pro-government Shia militia seized the journalists and was delivering them to a Hezbollah stronghold in Syria — can no longer be supported. Engel now concludes that he and his crew were “kidnapped by a criminal gang for money and released for propaganda purposes.”

“We still cannot determine whether we were set up to be kidnapped from the start,” Engel said, “and we have found no evidence that the Iranian and Lebanese prisoners whom we were headed to see existed.” (In previous accounts, Engel said a rebel commander was bringing them into Syria to see these prisoners, proof of Iranian government and Hezbollah activity in the Syrian civil war.) Engel also wrote that the Syrian rebels who freed his crew after five days had ties to the kidnappers.

In his article Wednesday, Engel provides new details of the kidnapping, including how an emergency GPS system the crew carried had alerted NBC to their position. As word spread that the journalists were located, Engel wrote, his captors considered killing them and hiding the bodies.

Engel wrote that Abu Ayman, an Islamist commander in the area, feared that the death of American journalists could lead to the U.S. not providing arms to those fighting Assad’s regime. Abu Ayman, he wrote, contacted the Sunni leader of the criminal gang holding the journalists. The details of the intervention remain unclear, as two of the participants are believed dead and a third missing.

Engel and his crew were freed soon after the kidnappers stopped at a rebel checkpoint and were killed in a firefight — or, at least that’s what Engel believed at the time. The situation is increasingly murky, given that the rebels freeing Engel’s crew had some previous interaction with the kidnappers. Engel said a source insisted in his recent reporting that the kidnappers were indeed killed that night.

This article has been updated to include The New York Times report.

Journalist Richard Engel’s 2012 kidnapping account was part of drive to war with Syria: here.

Did NBC Cover Up Role of U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army in 2012 Kidnapping of Richard Engel? Here.

After exposure of 2012 kidnapping story. Vanity Fair, Richard Engel and NBC attempt a cover-up: here.