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Bellingcat website funded by US, UK intelligence contractors aiding terrorists in Syria: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins (File photo)

A report by an investigative news website has revealed that the so-called self-styled open-source investigations website Bellingcat, which has on multiple occasions accused the Syrian government of chemical weapons attack against civilians, is financially dependent on anti-Damascus Western governments and heavily bankrolled by American and British intelligence contractors that aid terrorist groups in Syria.  

The Grayzone website said in a report that the supposedly “independent” website Bellingcat — a Netherlands-based investigative journalism website that claims to specialize in fact-checking and open-source intelligence — raked in money from scandal-ridden Western intelligence firms that wreaked havoc and reaped massive profits in Syria.

“While vehemently insisting that it is independent of government influence, Bellingcat is funded by both the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy and the European Union,” the report said.

“CIA officials have declared their “love” for Bellingcat, and there are unambiguous signs that the outlet has partnered closely with London and Washington to further the pair’s imperial objectives,” it added.

Pointing to Bellingcat’s 2020 financial accounts officially published by the website, The Grayzone said the records clearly showed the relationship between the website and centers of imperial power as Bellingcat has accepted “enormous sums from Western intelligence contractors.”

“These war-profiteering firms have in turn provided direct support to Al Qaeda-allied groups in Syria – the same elements that have provided Bellingcat with “evidence” to convict Damascus in absentia on all manner of dubious charges,” The Grayzone said.

Exposing Bellingcat’s ties to the Western national security state, the investigative website said the supposedly open-source operation has employed a staggering number of former military and intelligence operatives, deploying them to reinforce imperial narratives while reaping sponsorship from an array of governments and quasi-governmental bodies.

“In 2019 to 2020, Bellingcat received just over €5,000 from Washington-based contractor Chemonics,” which as The Grayzone said was the “conduit through which US funds and equipment reached bogus humanitarian group Syria Civil Defense, providing it with the now famous – or infamous – White Helmets that earned them their nickname, along with much more expensive communications and video gear.”

The Grayzone also said Bellingcat received just over $65,000 from Adam Smith International (ASI), which has “direct connection” to the proliferation of extremism in Syria over the course of the country’s decade-long crisis.

ASI managed a large portfolio of projects for the UK Foreign Office, including the NATO member state-backed Access to Justice and Community Security (AJACS) program, which funded, trained, and equipped the so-called Free Syria Police (FSP), an anti-Damascus rebel group in militant-held areas of Syria such as Aleppo, Idlib and Dara’a.

The investigative site said the Free Syrian Police project received “fawning coverage” in the Western media, with a BBC article presenting the group as a “heroic band of volunteers committed to nonviolence, resolving local disputes through peaceful means, and working “closely” with the White Helmets in the aftermath of air raids to fight fires, rescue people from rubble, and provide them with medical assistance.”

The British media repeatedly emphasized that the force did not collaborate with extremist groups in Syria but it was later revealed that there were links between several FSP stations and courts run by the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, that carried out summary executions of citizens who violated its medieval legal codes.

“Bellingcat has long-been a prominent purveyor and legitimizer of these groups,” The Grayzone said, adding that there are clear indications Bellingcat’s founder — Eliot Higgins — is party to privileged information from local sources and his organization’s media operations are conducted in concert with them.

“In the immediate aftermath of the notorious April 2018 Douma “gas attack” incident, which the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) whistleblowers suggest was staged, Higgins tweeted an exclusive photo of one of the cylinders purportedly used in the strike,” the website said.

“Higgins’ post was abruptly deleted though, perhaps because the White Helmets subsequently also shared a photo of the same site, in which the same cylinder was in a different position – proof positive that the scene had been manipulated by those staging it,” it added.

Citing a leaked Foreign Office-commissioned appraisal of Bellingcat, The Grayzone said Bellingcat was found to be “somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay.”

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011, with Damascus saying the Western governments and their regional allies are aiding the terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the Arab country.

The White Helmets group, which claims to be a humanitarian NGO, is known for its coordination with terror outfits in Syria to carry out staged chemical attacks in order to falsely incriminate Syrian government forces and fabricate pretexts for military strikes by a US-led military coalition present in Syria since 2014.

On April 14, 2018, the US, Britain, and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus.

That alleged attack was reported by the White Helmets, which published videos showing them purportedly treating survivors. Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, an allegation strongly rejected by the Syrian government.

The Western governments and media have repeatedly accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its own citizens in the war against the terrorists.

This is while Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. It has also consistently denied using chemical weapons.

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