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On March 30, the Arab24 news agency published a video shot on March 28 which appeared to show US Marine Corps vehicles somewhere in northern Syria. We tracked them down.

The video

Arab24 published the video on its website. It is entitled “Syria – The entry of trucks loaded with armor and weapons to the north of Syria (exclusive scenes).”

The location is listed as “the village of Abu Shakhat – in the north of the province of Raqqa – Syria”

The date of filming is specified as March 28, 2017.

Screenshots – US military vehicles

The US military vehicles in the convoy are mixed. They include some Humvee vehicles used by special forces, small M-ATV MRAPs and one unusual Humvee that we think may be a mobile repair shop.

The key frame

Screenshot from a video of a convoy carrying US Marine Corps vehicles in northern Syria, March 28, 2017. Image: Arab24

The frame above shows part of the convoy on a road. It appears to be at a checkpoint. There are electricity pylons visible to the left of the road. There is some form of structure hidden behind earth berms (mounds of earth commonly used to quickly protect locations and make them more defenendable).

In the middle of the frame at the right there is another road. There is a road sign pointing to the right.

Straightforward so far.

Enlarged and enhanced screenshot of a road sign reading “Abu Shakhat 14km” in Arabic. Image: Grasswire/Arab24

The road sign reads “Abu Shakhat 14km” in Arabic. Abu Shakhat is listed as the location of the video on the Arab24 website. We’ve tried unsuccessfully to geo-locate other videos from Arab24, so we know that locations are not necessarily specific, but mean “in the area of.”

The road sign gave us everything we needed to find the convoy.

Abu Shakhat is a village in al-Hasakah province, off the main M4 road between Tell Tamir and Ayn Issa. It just happens to be around 14km from the main road. The junction is here.

We looked at this junction on publicly available satellite imagery and and matched it to the video.

A 2016 satellite image of a junction on the main M4 road, 14km from Abu Shakhat, al-Hasakah province, northern Syria. Image: Grasswire/Google/CNES/Astrium

In the above image the row of pylons can be clearly seen. In more recent satellite images from November 2016, the berms surrounding some form of structure at the side of the road can be easily seen, as can some features on the road related to the checkpoint. We can’t publish those images for copyright reasons.

Conclusion

The video was filmed at a junction on the main M4 road, 14km from Abu Shakhat.

Older images and video

On March 28, Syrian journalist Mohammed Hassan published images and video of a very similar large convoy somewhere in northern Syria. We think it is the same convoy but cannot be sure. There are not enough visual cues in any of the imagery to give us a starting point for geo-location.

Some of the vehicles are marked USMC. They include Humvees, a grader and a long half-cab low loader-type vehicle.

It’s not the first convoy we’ve tried to track down in this region of northern Syria. We had a look at some images of US military vehicles published online on March 13 here.

Where was the convoy headed?

We don’t know. There is what appears to be a US military base at the Lafarge Cement Plant which is approximately 122km from the Abu Shakhar junction. There is also a large SDF base in Ain Issa, around 92km from the junction. Both of these are not far north of Raqqa and Tabqa.

The Lafarge plant has been used as a US military base and helicopter landing site for many months. Satellite images from July 2016 and January 2017 show US helicopters there.

Satellite imagery published since then shows a very much increased and more structured military base on the site.

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