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Did Russia Accidentally Provide the Best Evidence of the Syrian Government’s Involvement in Sarin Attacks?

November 13, 2017

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Russia’s latest attempts to challenge accusations of Syrian government responsibility for the April 4th 2017 Sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun may have inadvertently produced the best evidence yet that the Syrian government is responsible for not only the Khan Sheikhoun attack, but the earlier March 30th 2017 Sarin attack on Al-Lataminah.

During a lengthy press conference on November 2nd 2017, the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Defence and the Ministry for Industry and Trade presented its response to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – UN Joint Mission (OPCW-UN JIM) report on the Khan Sheikhoun Sarin attack. The presentation included a series of slides, which included diagrams of two types of chemical bombs, designated the MYM6000 and M4000. The slides from the presentation, with a clearer version of the bomb diagrams, were published online:

Remarkably, the Russian presentation appears to be the first-time images of these munitions have been made public, and before the press conference, no other references to MYM6000 or M4000 bombs appear online. Gregory Koblentz, Associate Professor and Director of Biodefense Graduate Program in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, noted that “these designations match bombs declared by Syria to the OPCW”, although there appears to be no open source material that provides specifics about the types of bombs declared to the OPCW. In the press conference the source of the diagrams are described as being provided “by certain organisations”, but no more specifics are given.

In the recent report by the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) on the March 30th Al-Lataminah attack photographs of a number of items recovered from the attack site by the Syrian Civil Defence and provided to the OPCW were featured. This includes two metal filling caps that are identical in design to a filling cap recovered from the site of the April 4th attack in Khan Sheikhoun:

Left – A cap from Al-Lataminah; Right – The cap from Khan Sheikhoun

Chemical analysis of the debris and samples recovered from the March 30th attack site are consistent with the same type of Sarin being used in both incidents, Sarin which the OPCW-UN JIM report on the Khan Sheikhoun attack states is linked to the production process used by the Syrian government. While the OPCW provides evidence that links the Sarin used in both attack (as well as previous attacks) to the Syrian government, it is the Russian government, who in their attempt to defend the Syrian government, inadvertently provides evidence linking the bomb used to the Syrian government.

The diagram published by the Russian government of the M4000 munition provides multiple matches to the debris recovered from the Al-Lataminah attack, linked to the munition used in the Khan Sheikhoun attack by the presence of the same filler cap. First, it is possible to establish the size of the munition remains are consistent with the size of the M4000 munition. In the OPCW-FFM report on Al-Lataminah the remains of the tail section of the munition, with one tail fin still attached, is measured as 900mm wide. Based on this it is possible to calculate the approximate circumference of the munition. The below image shows this process in Blender:

Based on the above measurements the diameter of the munition is approximately 458mm, and considering the level of distortion to the remains of the munition this is consistent with the 460mm diameter of the M4000 chemical bomb. It is also possible to get an approximate measurement for the tail fins thanks to the following image in the OPCW-FFM report on Al-Lataminah:

This object is described in the OPCW-FFM report as follows:

“01SDS(B) is a large corroded and deformed metal object. Despite the corrosion, it is still possible to see layers of dark green and grey colour. It is also possible to see a smaller inner ring in the middle, linked by seven metal parts to a larger, outer ring. Four of the parts that are linking rings are rectangular. The other three are much larger and triangular. The spacing between the three parts, in addition to indications on the rings, point to one missing larger triangular part.

This is consistent with an aerial bomb tail fin assembly.

The FFM took numerous measurements of this item. Given the level of deformation, these measurements are only approximate dimensions. These approximate dimensions have not been included.”

Based on the visible measurement, it was possible to recreate a 3D model of the tail ring, which again measured to approximately 460mm:

These measurements are consistent with claims made by experts consulted by the OPCW-UN JIM in their report on the Khan Sheikhoun Sarin attack:

“Examining the munition remnants observed inside the crater, the forensic institutes and individual experts concluded that the remnants were pieces of a thin-walled munition of 300 to 500 mm in diameter and were likely from an aerial bomb.”

The design of the tail section and tail rings are also consistent with the diagram of the M4000 bomb, showing the tail fins do not extend beyond the sides of the tail ring, and the tail section does not extend fully into the tail rings, as it does on some other models of bombs, including the MYM6000.

Also recovered from the impact site of the Al-Lataminah attack were the aforementioned identical filling caps, matching the type recovered from the Khan Sheikhoun attack. In the OPCW-UN JIM report on Khan Sheikhoun the cap recovered was described as “uniquely consistent with Syrian chemical aerial bombs”:

One cap has a piece of metal attached to it which itself is attached to a suspension lug, used to attach the munition to an aircraft. Two caps are also visible on the side of the munition in the M4000 diagram, one of which is positioned close to a suspension lug:

Visible on the front of the bomb in the above diagram is the fuze and fuze housing. The fuze housing, which is separate from the blue coloured front end of the munition, extends over the front edge of the munition, and this would be consistent with debris recovered from the Al-Lataminah attack site:

The OPCW-FFM specifically refers to this as a fuze, and based on markings on the fuze it is possible to identify it as a a Russian АВУ-ЭТ impact fuze:

“09SDS is a heavily deformed and damaged metal object. On the both sides threads are visible. This part also bears visible markings which point to a universal bomb fuse. The fuse has been activated and does not contain explosive material. This device is normally electrically armed, heat resistant, and can function as point detonating or with delayed action. It is used on a large number of aerial bomb types by numerous nations.”

The thread indicates the fuze housing would have been screwed into the front of bomb, consistent with the diagram of the M4000 chemical bomb. The fuze detonates a 3kg charge that runs through the front half of the munition, marked in red.

Also recovered from the Al-Lataminah attack site is the remains of a heavy metal object that is consistent with the thicker front end of the bomb marked in blue in the above diagram:

The OPCW-FFM report describes this object, including the following sentence:

“One side of the item is flat with only the bottom part bearing marks of violent splitting.  Sides of the larger object are uneven and rough, probably the result of violent separation as well.”

Its position around the fuze and bursting charge would be consistent with the damage seen on the object, and it is the only object with these heavier dimensions recovered from the attack site.

Another type of object recovered from both the Al-Lataminah and Khan Sheikhoun attack sites are metal rails with equally distributed holes:

Top – Khan Sheikhoun; Bottom – Al-Lataminah

The rail recovered from Al-Lataminah is approximately 550mm long, with broken bolts inside some of the holes, and a 5mm metal layer attached, the thickness of which is consistent with other metal layer debris recovered from the impact site. It is likely this was used to attached parts of the bomb together, and it seems certain to be one the objects marked in grey in the below diagram:

One of the most interesting items is in the rear of the bomb, marked as a “mixing arm”. Part of this, found in the very rear of the bomb, was recovered from the scene of the attack:

The shape of the object can clearly be seen in the rear of the diagram, and the outer side of the object has a visible broken metal rod:

This is described in the OPCW-FFM report:

“The lid part has a larger hole in the middle where a segment of a protruding metal rod (labelled 3) is visible. The metal rod is broken and deformed.”

This, again, appears consistent with what is visible in the diagram of the M4000 bomb.

Due to the total lack of public documentation about these munitions prior to November 2nd, the Russian government’s presentation on Khan Sheikhoun has made it possible to make these matches, further providing information about the Syrian government’s role not only in the Khan Sheikhoun Sarin attack but also in the Al-Lataminah Sarin attack.

The only way for the Russian or Syrian governments to now deny the M4000 bomb was used is to produce detailed photographs of the M4000 bomb, showing the same parts indicated above, or, if the Syrians still claim all these bombs were destroyed after 2013, declassify and publish further information about the bomb.


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      • Paul Masterson

        It’s a good match for it don’t you think? Here’s my expert modelling of both munitions vs the green tube like debris.

        I’m assuming you answer “dunno” in jest? I couldn’t imagine you proposing a scenario without supporting evidence……oh wait…

          • Paul Masterson

            The other one doesn’t look much different. I still can’t see where this tube is on either of them. Maybe you could assist me with your weapons expertise and point it out to me on either the MYM6000 or M4000?

          • Paul Masterson

            You just said that cause you wanted me to display my modelling expertise again, didn’t you? Oh go on then, just for you here’s the “M4000 chemical weapons” vs the green hell canon projectile. Let’s play a game called “Spot the green tube”. First to find it wins.


          • Paul Masterson

            It wouldn’t matter if I flipped it over and turned it inside out, it still doesn’t a green cylindric tube make.

            Could we agree that on the face of it it doesn’t belong to either the MYM6000 or M4000? Or do you still need time to see what you can make up…sorry…come up with?

          • Eliot Higgins

            You’ve found one photo of a hell cannon munition, from which you’ve come up with an entire scenario completely unsupported by any other evidence, and contradicted by multiple pieces of evidence, witness reports, the OPCW-UN JIM investigation, and the claims of the Russian and Syrian governments. You need something a bit more solid than just the same coloured paint.

          • Paul Masterson

            Maybe when find yourself in the question answering mood Eliot you may shed some light on another claim you’ve made in relation to debris you notably called a “rail”. You state that it “seems certain” that it was used to connect “pieces of the bomb together” and you point to a place on the M4000 that, according to the diagram, rises at a near 45 degree angle. The problem with that and your “rail” is that the rail goes up at a 90 degree angle.

            Can you shed anymore light on this apparent discrepancy between your suggestion and what the diagram denotes?


          • Eliot Higgins

            You get that’s a cross section, and it’s been involved in an explosion and impact, right?

          • Paul Masterson

            Eliot why do you consistently avoid answering questions when you can’t readily supply an answer? You again made a statement above that you believe you’ve uncovered the delivery mechanism for Sarin in Idlib. You state you believe it was an M4000 as per the Russian presser. All I am doing is taking a photograph from the Khan Sheykoun crater, as supplied by the White Helmets and acknowledged by the UN-OPCW JIM as being remnants of the Sarin munition, and asking you can you fit your M4000 munition to the remnants.

            Let me ask again for clarity, can you suggest how the green pipe like structure in the crater can match up to this M4000? Can you even theorise at this stage?

          • Paul Masterson

            “You get that’s a cross section, and it’s been involved in an explosion and impact, right?”

            I do and I did try to allow for that plus any impact damage etc. But what baffles me is how it would result is a perfect curvature to a 90 degree angle with no rough edges, dents or dangs.

            Is your argument that it was a 45 degree cross section that changed its angle to 90 degree during the explosion/impact etc?

          • Eliot Higgins

            I guess you’re just easily baffled then. Guess that’s why you think it’s a hell cannon round.

          • Paul Masterson

            “I guess you’re just easily baffled then. Guess that’s why you think it’s a hell cannon round.”

            That’s unfortunately typical of you when you have no answers, you take to insults. The questions I am posing are legitimate. It appears that you are unable to fit your M4000 munition to the remnants uncovered at Khan Sheykun and rather than admit this you’ve decided to go on the attack with me for daring to try and find a munition that fits with the remnants.

            You made the claim and it’s up to you to prove your case. You also need to suggest a plausible scenario of how a 45 degree cross section brace ends with a perfect curvature to 90 degrees after an explosion and impact.


          • Paul Masterson

            Here’s a clearer image of your 90 degree “rail” vs the 45 degree true image. I have drawn in the rough pencil line along the horizontal section of the brace to depict the roughage of that edge. However look at how perfect the curvature is. Note the lack of roughage to the metal and it almost perfect curve through to 90 degrees.

            I would love to hear how you envisage that this perfect curvature occurred given, in your words, “’s been involved in an explosion and impact..”? and noting that the horizontal section does show signs of damage and/or corrosion.


  1. Bernard C

    Why are you voluntarily misleading your readers? First you lie to create the scoop effect! They say explicitly (54:53) that these images are provided by OPCW translation is extremely poor skipping lots of stuff but listen to the Russian part. Then secondly, the specialist lengthly explain that the bomb was lying on the ground and then it was brought to explosion. He says that the bomb was not dropped. They said indeed that they do not believe it was any bomb depicted there, but basically, they mainly explain that the picture you see does not provide any evidence AND that this crater was not created by an aerial bomb. Surely it was not anything dropped by a plane. Why do you not concentrate on what they effectively say? Based on the shrapnel they say this very picture isn’t demonstrating anything but that this very crater was not done by a bomb dropped by a plane, and certainly not a M4000 or MYM6000 because the metal in that pit is too soft. This is the only fact they deny.
    Your evidence was collected who knows where. It is not any proof of anything. We know that the terrorists used chemical weapons, be it handcrafted or industrial ones. We know they received chemicals through Turkey.
    It boils down to the same. Russians invited the inspectors to go on site but they preferred their safe office and DHL deliveries from ISIL.

    • bellingcatadmin

      Because, dear reader, Russia likes to put on lengthy, apparently highly technical press conferences, to impress people such as yourself, which inevitably end up being a load of nonsense. See also, the Almaz Antey MH17 Buk press conference.

  2. Thomas Peterson

    Is there really a screw cap that you just manually tighten up on these Soviet chemical bombs?

    • Paul Masterson

      According to Eliot there is and the lugs are welded on after manufacturing. Top notch stuff, ya know. But let’s see if he finds where the green tube on them.

      • Ardjan

        Bravo Paul, you’re apparently a master in creating mist! I bet you also had much to say about MH17, coincidentally in line with the Kremlin narrative!

        • Thomas Peterson

          It’s just that on the other Soviet chemical bombs I’ve seen, they use valves not screw caps. So it seems odd to me they would use screw caps on this version.

          • Paul Masterson

            It’s Eliot that has the weapons expertise so he’s your best man to ask about that.

          • DDTea

            It may not be a Soviet or Russian design. It is probably a locally-manufactured Syrian bomb that uses some Russian components such as the fuse.

  3. Thomas Peterson

    So just to clarify (It’s hard to keep up with the theories), it is now being claimed that Syria used a binary chemical weapon with in-flight mixing (hence the mixing arm) while previously it was claimed that Syria mixed their Sarin prior to putting it in a weapon?

    • Mad Dog

      Pretty compelling evidence, in ADDITION to everything else, but I guess a ‘green tube’ trumps everything. Kind of like Trump followers, everyone is telling lies except for Putin….how funny is that!?

      • Thomas Peterson

        Is the green tube part of the bomb, if so, which part?

        If it isn’t part of the bomb, how did it get in the crater?

        Kind of an interesting question really.

        • Paul Masterson

          Interesting indeed. The question should be that if Eliot can’t match the debris at the crater to his M4000 munition will he update the above post with this information in the air of honesty and transparency? I’d like to think he would as these chemical attacks should not be about who got it right or wrong nor should they about propaganda to further advance ones career and/or agenda. As an investigator of sorts Higgins should be using his position to try and get to the truth and therefore if a claim he makes doesn’t add up then he should awknowledge that.

          • Paul Masterson

            As a side note: I reread both the JIM & FFM reports last night carefully and it appears that neither of them were ever handed this ‘green pipe’ from Khan Sheykun. All they had at their disposal were the same pictures we have. Why has nobody asked why was this crucial piece of evidence never handed over to these teams? And where is it now? Why didn’t the diligent FFM demand it was transferred to their investigators?

            Yet now some wish to draw the focus away from this to a mythical bomb that neither fits with evidence nor the debris.

      • Paul Masterson

        “It may not be a Soviet or Russian design. It is probably a locally-manufactured Syrian bomb that uses some Russian components such as the fuse.”

        It “may be”…..”probably” but it could as easily “not be” ….”probably”.

        Before you or Eliot advance your theories of M4000’s any further you must link the remnants of the Khan Sheykun crater to your hypoteisised munition. A failure to do this leads one down a road of conjecture and ultimately conspiracy theories.

        Unfortunately Eliot has been unable to link the green/grey “tail” from the crater to his M4000 munition and has therefore decided to exit the debate. If you would like to try and advance his theories for him then I’d be all ears.

  4. Ayatollah Ghilmeini

    As soon as I saw the diagram I was immediately drawn to review the August 2013 images of the unique ordnance used in the Ghoutta gas attack.

    Not conclusive but visually damning.

    I doubt Russia gave Assad his war-crime bombs, but I have no doubt they gave him (or his Iranian sponsors) the engineering designs and plans.

    Elliot is to be commended for his dogged research; he seems to be the only one in the west who cares..

  5. Dakic Darko

    Rebels proudly photograph water pipe with some wings and you show us here debris not visible in a initial photo, they could be collected anywhere. Would be really nice to show a piece of pipe visible in a rebel photo and tell us how it fits into the M4000

  6. DDTea

    Some concerns were raised earlier about the US radar data for an SU22 in the vicinity of Khan Sheikhoun on the norning of April 4. The closest apparent distance to the city was 5km.

    Firstly, this is easily within range of an unguided bomb. So is 10 km at the right speed and altitude. This is a fairly simple projectile motion problem. In fact, these sorts of standoffs would even be desirable for a mix-in-flight binary bomb to allow the highest possible yield of nerve agent prior to dispersal.

    One other point:

    Binary sarin, being inherently less pure, is smellier than unitary sarin. Also, being inherently less volume efficient, binary bombs carry lower payloads of sarin. So it is noteworthy that no odors were reported at Ltamineh, while odors in Khan Sheikhoun were reported hundreds of yards away from the release.

    While I have no doubt about the culprit being the same in both incidents, namely the Syrian Arab Republic, I don’t think we have enough evidence to say an M4000 was dropped on Khan Sheikhoun rather than a different bomb.

    • Paul Masterson

      “I don’t think we have enough evidence to say an M4000 was dropped on Khan Sheikhoun rather than a different bomb.”

      Just seeing this now so apologies on my previous post asking you for further information on your proposed M4000 hypothesis.

      I’m very much inclined to agree with you that there simply isn’t the evidence to link the M4000 to what happened at Khan Sheykun. This brings us right back to the beginning again in trying to ascertain what type of munition was used?

      Do you feel that the Bellingcat article above should be edited to point out the lack of evidence so as to keep readers informed? Or do you feel it should stay as it is? The scary thing is that most people just read the first few paragraphs of an article, make their mind up and leave ignoring the comments section. That’s the same everywhere though.

      To give you idea of reach my first image I posted above has received 742 (as of writing) views so some people do dig a little deeper it seems.

      • DDTea

        The Bellingcat articles have been more accurate than inaccurate, which is confirmed by the sustained trolling campaign re: Khan Sheikhoun.

        By “other bomb” in the above message, I was referring to either the binary or unitary form of the MYM6000. If they use the same filling cap as the M4000, which is a “unique” match to Syrian chemical bo nvm s per the OPCW, then the presence of said filling cap alone cannot distinguish between the two types of chemical bomb.

        In either case, the Sarin and the bomb were both from Assad’s arsenal. The chemical forensics and the munition both match his stuff, and not even Al-Qaeda could pull off a forgery of that quality without Assad’s complicity.

    • Thomas Peterson

      The thing is bellingcat was adamant Syria wasnt using binary munitions with in-flight mixing, due to their belief that the other garage-built rockets used in 2013 which could not have been binary were fired by Syria not the rebels.

      • Paul Masterson

        With regards to Khan Sheykun (Ghouta has its own set of Higgin’s discrepancies that remain unanswered) unless those claiming an aerial munition laden with Sarin can produce evidence of this munition then it is anything but concluded how Sarin was released there. What we do know for sure is that Eliot hasn’t a clue what caused the release of Sarin at Khan Sheykun and instead, as always, starts from a predertemined conclusion (Russia/Syria guilty) and has then set about working in reverse trying to make the evidence fit the crime. When there is no evidence he just makes stuff up – quite very literally. The evidence is all in this post of such an occurrence and there are many more I would address if I’d the time.

        I have very real concerns about the JIM report and am very aware of the political pressure they were working under, from both sides (Russia/US) but especially from the US. The minute Trump launched Tomahawks into Syria then it was near impossible that this mechanism would come out and say anything other than Syrian/Russian guilt. I think if anyone with an open mind reads this paragraph from the JIM report they will, at minimum, see things just not as black and white as some wants us to believe they are.

        “The admission times of the records range between 0600 and
        1600 hours. Analysis of the aforementioned medical records revealed that in
        57 cases, patients were admitted in five hospitals before the incident in Khan
        Shaykhun (at 0600, 0620 and 0640 hours). In 10 such cases, patients appear to
        have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700
        hours while another 42 patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30
        km away at 0700 hours. The Mechanism did not investigate these
        discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible
        staging scenario, or to poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions.”

        Again, reread that last sentence…

        “The Mechanism did not investigate these discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario, or to poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions.”

        57 people were admitted to hospitals with Sarin exposure BEFORE the actual chemical release occurred! It’s all there in their own words, I’m not making this up. But they call this a “discrepancy” and one that they didn’t feel the need to investigate.

        Finally let’s zoom in…

        “and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario”

        How would people present to hospitals with Sarin poisoning before a Sarin event even occurred unless, say, as noted by the JIM it was a staged event? Maybe? Maybe not? And we aren’t talking 2 or 3 random people here. We are talking 57 people in different hospitals as far as 125km away from Khan Sheykun BEFORE the event occurred.

        I’d love to hear more about this M4000 conspiracy theory from Eliot though.

        • Thomas Peterson

          What we have again and again, in fact always, is rusty debris on the ground which is not recognisably derived from factory produced Soviet or Russian weapons supplied to Syria or produced in Syria to the same design.

          That’s it. QED. No case has been made.

          • Gavin Withers

            My reading is that none of these fragments have been handed over to the U.N. is that correct? Have they made any statement on why that is or if they’ve asked for them to be handed over?

        • Gavin Withers

          Hi Paul

          You seem to have done your homework on this & to be honest you’ve convinced me that Khan Sheikhoun is anything than what it seems. I’m an avid reader of BCat though never felt the need to post to I read your comments. But may I clear a point or two up with you?

          1. Are you suggesting this was a false flag?

          2. What is your background?

          3. If you feel this was a false flag then how to you feel the rebels got hold of Sarin that seems to have been closely tied to the Syrian stockpile?

          These are not loaded questions.

      • DDTea

        The picture is just becoming clearer as information trickles into open sources. It appears that the Syrian Arab Republic stockpiles its nerve agent in binary form. This is a prety sensible thing to do in regard to shelflife and safety.

        Prior to deployment, DF and IPA are mixed in trailers and loaded into unitary weapons.

        But to maintain a chemical warfare capability o n short notice, these mix in flight munitions were also stockpiled.

        It’s very likely we’ve seen both capabilities exercised during the civil war, just as we’ve seen multiple modes of dispersal (rockets, airbombs, grenades, and allegedly landmines).

  7. Thomas Peterson

    And if youre using binary munitions you dont need any of this hexamine acid scavenger nonsense, do you?

    • DDTea

      Quite the contrary: there is a greater need for an amine in a mix in flight muntion. The role of the amine is two fold: as a base to mop up the acid generated, and as a catalyst to ensure the reaction is completed during flight.

      If you’ve taken a sophomore organic chemistry class, search for DMAP catalysis in acylation reactions. Same idea.

      • DDTea

        Also, if not treated with a base in situ, the hydrogen fluoride generated by sarin production can build up enough pressure to burst the bomb casing before it reaches its target.

      • Thomas Peterson

        I’m afraid I dont believe you. There is no need for an acid scavenger in Sarin that is about to be deployed within seconds and the role of an amine as a catalyst for the reaction sounds like something you’ve just made up.

        • DDTea

          It doesn’t matter what you “believe.” This is textbook organic chemistry. If you reject it, you’re only reducing your own credibility.

          So keep thinking that binary sarin “doesn’t require an amine.”

        • Joerg Heinrich

          The M687 US-Atellery-Shell with sarin generates around 70% purity sarin with an optimum of mixing technic an an otimum amount of isopropylamine (mixed with the isoprpyl-alkohol — known as OPA)

          “Binary sarin -mixing without any amine (as acid stravanger) will lead to an an extrem low purity sarin — useless as a weapon.

          • Thomas Peterson

            This doesnt make any sense. HF does not degrade Sarin very fast.

            A few seconds of HF doesnt matter. It will not affect the purity of the Sarin because there is no time for it to do so.

          • JDDTea

            It’s an issue of reaction selectivity: favoring the reaction path leading to the desired product (sarin) while minimizing side reactions leading to side products (diisopropyl methylphosphonate, with unreacted DF). Clearly the amine has a role in this.

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