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‘Questionable Credibility’: There’s A Major Problem With All Those Wild SAS Sniper Stories Everyone Loves

REUTERS/Atef Hassan.

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent

British tabloid The Daily Star Sunday routinely puts out sensational tales of snipers killing Islamic State fighters in spectacular fashion, but an expert analysis reveals many flaws in the anonymous journalist’s reports.

Stories of snipers saving “hundreds of lives” by killing a suicide bomber and taking out four ISIS terrorists with a single shot have quickly gone viral, generating dozens of headlines in major news outlets. It would appear as though the reporter, Patrick Williams, either sits on a source network most journalists could only dream of or he simply has a wild imagination.

Oddly, The Daily Star Sunday — one of Britain’s most popular weekend tabloids — refuses to prove Williams actually exists. His bylines only appear in the Star Sunday. He has no digital signature outside of the outlet, and the Star Sunday has refused to arrange an interview with him about several of his stories.

The Daily Caller News Foundation asked Maj. John Plaster, a retired Army Special Forces soldier and one of the world’s leading sniping experts, to examine a number of articles.

“All four reported sniping incidents are of questionable credibility, some more than others,” Plaster said in an email to TheDCNF.

The first story is about how an “elite shooter” saved “hundreds of lives” by hitting a suicide bomber’s explosive vest from a range of 800 meters (875 yards). The shooter used a special “soft nose” bullet, which allegedly flattens on impact to expand the wound.

“Although the shot is do-able, plastic explosive like most modern explosives is NOT shock-sensitive. I have personally shot a Claymore Mine – which contains C4 plastic explosive – in an attempt to detonate a ‘dud.’ Hit it several times with a 5.56mm at less than 100 yards and it would not detonate,” Plaster told TheDCNF. “As in at least one other article, the writer describes a special ‘soft nose’ bullet. What difference this would make, I do not know – it would not more likely detonate the explosive.”

The most improbable story claims a Special Air Service (SAS) sniper blew the head off an ISIS commander from 1,200 meters away (1,312 yards) as the terrorist was teaching recruits how to decapitate prisoners.

“Not impossible but so unlikely to hit a target that small (his head) at that distance, that it’s quite improbable. The max range for a planned/deliberate head shot is probably about 400-500 yards,” Plaster said. “Also, it would take 2 seconds to reach the target, enough time for the target to move sufficiently that you would miss. Also, the ‘special bullet which tumbles when it strikes’ is not a special bullet at all. Depending on the point of impact, just about any bullet can tumble.”

Another article claims an SAS sniper killed one of ISIS’s “most feared” flame throwers by hitting his fuel tank from a distance of 1,500 meters (1,640 yards). The flame thrower subsequently turned into a “human fireball.”

“At various times my instructors and I attempted to ignite flammable gasses and liquids with tracer rounds. ALL FAILED. I do not know of any ‘high-velocity tracer,’ and in most cartridges, tracer burn-out occurs at about 1,000 yards,” Plaster said.

An SAS sniper once again “saved hundreds of lives” by killing two car bombers with a single shot from about 1,000 meters (1,094 yards). The two were driving at a speed of 30 mph when the bullet passed through the skull of the driver and hit the passenger in the neck.

“A car moving 30 mph at 90 degrees to the line-of-sight requires a lead of roughly 15 feet for a .338 Lapua Magnum. (We know it was 90 degrees because a single bullet passed through the driver and then hit the passenger beside him.) To PLAN such a shot is very, very, very likely to fail,” Plaster said.

TheDCNF tried to reach out to Williams to get his take on the expert analysis.

An extensive online search found no traces of Williams having a presence on any social media networks. There is further no information suggesting he’s ever been published in another news outlet.

The Daily Star Sunday provided an email address for Williams, but the message immediately bounced back. To the front desk woman’s big surprise, Williams’ name was nowhere to be found in the internal email system. After several refusals from various staff members to put TheDCNF in contact with Williams, Crime Editor Jimmy McCloskey explained that Williams was working under a freelance agreement and referred TheDCNF to Deputy Editor John Ward, who allegedly handles communication with Williams.

Ward insisted Williams is an actual human being, but he refused to give out contact information or any kind of evidence that supports Williams’ existence.

“He’s a very good reporter with lots of good sources and sensitive information so he would like to keep himself anonymous,” Ward told TheDCNF. “It’s fairly standard practice for journalists who actually find news stories.”

To be clear, it is by no means “standard” for a journalist breaking major news stories to maintain anonymity.

Ward further said the stories are completely truthful and that authenticity is confirmed prior to publication.

“If you’re suggesting the stories are made up, I will refute that 100 percent,” Ward said. “I don’t know what you’re trying to get at. We don’t make stories up at The Daily Star Sunday.”

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) does not comment on special forces under any circumstances. A communications representative told TheDCNF that MoD wouldn’t make a statement over a false report since “we don’t comment on special forces.”

A media outlet could hence publish any kind of information surrounding an SAS mission without getting called out on it.

“The MoD would never speak to us about any special forces, they just pretend that they don’t exist,” Ward said. “It’s very hard to get confirmation off them but we can get confirmation from our sources.”

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