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White Helmets founder James Le Mesurier found dead in Istanbul

THE former British army officer who helped found Syria’s White Helmets rebel organisation was found dead in Istanbul yesterday.

James Le Mesurier’s body was discovered in the street outside his home in the Turkish city’s Beyoglu district.

The Istanbul governor’s office said that “comprehensive administrative and judicial investigations” have been initiated into the death, but that police have established that no-one entered or left his home at the time of the “incident,” to which there are no reported witnesses, and that officials believe he may have fallen to his death by accident.

During his time in the British army, Mr Le Mesurier’s roles included serving as intelligence co-ordinator in Pristina, Kosovo, following the Nato bombardment and dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1999.

He later worked for the mercenary Olive Group organisation as “vice-president for special projects.” The group, which mainly recruits ex-SAS personnel, was active in providing private security for US firms that entered Iraq following the US-led invasion of 2003, including construction giant Bechtel.

It was among the private armies identified by the War on Want charity in 2016 as making Britain the “mercenary kingpin” of the world, with a greater role in the private military industry than any other country.

The White Helmets group was founded in 2013 and describes itself as a humanitarian organisation, frequently releasing footage of its operatives rescuing people from rubble following reported air strikes by Syrian or Russian bombers. 

Critics say the group is aligned with terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida, in whose territories it has mostly operated, and it has been accused of faking footage and chemical attacks. Some of its workers have been identified in other footage as armed militants belonging to rebel formations.

It received $123 million (£96m) in funding from the British and US governments shortly after its foundation.

Turkey has extensive links to Syrian jihadist organisations, some of which have been organised into the Free Syrian Army units involved in the current Turkish invasion of northern Syria.

It is unknown to what extent Mr Le Mesurier, whose White Helmets reportedly worked with some of the same organisations, was privy to sensitive information on these links.

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