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Old, foreign pictures being recycled to depict recent raid on insurgents – Report

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A recent report by TinEye and HumAngle has shown that old, foreign and misleading pictures are being used to depict recent military raids on insurgents.

The Nigerian military reported that they recently raided an enclave of Boko Haram terrorists inside the Sambisa Forest, seizing ammunition and religious books and burning the structures.

However, after investigating the pictures that accompanied most of the report using the reverse image search tool, the publication found that the aerial shot of a burning building located in a desert land first appeared on the internet in March 2018.

How it started:

On January 15, 2021, a day set aside to remember Nigeria’s fallen heroes, a Twitter user, LMAN (@L_man__), shared four pictures suggesting that they showed the aftermath of a recent military onslaught against Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest area.

He captioned the photos, “Boko Haram has abandoned one of their Sambisa enclaves under the superior power of Nigeria’s military.”

The pictures included an aerial view of burning structures as well as shots of religious books and ammunition seized from insurgents.

Another Twitter user, AGGN (@haruna_braimoh), shared three of the pictures and a fifth one, explicitly claiming they were taken recently.

“Shekau was here 2021. Yeye. Bullet keel you.!! This is inside the Sambisa Forest and the inners of the BH leader!! May Allah strengthen the Nigeria military & allied forces to do the needful finally to finish this business successfully,” he wrote.

Both tweets had over 2,000 interactions on the social media platform and several news sites and blogs replicated the images.

After close investigations, one of the pictures was discovered to have been on the internet since 2008. In a 2009 publication by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the picture was captioned as “the burning of Um Ziefa in Darfur, Sudan,” dated Dec. 12, 2004, and credited to Brian Steidle, a photographer for the museum.

The museum noted that over 3,300 villages were damaged or destroyed mostly between 2003 and 2005 in the Darfur region during the height of the brutal Sudanese government-backed campaign targeting civilians.

The other four pictures were traced back to a post from Jan. 31, 2018, shared on by the Nigerian Army’s former Director of Public Relations, Brig.-Gen.  Sani Kukasheka Usman (rtd) on his Facebook wall.

Brig-Gen. Usman had uploaded a total of 24 pictures explaining that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, under Operation Deep Punch II, had cleared Camp Zairo the previous day and recovered battle tanks among other items.

“Yesterday, Tuesday 30th January 2018, the advancing troops had contact with Boko Haram terrorists and engagement ensued.

“During the encounter, they were able to recover an Eagle Main Battle Tank (EMBT), 1 VBL, 1 AK-47 Rifle, a Police Teargas Rifle, religious books, many gas cylinders and bags of fertiliser, ostensibly for Improvised Explosives Devices making.

“Other items destroyed by the gallant troops include 7 Gun trucks, 4 Trucks, 5 Hilux, 1 Prado Jeep, 1 Golf car, 4 Mitsubishi pick up, 1 Hiace bus, several Motorcycles, makeshift shelters, tentages and household items,” he had written.

The report concluded that all the pictures were not recent and have been used in a misleading context.

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