Fake news: Video of militia torturing migrant not filmed in Libya

Screen grap of video that went viral showing a migrant being tortured in Libya. Source : Facebook.
Screen grap of video that went viral showing a migrant being tortured in Libya. Source : Facebook.


Men in army fatigues hit a black man, then try to burn his hair and beard with a lighter. These are the shocking images in a video that has been shared thousands of times on Facebook over the past few days, supposedly showing the humiliation and torture of sub-Saharan migrants going through Libya. But we rummaged through the internet and found a different story…

On November 14, American media CNN published a horrifying video of sub-Saharan African migrants sold at a slave auction in Libya.

In the buzz around this video, several other videos were posted on social media supposedly showing the abuse of migrants in Libya. One of these videos was a scene of torture, and has been shared hundreds of times since Saturday, November 18 on Facebook pages for African news, such as La démocratie en Afrique, Guinée News & Arts, and CamBuzz.

“Look, an African brother tortured in Libya,” says the caption under this video.

Screen capture of a Guinean Facebook page. The caption says that the scene took place in Libya.

In the video, a group of men in army fatigues are interrogating a black man, who is sitting on the ground and wearing a bloody bandage around his foot. One of the accusers, wearing military-style trousers and a striped polo shirt, asks him, “Where are you from?” When the man responds that he is Sudanese, the man attacks him. He slaps him several times, then stands on his injured foot. He then takes out a lighter and tries to burn the man’s hair and beard, while his companions laugh.

Screen capture from the video: a militiaman tries to burn the hair and beard of his victim with a lighter.

Screen capture showing another militiaman pressing a gun against the victim’s head.


Our first clue: the accent

One aspect of the video indicates that the video was not filmed in Libya. The militiamen speak Arabic with an accent from the Middle East – not a Libyan accent. A Google search with the keywords ‘Sudanese’ and ‘torture’ in Arabic shows that the video has cropped up online several times before.

This video was actually filmed in Mosul on July 25, 2017, alongside the military offensive led by Iraqi security forces to take back the town from IS fighters.

The scene shows several members of the Iraqi federal police torturing a Sudanese man, who they accuse of being a jihadist fighter.


A costly diplomatic mistake

The emergence of the video actually caused a diplomatic upset between Iraq and Sudan. Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs called an official from the Iraqi embassy to attend a meeting in Khartoum, where he informed him about the protests going on in Sudan in response to the video.


…But a happy ending

The Sudanese man, for his part, has nothing to do with the IS group. His name is Moussa Bachir, and he’s a shopkeeper in Mosul, where’s he lived for some 20 years. He was briefly hospitalised to treat his injuries after the attack.

On July 30, 2017, a few days after the attack, the Iraqi minister of the interior, Qassim al-Araji, publicly apologised to Moussa Bachir during a trip to Mosul – as this report from an Iraqi TV channel shows.

By way of apology, the authorities even granted Bachir Iraqi nationality.

However, there is a real epidemic of abuse against migrants in Libya. The FRANCE 24 Observers team has documented the terrible suffering of migrants in Libya on several occasions.

In June 2017, we reported on the daily hell of Somalian and Ethiopian migrants, detained and starved by migrant traffickers.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: WhatsApp call shows horrific abuse of kidnapped migrants in Libya

And in 2016, a young Cameroonian migrant told us about daily life in Tripoli – and the violence and fear it entailed.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Migrant life in Libya: Extortion, kidnappings, gun violence