Misleading photos circulate online after Sri Lanka bombings

Misleading photos claiming to show victims of the Sri Lankan bombings circulated online.
Misleading photos claiming to show victims of the Sri Lankan bombings circulated online.

After the bombings in Sri Lanka on April 21 that left 359 dead and more than 500 injured, photos began circulating online claiming to show mass funerals for the victims of the attacks.

But the misleading photos were often lifted from previous tragedies, including a landmine explosion in 2006 and car accidents. The Observers team looked into where some of these photos really came from.

Landmine explosion in 2006

Some users shared photos of dozens of coffins, draped in white, being carried through crowded streets and placed in a large grave, alleging that they depicted a mass funeral for victims of the April 21 bombing. But they were in fact taken on June 16, 2006, a day after a passenger bus hit a landmine in northern Sri Lanka, killing at least 64 people. Authorities blamed the attack on Tamil Tiger rebels, which the group refuted.

You can see the original photos on the Agence France-Presse and Getty Images websites. They are not related to the Easter attacks that targeted churches and hotels in three Sri Lankan cities.

Sri Lankan civil war

Some online users who shared the photo below also claimed that it showed a funeral for victims of the recent bombings. But a search online revealed that the photo was previously published in 2013 by Al Jazeera as part of a story on a Sri Lankan census of the victims of the civil war, which ended in 2009. The undated image was taken by Associated Press photographer Manish Swarup.

Funerals of Sri Lankan children

The photo below of the bodies of four children in coffins was shared by websites including CKN Nigeria and the conservative American site MRCTV. But it in fact shows the recent funeral of family members killed in a car accident in Batticaloa, in eastern Sri Lanka. Photos of the funeral were published on April 18, three days before the Easter attacks

Some websites, including the right-wing Laïque Repost and the Egyptian news site Almwaten, posted photos of the body of a young child and claimed that it was a victim of the April 21 bombings. But like the photo above, this one was taken at a funeral of a child who died in a car accident. Local media covered the event on April 18.

Some online users shared photos of a dead baby girl who appears to have a wound on her forehead. The Observers found that the photo was previously posted on Facebook on May 12, 2018 and published by Sri Lankan media a day later. The cause of death is not mentioned, but the photo evidently has nothing to do with the Easter Sunday bombings.