Fake news spreads online after Soleimani killing
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While huge funeral processions for Qassem Soleimani get under way in Iran, fake news about his killing has been spreading online. Soleimani, leader of Iran’s elite military unit the Quds Force, was killed by a United States-ordered air raid in Baghdad, Iraq, on January 3. During the following weekend, there were some misattributed videos and photos about the attack. We'll keep adding to this article as we see more appear.
A video of a missile hitting a convoy?
Just a few hours after the American drone hit the convoy that was transporting Qassem Soleimani, this video started circulating online. A number of media outlets picked it up, from the New York Post, to the Daily Mail and The Mirror. On social media, a number of publications saying that the video showed the drone strike on Soleimani's convoy reached 700,000 views.
لحظة العدوان الامريكي الغاشم و اغتيال القائدين الشهيدين قاسم سليماني و ابو مهدي المهندس pic.twitter.com/vbBmAonbV5قناة العهد (@AhadTv) 3 janvier 2020
The source is the same in all of these publications: Al Ahad TV, an Iraqi media owned by Asaïb Ahl al-Haq, a Shiite militia created by the Quds Force.
However, there are a lot of clues that this video can't show the attack on Solemani. If we compare it with photos of the wreckage published by journalists and media outlets in Baghdad, the attack happened here, near the Baghdad airport:
It's on a kind of motorway going in both directions, separated by a central reservation. There's a wall bordering the road, on the side that Soleimani's convoy was travelling on. There is also a row of palm trees and traffic signs a few metres from where the strike occurred, as we can see in the photo below:
This photo of the wreckage was published on CNN.
Here we've transposed the elements we identified in the photo above to this satellite photo.
We can clearly see that the location of the strike isn't anything like the background in the video: in the video, the explosion happens in a narrow space, we can see at least two walls and a row of parked cars, making it look more like a car park than a road. In the background, we can also see a few buildings, which aren't in the area where the attack took place.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team hasn't been able to find where the original video comes from - if you think you might have an idea, please get in touch via our Twitter account @InfoIntoxF24!
The missile hitting Iran
This video was shared on Twitter, and retweeted more than 400 times, with the account who posted it claiming that it was a ‘leaked’ video of a missile hitting Iran. In the video, filmed on a mobile phone out of the window of someone’s home, one can see bright spots in the sky and hear bangs, before a huge explosion as the missile hits earth. The person holding the camera cries out and steps away from the window.
The Twitter account who posted the video, @BonillaaxxMusic, tweeted again saying that "projectiles" had hit a military base in Al Balad and also Baghdad’s city centre on January 5.
However, the fact-checking site HoaxEye found the same video posted on YouTube in November 2018. The YouTube video was posted by the account NEWSDZTECH.
Digging a little deeper and plugging the YouTube URL into Amnesty International’s DataViewer tool shows the video appearing several times in YouTube under different titles. They all say that the video shows rockets raining down over Ashkelon, a city in southern Israel near Gaza, on November 12, 2018. If you type in "ashkelon rocket 2018" you find news articles about the rocket strikes over the city on that date, and many have embedded this video.
Yonat Friling, a producer for the right-wing American television channel Fox News, tweeted on January 3 a photo that allegedly showed graffiti scrawled on a wall in Tehran. She said that the message in Persian read, "Thank you Trump".
The message is praising US President Donald Trump (it’s saying something like ‘good job, Trump’, or ‘well done Trump’) – but it is not related to Friday’s air strike. Images of the graffiti have been posted online before in a video, as far back as 2018, by an account under the name of @HeshmatAlavi – so it certainly didn’t appear after Trump ordered Friday’s assassination.
Friling has since apologised for sharing the photo and deleted her original tweet.
I have deleted the tweet anout the graffiti in Tehran. It was sent to me by a person who claimed to be an Iranian Student and asked to be anonymous. I apologize. Thanks for the kind people who pointed out my mistake. Lesson learned.Yonat Friling (@Foxyonat) January 3, 2020
Another video of the air strike on Soleimani… this time, from a video game
Some people online shared images that allegedly showed a drone strike on the vehicles allegedly transporting Qassem Soleimani. This video was even shared by a TV channel in Turkey.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team video had already verified this video a few days before in a different context. The video actually comes from a mobile phone game [link in French].