Warning, this video has nothing to do with recent rebel offensives in Chad
Issued on: Modified:
A video has been circulating online since around the time the president of Chad, Idriss Déby Itno, was killed on April 20, 2021 on the front lines of a battle against a rebel group known as FACT. The footage was said to show state-of-the-art equipment used by this armed group, whose full name is the Fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad. It turns out, however, that this footage was filmed back in 2017 and actually shows mercenaries fighting alongside Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces in Libya’s civil war.
The video that started circulating in late April 2021 shows at least three Panthera T6 armoured vehicles, which are manufactured in the United Arab Emirates, as well as pick-ups carrying heavy weapons. One of the cars is carrying eight rockets and a rocket launcher.
This video was said to show rebels from the armed group FACT advancing on the capital, N'Djamena. It started circulating even more widely after the president was killed while visiting the front lines of the battle against this rebel group.
Some posts claimed that this footage shows FACT rebels in the days leading up to the president’s death, while others said it was filmed the day after his death.
The men in this video wear a variety of different uniforms. One speaks in a mix of Chadian Arabic and the Daza language, which is spoken in northern Chad. "Get in the car," he says to one of his fellow soldiers.
Even though many members of FACT are from northern Chad and speak Daza, there are several details in the video that cast doubt on the theory that it shows a recent demonstration of force by FACT.
Firstly, there are a few visual clues that indicate that these men are fighting with the forces of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army. Haftar’s forces, which control the eastern part of Libya, represent one side of the bloody civil war that has torn the country apart. He is backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France.
One of the armoured vehicles has a Libyan flag attached to the front. There is also a partial inscription visible on a windshield. The text, which arcs in half circle, says Libyan National Army in Arabic.
These clues cast doubt on the theory that these videos show FACT forces. Our team carried out a reverse image search (click here to find out how) using the Yandex search engine that confirmed that this footage actually had a totally different origin and had been taken out of context. First of all, this video was already online a few years ago – back in 2018. Moreover, other images posted online as far back as May 2017 show the same scene and the same convoy.
What does this video actually show?
When we ran this footage through a reverse image search, it pulled up several posts from May 19, 2017 that explain this video shows several brigades from the Libyan National Army that were deployed from the town of Traghen or from the Brak al-Shati air base.
Our team continued to search for more information from the many Facebook pages affiliated with the Libyan National Army and eventually found a series of photos from May 17, 2017 that matched another video posted on May 19, 2017.
This video, which was published on Facebook by a Libyan social media user who claims to be based in the town of Koufra (located in the south of the country), shows the same military convoy. This post is the oldest instance of this video on social media to our knowledge. We weren’t able to establish if it was circulating before that, perhaps on private pages or messaging applications.
These images show a military parade organised in the southern part of the country by the 129th brigade of the Libyan National Army, which is also sometimes called the Desert Lions Brigade or the Martyr Ali’s Brigade. The parade was held in honour of the 3rd anniversary of Operation Dignity, the name given by Haftar’s forces to the Battle of Benghazi, which they won on May 16, 2014.
The layout of these vehicles, as well as the logos painted on them are recognisable, as are the rockets attached to one of them.
The series of photos and the video from 2017 include a few details that enable us to confirm that it does, indeed, show this specific brigade. First, the words "Lions of the Desert" and "Martyr Ali" are written in Arabic on the windshields of several cars.
The reason that the video features a man speaking Daza is because a large part of this group is made up of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa, including some from Chad. The commander of the brigade, Ali Said Al Tabawi, is well-known for working alongside Haftar to recruit them. Moreover, a number of documents shared on social media mention that there are Chadians serving in that brigade. Indeed, the inscriptions on some of the cars read “Toubou Lions of the Desert”. Toubou is the name of an ethnic group present in the region that straddles Chad, Libya, Sudan and Niger.
Experts from the region believe that many members of the FACT rebel group, which is made up largely of people from the Toubou tribe, fought alongside Haftar’s troops during the Libyan Civil War. However, foreign troops were forced to leave the country after a peace deal was signed on October 23, 2020 between Haftar and his rival, the Libyan government based in Tripoli. Since then, these rebels have returned to Chad.
Our team wasn’t able to find any images that confirmed that the FACT rebel group had any armoured Panthera T6 vehicles in their possession. The Chadian Army and the media shared a series of images the day before the president was killed that they said showed 300 rebels who they had captured. The only vehicles shown in the photos, however, are pick-ups carrying heavy weapons and transport trucks.
"They reportedly deployed 400-450 cars with heavy military equipment, which surprised the Chadian army ... With Haftar also being backed by Russia, there have been rumours that the rebels were trained by Russian military contractor Wagner. There has been, however, no evidence that either Wagner or Haftar equipped the rebels to fight outside Libya,” Chad specialist Jérôme Tubiana said in an interview with news channel Al Jazeera.
The photos that were circulating online in the days before the death of Chadian president Idriss Déby were taken out of context: They don’t show FACT rebels.
The oldest online trace of the military convoy that appears in the video is from May 16, 2017. That video shows a parade in the desert of southern Libya by a battalion made up of a large number of sub-Saharan mercenaries, including certain Chadians.
While it’s possible that some individuals in the video later joined FACT, these photos can’t be associated with the group’s recent military advances.