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ETHIOPIA

Debunked: No, these photos don’t show the destruction of an airport in Ethiopia

Online, people have been circulating old photos from Ukraine and Libya, falsely claiming that show the destruction of Aksoum Airport in Ethiopia’s Tigray province.
Online, people have been circulating old photos from Ukraine and Libya, falsely claiming that show the destruction of Aksoum Airport in Ethiopia’s Tigray province. © Social media
Text by: Diana Liu
4 min

Aksoum Airport, located in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, was damaged on November 22, according to Ethiopian news agency ENA, as part of the ongoing conflict between the Ethiopian army and the separatist Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). However, some of the photos circulating online that are said to show the airport were actually taken during conflicts in Libya and Ukraine.

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On November 22, the Ethiopian national press agency ENA reported that Aksoum Airport in the northern province of Tigray had been destroyed by “TPLF extremists”, or members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The Ethiopian army has been leading an offensive against this group for the past three weeks. 

On the same day, images showing the damaged interior of an airport terminal were shared hundreds of times on Facebook. In the post, the user laments the destruction of Aksoum Airport. 

However, a reverse image search (click here to find out how) quickly shows that these images aren’t, in fact, of Aksoum Airport. The first two photos show Tripoli Airport in Libya. They were taken by journalist Marine Olivesi on September 2, 2014:

This screengrab shows the article published by The World that includes the photo of the destroyed airport in Tripoli, Libya in September 2014.
This screengrab shows the article published by The World that includes the photo of the destroyed airport in Tripoli, Libya in September 2014. © Marine Olivesi

This Facebook post from November 22 also claims to show photos of the destroyed airport in Aksoum.

However, the photo below is actually an image of Donetsk Airport in Ukraine. It was taken from a video filmed by CNN correspondents on February 2, 2015. The Facebook page Sidaama Today was quick to criticise the misuse of this image outside of its original context. 

 

This is a screengrab of a video filmed by CNN in Donetsk Airport in Ukraine in 2015.
This is a screengrab of a video filmed by CNN in Donetsk Airport in Ukraine in 2015. © CNN

 

Airport terminal still standing

Images posted on YouTube on November 23 by the Addis Media Network TV channel show debris on the landing strip at Aksoum Airport. However, you can see that the terminal building is intact.

 

 

Aksoum Airport only has one terminal, as shown on the website Sleepinginairports.

The landing strip at Aksoum Airport was indeed damaged; however, certain images that people have circulated on social media, claiming to show a damaged terminal, actually show other airports destroyed during past conflicts in Ukraine and Libya.  

On November 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive against the TPLF, which tried to secede in September, in the Tigray region. A wave of refugees fleeing the fighting crossed the border into neighbouring Sudan. On November 23, Abiy gave the TPLF an ultimatum, telling them they had three days to surrender. The fact that internet and phone connections in the region have been shut down makes it extremely difficult for the media to cover the conflict. 

After helping to overturn the Marxist military Derg regime in the late 1980s, the TPLF held power in Ethiopia for more than 30 years. Abiy, the first prime minister from the Oromo ethnic minority, took office in 2018 and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his work fostering reconciliation between Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea. Abiy’s reform-based agenda has clashed with the deep-rooted TPLF military and economic influence in government institutions and has led to growing tensions between the government and this group.

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