US Embassy in Pakistan did not confirm that a US drone accidentally targeted a Pakistan Army helicopter

Two fake accounts claiming to be advisors to David Blome have popped up on Twitter

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Claim: Caryn E Gifford, a level 2 policy advisor to American diplomat David Blome, posted a tweet confirming that a US tactical drone accidentally hit a Pakistan Army helicopter in Balochistan’s Lasbela, resulting in multiple fatalities. 

Fact: The US embassy has not issued any statement regarding the recent Pakistan Army helicopter accident in Lasbela, Balochistan. The official Twitter account of the Inter Services Public Relations Pakistan (ISPR) confirmed that wreckage from the crash was found in Musa Goth, Winder and that the accident occurred due to bad weather conditions. 

On 1 August 2022, a Twitter account popped up on Pakistani social media, claiming to represent Caryn E Gifford, a “level 2 policy advisor to David Blome”. David Armin Blome, an American diplomat, was sworn in as the US Ambassador to Pakistan on 11 April 2022. 

@CarynEGifford’s account posted a tweet stating, “The U.S. embassy in Pakistan regrets to inform that: • One of our tactical drones has accidentally targetted a #PakistanArmy #helicopter resulting in multiple fatalities • Team is on crash the site #Lasbela, Balochistan & we mourn the loss of Commander 12 Corps Lt. Gen. S. Ali.”

After the tweet was posted, some users started questioning the authenticity of the account. Shortly afterwards, the account was removed from Twitter but a screenshot of the tweet in question was still being circulated widely on the platform.

Fact or Fiction?

We found that Caryn E Gifford’s Twitter account has changed its username to @ChantilleAustin. This account has the exact same Twitter bio and date of joining Twitter as @CarynEGifford. Furthermore, clicking on old hyperlinks of tweets tagging @CarynEGifford now directs users to the @ChantilleAustin Twitter account. 

All old tweets posted with the account’s previous name have now been deleted. 

Soch Fact Check got in touch with the US Embassy in Islamabad and their spokesperson informed us that the embassy is currently in touch with Twitter and trying to get this account removed since the information it is spreading is false. Moreover, the spokesperson asserted that no one by the name of Caryn E Gifford or Chantille Austin worked as policy advisors to David Blome.

Screenshot of @CarynEGifford’s Twitter profile.

Screenshot of @ChantilleAustin, changed username from @CarynEGifford – taken from Twitter.

We also reverse image searched the two pictures uploaded as Twitter displays for both the corresponding usernames and found zero matches. 

Soch Fact Check also reached out to the Rescue 1122 team to get more information on the helicopter accident. Abbas Khan, a rescue worker from Balochistan, sent us a voice note confirming that no bodies have been found so far, only rubble. Abbas Ali, an audio-video-camera (AVC) person who works with the rescue workers from Mardan confirmed that, according to his information, the accident occurred due to bad weather. 

Shortly afterwards, the official DG ISPR Twitter account confirmed that the wreckage of the helicopter was found in Musa Goth, Winder, Lasbela and that all six Pakistan military officers were killed in the crash. According to the preliminary investigation, the accident was caused by bad weather.

https://twitter.com/OfficialDGISPR/status/1554412034967719936

The Pakistan military, the US Embassy in Pakistan, and the Rescue 1122 team, all maintained that the information regarding a US tactical drone hitting a Pakistan military helicopter is false. 

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for 2 August 2022 using the following search terms:

  • “carynEgifford” “chantille austin”
  • “US” “helicopter” “drone”

We found several users tweeting about the false information contained in the tweet and speculating whether the account was fake and if the tweet made was correct. In just one day,the account got almost 700 followers, who are all Pakistanis. Neither the US embassy, nor any other verified account follows this account. 

Tweets related to this claim reached at least 123,524 people and gathered over 550 interactions. Some examples can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Conclusion: On 2 August 2022, a Twitter account with the name Caryn E Gifford, that claimed to be a “level 2 policy advisor to Donald Blome”, posted a tweet claiming that a US tactical drone accidentally hit a Pakistan Army helicopter in Lasbela, Balochistan. The US Embassy has denied this claim and stated that the account is fake. Moreover, a US Embassy spokesperson stated that no one by the name Caryn E Gifford works as a policy advisor to David Blome.

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