Viral Video Depicting Iranian Airstrikes is Fake: Picture and Video Sourced from Other Conflicts
Photos and videos from Libya are being erroneously shared as videos from on-the-ground in Iraq
Claim: A video allegedly depicting the 7th January Iranian airstrike on a US Airbase in Iraq was circulated on WhatsApp to make the attack appear deadlier than it actually was.
Fact: The image and video were older than the Iranian airstrike. The video was originally CCTV footage from a 5th January attack on a military academy in Tripoli, Libya.
On Friday 3 January, the United States military launched an airstrike in Baghdad killing Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Iranian air strikes were carried out in response to the general’s death on Tuesday, targeting the American Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar, Iraq.
This Wednesday 8 January, a video allegedly depicting the airstrike was widely shared on Whatsapp. Although the Pentagon has confirmed the Iranian airstrikes on the Ain Al-Assad air base in Iraq, no casualties were reported. It is unlikely that casualties took place considering the metered US response. This video misleads viewers into believing a deadly attack was carried out against the US military, when this is currently impossible to know.
We decided to fact check this video because it presented characteristics of misinformation that can spread very quickly and expansively. It was frequently forwarded on Whatsapp and lacked any clear details that could put the video in its real context.
Additionally, when we checked other social networks for the same caption as the forwarded Whatsapp message, it turned out that the video had been shared on other platforms including Facebook as well.
A reverse image search of frames from the video gathered multiple results which showed the video being hosted on various news websites under different headlines from before 7th January, 2019. We identified that this video was shared by journalist Samer Al-Atrush on Twitter. The clip was originally CCTV footage from a 5th January attack on a military academy in Tripoli, Libya.
Warning: graphic content below.
The still image at the end of the video implies that it was taken in the aftermath of the explosion. We discovered that this image had been taken out of context to mislead its viewers. The image, taken by the Associated Press, is originally dated to 2014, and has appeared on various fake news stories since then.
This fact check uniquely demonstrates the propensity for misinformation to travel and evolve incredibly fast. A CCTV recording of the academy attack in Tripoli, originally shared on Twitter in Libya, in three days was able to find its way to Whatsapp virality in Pakistan as a recording of Iranian airstrikes against the US.
Summary: The still and video in question are not from Iraq, and the forwarded viral message misleads viewers to believe multiple casualties took place when none can be confirmed.