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Fact-checking more images, videos about Afghanistan and Taliban

The VERIFY team is still monitoring viral videos or images coming out of Afghanistan. Here is the latest.

It’s been less than a week since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s major cities, and in those days, the VERIFY team investigated several viral images or videos social media users claimed to be from the current events. 

This is Part 2 of a fact-check of viral images and videos. For Part 1, click here

Editor’s note: This article contains graphic descriptions and images. 

THE QUESTION

Is it true individuals fell to their deaths from a U.S. C-17 cargo plane as it took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, as this image shows?

An archive of the photo can be found here

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This needs context.

The U.S. Air Force Mobility Command Public Affairs Office said they are investigating the incident from the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul. They told VERIFY there was a “loss of civilian lives” and they are analyzing videos posted to social media as part of the investigation.

WHAT WE FOUND

In a statement to VERIFY, the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command Public Affairs Office said the Department of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) is currently investigating the events from Aug. 16 and the “loss of civilian lives.” 

“In addition to online videos and press reports of people falling from the aircraft on departure, human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar,” the statement said.

The OSI investigation includes reviewing the video documentation and source of the social media posts, they said in the statement to VERIFY. 

The Public Affairs team also provided this timeline of events to VERIFY:

  • On Aug. 16, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) to deliver a load of equipment to support the evacuation of Afghan and American civilians from Afghanistan.
  • Before the aircrew could offload the cargo, the aircraft was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians who had breached the airport perimeter.
  • Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible.
  • In addition to videos seen online and in press reports, human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The aircraft is currently impounded to provide time to collect the remains and inspect the aircraft before it is returned to flying status.

Maxar Technologies also confirmed to VERIFY the airport was a “chaotic scene” on the morning of Aug. 16. Maxar Technologies is a space and technology company, with satellites that captured high-resolution photos from the airport.

“Maxar collected new high-resolution satellite imagery this morning (10:36 AM local time, 16 August) of the chaotic scene underway at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan as thousands of people converged on the tarmac and airport runways as countries attempt to evacuate personnel from the city,” the company said in a statement.

The U.S. Air Force Mobility Command Force Public Affairs office said they could not provide any additional information about the identities of the deceased.

THE QUESTION

Does this video show people rushing into the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul?

The video was posted by Twitter account @conflict_zones on Aug. 16. An archive of the tweet can be found here. The video had been viewed more than 39,000 times as of Aug. 19.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Credit: Screenshot/Twitter


No, the video was taken from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

WHAT WE FOUND

This video was not taken from HKIA but was actually taken ahead of a Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks football game on Jan. 5, 2019. 

The video was originally tweeted by Jon Machota, a reporter with The Athletic. A preview of the game on Jan. 5, 2019, was published by TV station WFAA, which corroborates the date.

The interior of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, viewable via Google Maps, helps confirm the location of the original video.

More from VERIFY: Yes, former President Trump made a deal with the Taliban to pull US troops out of Afghanistan by May 2021

THE QUESTION

Does this video actually show a man riding on a plane’s engine to escape the Taliban?

As of Aug. 18, the video had been shared hundreds of times across Twitter and had over 29,000 views. An archive of a tweet alleging the video was taken from Afghanistan can be found here.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Credit: Screenshot/Twitter


No, that footage dates back to at least Aug. 2020, and one of the earliest versions was posted as a compilation of memes. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Using InVid, a video verification tool, VERIFY was able to isolate the keyframes of the video in order to conduct a reverse image search using the RevEye Chrome extension. RevEye searches for a single image across Google, Bing, Yandex and TinEye. 

VERIFY was able to trace the footage back to the TikTok account of Huy Xuân Mai, who posted this exact meme in Aug. 2020. Other examples of memes from plane engines were posted around the same time (see here and here). Huy Xuân Mai, a Vietnamese graphic designer, has been described as “the God of photoshop.”

More from VERIFY: Yes, fighting terrorism was the original US mission in Afghanistan, but nation-building also became a goal

THE QUESTION

Is this photo showing a Taliban flag over the Afghan presidential palace real?

Credit: Screenshot/Facebook

Since first appearing online around Aug. 15, VERIFY found more than 20 examples of this photo shared across Facebook and Twitter, with hundreds of shares.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the photo was altered to show the Taliban flag raised over the presidential palace. The photo was manipulated using an original photo posted by Afghanistan and Dubai news station Shamshad TV in July 2021. 

WHAT WE FOUND

In July, Shamshad TV, a radio and television network that covers Afghanistan and Dubai, posted a photo of the presidential palace from its verified Facebook page.

VERIFY found the original photo by using RevEve reverse image search, an extension that searches across multiple sites, including Google, Bing, Yandex and TinEye. 

A side-by-side comparison, with the original photo on the left and the manipulated photo on the right, shows how they are the same photo, just with an altered flag. The stars, building fixtures, vehicle and tree in the original photo are all present in the doctored photo.

Credit: Screenshot
A comparison showing how the doctored photo on the right contains the same elements and features as the original, pictured left.

THE QUESTION

Does this photo show a plane packed with only men leaving Kabul?

The photo has been shared in connection with the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, with users claiming that only men were being evacuated out of the country. The Taliban has a history of having restrictive policies for women. An archive of a Twitter post with this photo can be found here.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Credit: Screenshot/Facebook

No, it actually shows migrants being returned from Turkey to Afghanistan and was taken in 2018. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Using reverse image search, VERIFY was able to trace this photo to a 2018 article from the Anadolu Agency, a news outlet based in Ankara, Turkey.

The article states (translated via Google Translate): “6,846 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, who entered Turkey illegally through Iran, were allowed to return to their countries.”

More from VERIFY: Part 1: Fact-checking viral photos, videos about Taliban and Afghanistan

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