These Fake Accounts Impersonate Abhinandan, Gain Followers
At present, there appears to be two accounts that are impersonating the IAF pilot on Twitter.
IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman received a hero’s welcome when he returned from Pakistan on Friday, 1 March.
But merely hours after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that his government would release the IAF pilot, several impostor handles claiming to be the captured pilot started gaining traction on Twitter.
IMPOSTOR ACCOUNT 1
One such handle is @IAFAbhinandan. With hardly 13 tweets at the time this article was being written, the twitter handle has a little over 300 followers.
Interestingly, the account was set up only in February 2019, and the first tweet from this account was made soon after Khan’s announcement, thanking him for his gesture, adding that despite being an Indian pilot, he would “fight for Pakistan.”
Further, another tweet from the fake account also spoke of how ‘Abhinandan’ would now go back to India and request PM Modi to “stop the brutality in kasmir” and “open waga border so people of both side can roam in both countries freely.”
IMPOSTOR ACCOUNT 2
While investigating @IAFAbhinandan, we came across a tweet where another handle tweeted calling it out for being a “fake handle.”
This account was a certain @abhinandanhere, which had over 650 followers at the time of writing this article.
However, unlike the previous account, this handle was created way back in February 2015, indicating that the handle and username had been changed to impersonate Abhinandan only recently.
Considering how Abhinandan had been in news only over the last few days, The Quint checked this account’s ‘tweet and replies’ section, and we gathered that the handle was previously called @mad_max_virgo.
The account is clearly based out of Pakistan, as some of the older tweets appear to provide some sort of commentary on the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL).
While attempting to establish a timeline as to when the account might have changed its name to impersonate Abhinandan via Twitter Advanced search, we gathered that the last tweet from account @mad_max_virgo said #Bio updated.
IMPOSTOR ACCOUNT 3
A day after Varthaman’s release, Twitter handle @_WCAbhinandan , created in March 2019, claimed that it was the “official” account of the Wing Commander.
While the account had amassed more than 13,000 followers by 3 March, it was suspended by Twitter, later in the day.
IMPOSTER ACCOUNT 4
Twitter account @Abhinandan, created in February 2019, predominantly tweets in Tamil. The account predominantly tweets photos of Abhinandan available on public platform, claiming to be the Wing Commander.
However, government sources, speaking to ANI, denied the claim.
Air Force Issues Clarification
The Air Force on Wednesday, 6 March, issued a clarification saying that Abhinandan does not have a social media account on any portal. It also asked people to be wary of fake accounts.
WHO IS WING COMMANDER ABHINANDAN VARTHAMAN?
A wing commander with the Indian Air Force, Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani forces on Wednesday, 27 February, after the PAF shot down the MiG-21 Bison fighter jet he was flying. He ejected safely from his aircraft, but landed across the Line of Control.
Speaking in the Pakistan Parliament, Imran Khan on Thursday, 28 February, confirmed that IAF pilot Abhinandan will be released on Friday, 1 March.
Earlier on Thursday, his father, retired Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, prayed for his son’s safe return, expressing hope that he does not get tortured in Pakistan.
In a message, he said, “We are so proud of him. I am sure all your hands and blessings are on his head, prayers for his safe return, I pray that he does not get tortured, and comes home safe and sound in body and mind (sic).”
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