A short video clip of a man 'hanging' from a helicopter has gone viral on the internet with news channels and multiple users claiming that it shows the Taliban executing a man in Afghanistan.
The 12-second video was shared by several Indian and international news channels and internet personalities as the situation in Afghanistan after the US ended its military presence there.
However, after a closer analysis of the video and other videos showing the same incident, we found that the man was not being executed but was hanged with a harness.
Journalists based in Afghanistan have said that the man seen in the video was a Talib who was attempting to hoist a Taliban flag on a government building but ultimately failed.
Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary shared the video on Twitter and said, "Taliban hang a person, presumed to be an American interpreter, from a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter. The left over US helicopters will now be used in #Afganistan like this. [sic]"
Several other news organisations shared the video and followed the same line of reporting, such as Republic TV, India TV, Aaj Tak, OpIndia, WION, India Today, and so on. The Quint also carried a story on the incident.
The story was also published by international media outlets like the New York Post and was shared by American politicians and political commentators.
WHAT WE FOUND
We conducted a keyword search for "Taliban AND helicopter" and found news reports carrying the same video that showed a person hanging from a helicopter.
The articles included a video which was posted by a Twitter handle called 'Talib Times' on 30 August. The account called itself the “English language official account of the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan.” The handle has since been suspended by Twitter.
The tweet said, "Our Air Force! At this time, the Islamic Emirate's air force helicopters are flying over Kandahar city and patrolling the city."
Taking a cue from the caption, we search for keywords helicopter, Taliban, and Kandahar in Pashto. Through this search, we found videos of the same incident from different angles.
On the 24-second mark, we can see the harness on the man's back and not around his neck. A little later in the video at 0:50, we can see him waving at people.
An archive of the post can be found here.
An archive of the post can be found here.
Another version of the video was posted by a Twitter user called Jahid Jalal, who clarified on 1 September that the man in video was a Talib who was attempting to fix a flag. "You see in the video that Talib picks up his mobile and takes pictures," according to a Google Translate version of Jalal's tweet.
The user also posted two still photographs of the incident.
Fact-checking organisation Alt News reached out to an Afghan news agency, which also posted the video but from a different angle and it reiterated the same.
"We have a team there, they have confirmed that the person was controlled and hanging from the helicopter to fix the flag at the governor’s building in Kandahar,” the channel told Alt News.
Confirming the story again, Afghan Freelance journalist Bilal Sarwary said on Twitter that he knew the pilot flying the chopper and wrote, “Afghan pilot flying this is someone I have known over the years. He was trained in the US and UAE, he confirmed to me that he flew the Blackhawk helicopter. Taliban fighter seen here was trying to install Taliban flag from air but it didn’t work in the end.”
Similar videos and photos of the incident from different angles were also posted on Facebook. The posts repeated the fact that the attempt of hoisting a flag on a government building was unsuccessful.
Glenn Kessler, editor of Washington Post's Fact Checker, highlighted that the video was mostly likely sourced from a Twitter handle in the name of 'FJ' but he wrote, "I swear I don't know what's going on here". However, the video was shared with misleading narratives by people on the internet.
A Facebook page called "شائستہ چارمنگ" also carried the video where the chopper seems to be making a landing. The caption of the video says it showed the Kandahar airfield.
Based on the visual evidence and reporter accounts from Afghanistan it is clear that the man hanging from the helicopter was not being executed. Even the man's gestures in the video make that clear.
BLACK HAWKS IN POSSESSION OF TALIBAN?
Another point of contention was the presence of Black Hawks with the Taliban. A video shared by Jalal on 25 August confirmed the presence of the use of aircraft that resembled a Black Hawk by the Taliban.
Kenneth McKenzie, the Central Command head said on Tuesday, that the military had demilitarised 73 aircraft and disabled armoured vehicles, and rendered a high-tech rocket defence system useless before their exit.
"Those aircraft will never fly again... They'll never be able to be operated by anyone," he stated, adding, "Most of them are non-mission capable to begin with". The US government is yet to comment on the video or confirm if the aircraft in the viral video was indeed a Black Hawk that the US left behind.
Photographs shared on Getty Images also showed Taliban fighters walking on the tarmac in front of what looks like damaged aircraft.
Therefore, several news organisations and social media users shared the video of Taliban fighter hanging from a harness as an American interpreter being hanged to death. According to local journalists, the Talib in the video was trying to hoist the outfit’s flag on poles of a government building.
Twitter has labelled some of the tweets making the false claim "out of context".
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