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Fake news flying thick on India-Pak air strikes: 2005 Balakot quake pictures

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 28, Feb 2019, 9:25 am IST | UPDATED: 28, Feb 2019, 9:25 am IST

Fake news flying thick on India-Pak air strikes: 2005 Balakot quake pictures

Delhi: Pakistan on Wednesday claimed that its air force had shot down two Indian aircraft and that an Indian pilot was arrested by troops. Minutes later, reports arrived a F-16 jet of Pakistan, that had violated Indian air space, was shot down by India in the Lam valley, in Nowshera sector.

Meanwhile, a Mi-17 transport chopper has  Budgam. The exact cause behind this attack has not been determined. Given the relatively short period of time within which these three developments broke, confusion reigned on social media where journalists, news portals and those following the news traded various versions of the yet unverified reports of the three air crashes.

A number of the images and videos circulated in the immediate aftermath were claimed to be fake, with many pinning the blame for the circulation of fake images on Pakistan.

Pakistan army spokesperson Asif Ghafoor's tweet, that set off the cycle of claims, mentioned that of the two Indian aircraft that Pakistan reportedly hit, one fell inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir while other fell inside the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Shortly afterwards, videos of what was claimed to be the wreckage of the aircraft were shared by several people on Twitter, among them the Pakistani dailies Dawn and Express Tribune and the channel, the Pakistan Television Corporation.

The latter of a man blindfolded and another of a pilot lying wounded on the ground were both "exclusive" videos that showed Indian pilots who had been flying jets that were allegedly struck down by Pakistan.

However, the time stamp of the videos, uploaded to YouTube, was 26 February, 2019. Both videos were widely shared on Twitter and shown on Pakistani television channels.

Many have since claimed that the video of the soldier lying on the ground was shot at the Yemlur grounds of Bengaluru, after one of the pilots on the Surya Kiran fell to the ground after the crash.

He was later identified as Wing Commander Vijay Shelke, one of the pilots who had ejected safely after the two aircraft crashed.

Some said Kannada could clearly be heard in the background, causing both "Kannada" and #PakFakeClaims to trend on Twitter.

However, there is no clarity on whether the widely shared video of a man who is injured and is standing upright, blindfolded, does indeed show the Indian pilot who is missing.

In the circulating video, the captured man can be heard identifying himself as "Wing Commander Abhinandan" but there is no clarity yet on whether he is the man missing in action.

Both the Dawn and the Express Tribune have taken down the contentious images and instead run with two images attributed to Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations. Those have not been proven to be fake yet.

Some of these images, which were shared on social media, including on 'I Support Amit Shah' — a fan group on Facebook dedicated to BJP president Amit Shah — and on WhatsApp were, in fact, from the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which caused maximum damage in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The fan group shared the image of the devastation caused in Balakot after the earthquake as damage caused by IAF jets.

Another image, which has been circulating on social media is that of a crowd mourning their dead. This image was (presented as victims of IAF strikes in Balakot), but was originally from a bomb blast in 2014, which took place near the India-Pakistan border. According to Reuters, which published the image in 2014, 57 Pakistanis were killed in the attack.

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