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 crashed in Jammu and Kashmir's 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 claimed that a video 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.
2nd Indian Pilot Arrested Alive... pic.twitter.com/TaYWNCCljY
— Dr Shahid Masood (@Shahidmasooddr) February 27, 2019
The Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed that there has been an air-to-air engagement between Pakistan and India and a pilot of a MiG 21 is missing in action.
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.
The two IAF jets shown on Pakistani media had the tail numbers TU657 and A3492. The first was an IAF Mikoyan MiG-27MU which crashed in a residential area of the city on 12 June, 2016. The aircraft was on a routine training sortie when it crashed and around three people had been injured. Two houses in the area had been damaged.
The second, A3492, was a Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer which crashed on 3 June, 2015 in Odisha's Mayurbhanj. Since the Hawk A-3492 crashed in a paddy field about 200 metres from human habitation around noon, there were no reports of any civilian casualties or loss of property, The Hindu had reported.
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.
The spread of misinformation regarding flights continued on Thursday when it emerged that photographs of a jet being circulated as a felled MiG-21 were actually that of the Pakistani F-16 that had been brought down by India and were found in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.
ANI reported that the Commanding Officer of Pakistan's 7 Northern Light Infantry was also visible in the photograph.
Pakistani social media accounts also shared what appeared to be a manufactured video of an Indian Air Force jet being shot down, reported the fact-checking website Alt-News. The video has been picked up from a 2015 video uploaded by a YouTube channel "Pakistan Defense."
Paksitani website The News claimed that the Indian government has removed a senior air force officer reportedly after Pakistan’s successful strikes and capturing of a pilot on 27 February.
ANI clarified on Friday that Western Air Command Chief Air Marshal C Hari Kumar retired on 28 February, the day he was scheduled to retire, after completing more than 39 years of service. Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar took over as his successor
Fake news of IAF strike
In India, fake images of JeM camps which were struck by Indian Air Force jets on Tuesday were circulated too. According to Alt-News, a bunch of images showing the destruction caused by the IAF jets in Balakot and circulated on social media, were fake.
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.
Another image which shows rescue workers in Pakistan carrying dead bodies on a stretcher (below), was in fact, from a 2017 blast in Lahore, Pakistan. The image was taken by AFP. According to Dawn, which published the image, at least "26 people, including nine policemen, were killed while 58 others were injured in the bombing attack near the Arfa Karim IT Tower on Lahore's Ferozepur Road".
Tensions between India and Pakistan have been escalating since the 14 February terror attack at Pulwama, killing 42 Central Reserve Police Force soldiers. After the IAF carried out air strikes on terror training camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan has convened two high-level meetings involving Prime Minister Imran Khan.
While Pakistan has acknowledged the IAF operation in Balakot, it has denied that the effort resulted in any casualties.
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Updated Date: Mar 04, 2019 08:44:59 IST