The United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, marking an end to two decades of conflict. The US has reportedly abandoned military equipment and those not dismantled have been taken over by the Taliban.
A video of the Taliban parading a helicopter in the skies of Kandahar is massively viral on social media. Media outlets and journalists alike have claimed that the video shows the Taliban hanging a person, presumably an American interpreter, from a US Black Hawk helicopter. Below is a tweet by Zee News editor-in-chief Sudhir Chaudhary.
Another landmark picture taking the world in a new era of terror.
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. pic.twitter.com/8q6C5bo4IB
— Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) August 31, 2021
The claim was also promoted by India Today executive editor Shiv Aroor who shared an article by his outlet.
The news was carried by numerous mainstream media outlets – News24, News18, WION, ZEE5, Aaj Tak, Navbharat Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Zee Hindustan, India TV, ANI, MSN India, Zee News, NDTV, Republic and ABP News. Pro-BJP propaganda outlet OpIndia also ran a story.
With a keyword search on Twitter in Pashto, we came across the following tweets that confirmed the helicopters were flying in Kandahar.
— Jahid Jalal -جاهد جلال (@A_Jahid_Jalal) August 30, 2021
— Jahid Jalal -جاهد جلال (@A_Jahid_Jalal) August 30, 2021</blockquote
Taking ‘Kandahar’ as a keyword in Pashto, we found another video of a man suspended from a helicopter. This is a clearer video.
کندهار تازه صورت حال pic.twitter.com/HM2CP2aZHg
— احمد صاحب (@haji52292547) August 30, 2021
If you look closely, the rope can be seen attached to the man’s back. He is suspended from a harness and not a noose around the neck.
Furthermore, in the same video, the man can also be seen making gestures, especially 15 seconds onward. He is not dead unlike suggested on the internet.
Alt News came across a tweet by Afghan news agency Aśvaka that posted a similar video of a helicopter over the Kandahar governor office. We got in touch with the channel via DM and it confirmed that the man was suspended from the helicopter to fix the flag on the governor’s building. “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 us.
— Aśvaka – آسواکا News Agency (@AsvakaNews) August 30, 2021
Local journalist Sadiqullah Afghan had also posted one of the videos that showed a man suspended from a helicopter. He informed that the man was a Talib and was trying to put a flag on a 100-metre pole.
یوه چورلکه د کندهار ولایت پر مقام لیدل کیږي، چي یو کس په ځوړند دی، تر اوسه مسولینو په دې اړه وضاحت نه دی ورکړی. pic.twitter.com/8xlWLgR5dh
— Sadiqullah Afghan (@SadiqullahAfgha) August 30, 2021
Another Afghan journalist tweeted that he is acquainted with the Afghan pilot was who flying the helicopter. He identified the man suspended from the chopper as a Taliban member attempting to install the extremist Islamist group’s flag but failing.
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. https://t.co/wnF8ep1zEl
— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 31, 2021
A keyword search on Facebook using کندهار ولایت مقام (Kandahar province) led us to a video of a man hovering over a flag pole. The post said that the Taliban was attempting to hoist its flag at the governor’s office. In this video as well, the man is clearly alive. He is also trying to take something out of his pockets.
ا.ا.ا غوښتل چي د څرخي الوتکي په مرسته ولایت مقام کي د ۱۰۰ میتره بېرغ پرځای خپل بېرغ و ځړوي، خو بریالي نه سول.
Posted by Khan Mohammad Ayan on Monday, 30 August 2021
A similar video was shared by a local reporter from Kandahar Arghand Abdulmanan.
It must be pointed out that the piece of misinformation is viral across the world, including New York Post. From what it seems, the video gained widespread attention after it was posted by @natsecjeff1. However, he did not make any claims while sharing the clip. Another user @Holbornlolz who identifies himself as a comedian added the “man hanging from a helicopter” spin. The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted about how the narrative was twisted on the internet.
Here’s how things get twisted on the Internet. You know that image of the Taliban supposedly hanging someone from a BlackHawk helicopter, tweeted all over the place? Just made-up. Not that the video is sourced to “FJ” — @natsecjeff1 But that’s not what his original video said… pic.twitter.com/Swb0FIGmXR
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) August 31, 2021
Media outlets and journalists carried erroneous reports claiming that an American interpreter was hanged to death on a Black Hawk helicopter by the Taliban. The man was a member of the Taliban and he was trying to install the outfit’s flag on poles. He wasn’t hanged but suspended from a harness. It is also noteworthy that the US Department of Defence is yet to comment on the video therefore it could not be ascertained that the helicopter was indeed a Black Hawk.