Indian security forces reportedly killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mehrajuddin Halwai alias Ubaid on the morning of July 7 in an alleged encounter in North Kashmir’s Handwara district. In their coverage of the incident, several outlets including Times Now, The Lallantop, Patrika, Jagran, Hindustan Times Bangla, IANS, TV9 Bharatvarsh, The New Indian Express, Gujarat Samachar, The Statesman, Asianet, and Swarajya carried the same picture of Mehrajuddin.
Aditya Raj Kaul, editor of CNN-News18, and Times of India journalist Raj Shekhar Jha also shared these images while reporting on the incident. (Archive link)
Top Hizbul terrorist killed in Kashmir. MehrajuDin Halwai, a top terror Commander was killed in an early morning encounter with security forces in Handwara, North Kashmir. He was contemporary of Burhan Wani. Halwai killed Kashmiris on orders of Hizbul Chief Syed Salahuddin. pic.twitter.com/aIfX8OTtAW
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) July 7, 2021
Killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mehrajuddin alias Ubaid in Handwara encounter is a major success for security forces. He was one of the oldest Hizbul hands in the valley since the Burhan Wani times. pic.twitter.com/cwxc00M9EE
— Raj Shekhar Jha (@rajshekharTOI) July 7, 2021
BJP Delhi spokesperson Ajay Sehrawat also tweeted the image.
— Ajay Sehrawat (@IamAjaySehrawat) July 7, 2021
We noticed that a few users had replied to these posts stating that the featured photo did not show the slain Mujahideen commander.
Alt News performed a reverse image search, which revealed that the individual in the image is actually Omar Hussain. According to a BBC report from September 2015, Hussain, a resident of the United Kingdom, used to post IS propaganda on social media. He was a supporter of the Islamic State, one of at least 700 people who were thought to have joined militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
A March 2016 report published by The Daily Mirror also identifies the individual as Omar Hussain. It describes how Hussain, a fighter for ISIS, used to connect with other terrorists through Facebook while targeting the UK.
BBC and The Sun covered Hussain’s death in 2018 and 2019 respectively. According to the BBC, the militant was presumed dead after an attack in Syria. Meanwhile, The Sun reported that he carried out a suicide attack in Syria in which he was killed. However, when he died and the circumstances of his death are not clear.
To sum it up, a picture of an ISIS fighter Omar Hussain was used by journalists and carried by media portals in India as Hizbul commander Mehrajuddin Halwai, who was gunned down recently. While some outlets did take down the image, others have not.