On Tuesday, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale informed a press briefing that the Indian Air Force carried out a non-military, pre-emptive air strike in Balakot, Pakistan in the early hours of 26th February, 2019, and targeted the largest training camp run by terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed. The information about the air strikes was reported by multiple media outlets all morning. While social media users speculated about the specifics of the air strike, a video went viral claiming to be the Indian Air Force strike on terrorist camps in Pakistan. A Twitter user Ajay Kushwaha, who is followed by PM Narendra Modi on Twitter, posted the following video on this timeline.
India strikes again. This is new India under Leadership of Honourable PM Shri @narendramodi ji. India's airforce destroyed terrorist camps in Pakistan and more than 200-300 militant have been killed According to souces.
@ImranKhanPTI how's the josh ??#Balakot #SurgicalStrike2 pic.twitter.com/8FRaUK3TfK
— 🇮🇳अजय कुशवाहा🇮🇳 🇮🇳Ajay🇮🇳 (@AjayKushwaha_) February 26, 2019
The video was also posted by a Pakistani Twitter user khalid_pk claiming it to be visuals of Pakistani Air Force retaliating to the Indian Air Force. This was one of the earliest instance of this video, which was then circulated in both Indian and Pakistani social media ecosystem with varying narratives.
Visuals of Pak Air Force in Action over and around Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, and areas near LoC after failed attempt by Indian air force to intrude into Pak air space pic.twitter.com/9L32C4iD4B
— Khalid khi (@khalid_pk) February 26, 2019
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a defence analyst, quote-tweeted khalid_pk’s video and suggested that Pakitani fighters issuing flares is an indication that some air-to-air action took place between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets.
10n watch this video
1) why was this Pakistani fighter flying so close to the ground and
2) issuing flares ?
ANSWER: to avoid air to air missiles. A clear indication that some AIR TO AIR ACTION DID TAKE PLACE and the IAF Mirages came out SAFELY https://t.co/bd37lS9cHF
— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) February 26, 2019
As the video spread like wild fire across social media, many people starting casting doubts regarding the veracity of the video. A Twitter user XULQIMOON claimed that the video was an old one and was a fly past by Pakistani Air Force on Pakistan’s Independence Day – August 14th.
This is 14th August old fly past over Islamabad I think.
— XULQI MOON (@XULQIMOON) February 26, 2019
Many other Twitteratis responded to khalid_pk’s tweet suggesting that the video was an old one. Taking this cue, Alt News used the keywords ‘islamabad paf fly past flares’ on YouTube and looked for videos which might match the one currently viral on social media. We found a video posted on September 2016 by a YouTube user Muhammad Zohaib which was same as the video currently circulating.
A side-by-side comparison of the visuals from the two videos, the old one available on YouTube and the one posted by Twitter user khalid_pk, makes it evident that the two videos are identical.
The aftermath of Pulwama attack saw a massive amount of misinformation disseminated on social media. Social media users should be vigilant as the same pattern is likely to continue.