Old photos of helicopter wreckage do not show 'Balochistan crash in 2022'

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After six Pakistan servicemen including a senior commander were killed in a helicopter crash on August 1, Facebook posts shared photos of wreckage that they claimed showed the aftermath of the disaster. However, the photos are old; one was taken after a deadly accident in Pakistan in December 2021 and the others were taken following separate crashes in Afghanistan in May and June 2011.

“An army helicopter has crashed in Balochistan's Uthal area," reads an Urdu-language Facebook post shared on August 1.

The post shows a photo of helicopter wreckage.

"The nation salutes the brave sons of this soil!" one person commented.

Screenshot of a misleading Facebook post, taken on August 8, 2022

A similar Facebook post shared a photo of a different helicopter, receiving hundreds of interactions.

"The helicopter crashed near Uthal in the evening and six army officers were martyred," it says in Urdu.

The six servicemen, including one of the army's top commanders, Lieutenant-General Sarfraz Ali, were killed when their chopper crashed during a flood relief operation in Balochistan in southwestern Pakistan.

In a statement, the military attributed the crash to bad weather.

Fierce monsoon rains and deadly flooding have hit Pakistan hard this year, particularly in Balochistan, killing at least 478 people.

Screenshot of the post with the second photo. Taken on August 9, 2022.

Another Facebook post paid tribute to the late general along with a different picture of a helicopter crash. 

"Lieutenant General Sarfaraz Ali, & Commander 12 corps who embraced shahadat (martyrdom) in a #HelicopterCrash during flood relief operations in Lasbela, Balochistan. #ArmyHelicopter #helicopter #DGISPR," it says.

'DGISPR' refers to the head of the Pakistan military's media wing.

Screenshot of the post with the third photo. Taken on August 9, 2022.

  

Social media was awash with more posts claiming to show photos of the wrecked chopper. They circulated in multiple Facebook posts here, here and here.

However, they have been shared in a misleading context.

December 2021 crash

A Google reverse image search found the first photo in a report by Pakistan's Dawn News on December 6, 2021.

The photo caption reads: "Debris of Pakistan Army aviation helicopter that crashed at Siachen in Gilgit-Baltistan's (GB's) Ghanche district".

Gilgit Baltistan is a sparsely populated mountainous area in northern Pakistan.

The photo is credited to the military's media wing (ISPR) who also issued a statement on the crash. 

"Both pilots Major Irfan Bercha and Major Raja Zeeshan Jahanzeb embraced shahadat (martyrdom)," it reads.

The photo was also published in reports on the crash by the Associated Press (AP) and Pakistan's GTV News.

Below is a screenshot comparing the photo from Dawn News (left) and the one from the misleading post (right):

Screenshot comparing the photo from Dawn News (left) and the one from the misleading post (right)

Deadly Afghan crashes

A reverse image search on Russian search engine Yandex found the second photo in a report from May 11, 2011 by the BBC's Persian-language service.

"An Afghan army helicopter has crashed in the Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan," the report reads.

The photo's description adds: "One of the four helicopters carrying Afghanistan's rapid response forces crashed in Nuristan."

The photo was also published in a Pahjwok Afghan News report on May 11, 2011.

"The ANA [Afghan National Army] helicopter crashed into a tree in Paroon, the provincial capital, at 12:15pm, Nuristan governor Jamaluddin Badr told Pajhwok Afghan News," the report reads.

Below is a screenshot comparing the photo in the false posts (left) with the one from the BBC (right):

Screenshot comparing the photo in the false posts (left) with the one from the BBC (right)

A Google reverse image search found the third photo in a report by the US Air Force (USAF) from June 29, 2011. The photo can be viewed in full here.

"Thirteen members of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing responded to the crash site of an Afghan air force Mi-17 at Forward Operating Base Fiaz in Asadabad in Kunar province," the report reads.

Below is a screenshot comparing the photo in the false post (left) with the one from the USAF (right):

Screenshot comparing the photo in the false post (left) with the one from the USAF (right)

AFP has previously debunked misinformation about the Balochistan helicopter crash.