Video of vessel fire falsely shared as 'British oil tanker attacked in the Red Sea'

  • Published on January 30, 2024 at 09:55
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Thailand
Footage of a burning vessel has circulated in social media posts falsely claiming that it shows a British oil tanker hit by a missile in the Red Sea near Yemen, amidst the ongoing Huthi attacks on commercial ships in the region. In fact, the footage has appeared in social media posts and reports about a Somalia-bound vessel that caught fire in Oman's waters.

"A British oil tanker was hit by a missile in the Red Sea near Yemen," reads the Burmese-language Facebook post shared on December 31, 2023.

The 10-second clip, which has been viewed more than 350 times, shows a burning ship on the water with black smoke billowing into the sky.

Screenshot of the false post, captured on January 25, 2024

The video was posted amidst the Huthis' attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, which have raised concerns about violence spreading in the region from the Gaza war.

In November 2023, the Huthi rebels -- which control much of Yemen's territory -- began targeting ships in the Red Sea they claimed were linked to Israel -- attacks they said were in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israeli forces are battling Hamas.

Around 12 percent of global trade normally passes through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea's entrance between southwest Yemen and Djibouti, but the rebel attacks have caused much shipping to be diverted thousands of miles around Africa.

In January 2024, the United States and Britain carried out strikes on dozens of rebel targets, saying they aimed to "de-escalate tensions". However, the Huthis vowed to continue their attacks and warned that US and British interests were "legitimate targets".

The video has racked up more than three million times after it was shared in similar posts in Arabic, ChineseThai and Indonesian.

The footage also appeared in an English-language report from Iran's Mehr news agency, claiming it "shows the British tanker southwest of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah which has been hit by a missile attack by Yemeni forces". 

However, the claim is false; the video does not show a British oil tanker hit by a missile in the Red Sea. 

'Vessel fire in Oman'

The bottom part of the video in the false posts show the Royal Oman Police's official social media handles and logo (archived link).

A reverse image search, followed by a keyword search, found an identical video was published by the Royal Oman Police on X  on December 23, 2023 (archived link).

The Arabic-language caption translates to English as: "A boat caught fire in the territorial waters of the Sultanate of Oman near Hasik in Dhofar Governorate. The boat was carrying goods bound for Somalia, and its 11-member Indian crew were safely evacuated by locals."

In the post, the Royal Oman Police also said "only one crew member sustained a minor injury". 

Hasik is situated on the Arabian Sea coastline of Oman (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the genuine video posted by the Royal Oman Police (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the genuine video posted by the Royal Oman Police (right)

Local news outlets such as the Oman Observer and the Times of Oman on the same day, using the footage from the Royal Oman Police and a screenshot from the clip (archived links here and here). 

AFP has previously debunked misinformation related to the Red Sea attacks herehere and here.

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