Altered image claimed to be 'Red Sea attack' originally shows two old pictures

Yemen's Huthi rebels have been targeting Red Sea shipping since November 2023, triggering US and British reprisals, but an image repeatedly shared online appearing to show vessels exchanging missile fire is actually manipulated. The doctored image combines two old pictures that were previously published in 2010 and 2015.

"Our Yemeni team is teaching them lessons they did not see at the Red Sea, with the help of God," reads the Thai-language caption to the doctored image shared on Facebook on January 15, 2024.

The post also includes Arabic-language text that makes a similar claim.

The image appears to show a ship with the number "76" exchanging missile fire with several other vessels flying the flag of Yemen.

A screenshot of the Facebook post sharing the altered image, taken January 31, 2024

The Huthis, part of the anti-Western, anti-Israel "axis of resistance" of Iranian-backed groups, began targeting Red Sea shipping in November 2023.

The rebels say they were hitting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.

The attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, a vital route that normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

US and UK forces have responded with strikes against the Huthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

The doctored image was also shared alongside a similar claim in Thai Facebook posts here and here, and in Arabic social media posts here, here and here.

Comments to the posts indicate some people believed the image was genuine.

"Fighters hitting cargo ships," one wrote. 

"Yemen is awesome," another said.

Manipulated image

A reverse image search on Google found the picture of the ship with the number "76" was published by the Associated Press (AP) news agency here on March 9, 2010 (archived link).

Its caption reads: "The new Iranian warship Jamaran fires a missile, reported to be a Noor, a long-range anti-ship missile manufactured by Iran and based on the Chinese C-802, in an exercise in the southern waters of Iran, Tuesday, March 9, 2010."

The picture is credited to the International Iran Photo Agency but AP noted its content, location and date could not be independently verified.

The picture had been altered to insert an image of several vessels that was previously published here on the Wikimedia Commons website (archived link).

Its caption states the vessels belong to the Iranian Navy and was filmed in the Strait of Hormuz. It was dated "25–27 February 2015" and credited to a website belonging to an Iranian photographer.

AFP cannot independently verify what the picture actually shows. But a further reverse image search on TinEye found it had been circulating in online posts since at least December 2015, predating the Red Sea attacks by at least seven years.

The flag of Yemen had also been added to the vessels seen in the second picture.

Below are screenshot comparisons of the doctored image (left) and the old pictures (right) with the corresponding features highlighted by AFP:


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

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