Edited footage shows Ethiopian soldiers captured by rebels in Oromia region, not Amhara

The armed conflicts in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara regions of Ethiopia have attracted the attention of the international community, with the US ambassador to Ethiopia recently calling on all parties to find a peaceful solution. A video shared on Facebook claims to show government forces captured by Amhara rebels. However, this is misleading: the original footage has been edited to hide the fact that the captors are from the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and not the Fano militia in Amhara. 

The Amharic post published on May 21, 2024, has a headline that reads: “The army rushes to save itself.” 

“The members of the army defect and are captured, refusing to sacrifice their lives to protect those in power,” reads the post, which has been shared more than 240 times. 

A similar post claims the alleged incident took place on May 21, 2024, adding: “Victory for Amhara Fano.”

Fano is a militia group in the Amhara region that has been fighting against the Ethiopian government since July 2023. 

Screenshot of the post with the altered video, taken on May 22, 2024

The post contains a 47-second-long video showing what appear to be captured Ethiopian troops walking in single file.  

The Facebook pages that published the claim frequently share stories about Fano. 

Armed conflicts 

The Ethiopian army is fighting rebel forces in both Oromia and Amhara – the two most populous regions in the country. 

The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel force (archived here) operating in the Oromia region, took up arms in 2018, accusing the Ethiopian government of not being committed to a genuine democratic transition during the early period of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s rule. 

Meanwhile, Fano, a militia group (archived here) in the Amhara region, was one of the key allies of the Abiy government during the two years of the Tigray war which ended in November 2022. The militia group turned against the government in July 2023 following its decision to disarm all regional forces. 

On May 15, 2024, the US ambassador to Ethiopia, Ervin Massinga, called (archived here) for a “transparent transitional justice process” to address reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, sexual violence and other abuses in various parts of the country.

The Ethiopian government criticised the ambassador’s speech, saying it was “ill-advised and contains uninformed assertions”. 

In early May, local media presented (archived here) footage allegedly showing government troops captured during recent fighting in North Shewa in Amhara.

However, the video shared on Facebook doesn’t show government soldiers captured by Fano in the Amhara region. 

OLA fighters 

AFP Fact Check used the video verification tool InVID-WeVerify to conduct reverse image searches on keyframes from the video.

The search results led us to a slightly longer version of the footage (archived here) that was shared on Facebook on April 4, 2024. 

The original video is a minute and 10 seconds long, and is captioned “Ethiopian government captive soldiers”. 

The Facebook account that originally published the footage frequently shares stories about OLA and its operations in the Oromia region. 

Screenshot of the original footage, taken on May 23, 2024

Oromia National Media (ONM), an online media outlet affiliated with the OLA, reported on the same date – April 4, 2024 – that the rebels had allegedly launched an attack on the government army in the southwestern Shoa zone in Oromia, killing and capturing numerous government troops.

A closer examination of the original footage shows that the first 20 seconds were deleted before it was shared in the misleading Facebook posts. 

In this deleted portion, an armed fighter with dreadlocks can be seen guarding the men wearing Ethiopian Defense Force combat uniforms. 

Dreadlocks are the typical hairstyle of Oromo rebels. In addition, the man is wearing a sign that denotes OLA fighters: a red and green piece of cloth – the colors of the OLA flag – over his camo print uniform.

Screenshot from the original footage showing an OLA fighter guarding the captives, taken on May 22, 2024 

The original footage also features background music praising the OLA struggle in Afaan Oromoo. This song was omitted from the edited footage.

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