Video shows Pakistani officials, not Afghan Taliban, destroying contraband mobile phones

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Nigerian social media users are circulating a video with claims that it shows Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban fighters destroying mobile phones in line with a supposed ban on electronic devices. However, the claim is false: the clip was filmed in neighbouring Pakistan where customs officials confiscated and destroyed smuggled goods.

The footage emerged online amid reports about the imposition of restrictions in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover last August. Barely a month into Taliban rule, Afghans in Helmand province were banned from shaving beards while girls were prohibited from attending secondary school.

“Taliban Terrorists in Afghanistan ban use of mobile phones in the country, they gathered them and set all ablaze,” reads the caption on social media posts published by popular Nigerian youth-focused blog YNaija on January 13, 2022.

The footage was shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in posts combining more than 500,000 followers .

Screenshot taken on January 24, 2022, showing the one of the false posts on Instagram

The 14-second clip shows uniformed men stomping on piles of mobile phones and other electronic equipment. There also appears to be a stash of alcoholic drinks on display.

However, the video is unrelated to Afghanistan or the Taliban.

Filmed in Pakistan

AFP Fact Check previously debunked a similar claim in Arabic, purporting that the same video clip shows Pakistan security forces enforcing a government ban on the use of mobile phones in the country.

A longer clip was uploaded to YouTube in December 2021 by an account called Awami Press Club.

“Customs Enforcement destroys huge quantity of smuggled, contraband goods in Karachi (sic),” the YouTube headline reads.

Pakistani daily newspaper The Express Tribune reported that officials destroyed contraband last December after a two-year break caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other local media (here and here) also published clips that showed similar scenes, described as an anti-smuggling exercise that involved the destruction of confiscated illicit alcohol, mobile phones and drugs in Pakistan.

In addition, the green-white flag of Pakistan and the logo of the country’s customs agency can be seen nine seconds into the video on the uniform of the man wearing sunglasses.

Screenshot comparisons between the video shared in false posts (L) and an AFP image

These correspond to a picture of a similar customs official taken by AFP photographer Rizwan Tabassum, who covered the event on December 29, 2021, in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.

“Custom officials stand near seized liquor during an event organized to destroy seized illicit alcohol and drugs smuggled into the country,” the AFP caption reads.

Another image by Tabassum shares similar physical features with some scenes in the video, including bottles of alcohol arranged on the ground, an open blue shipping container, cranes, and armed customs officials.