These trucks were captured by Ethiopian soldiers in the north during early combat operations in 2020

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An image of trucks parked in a long row on a dirt road has resurfaced on Facebook claiming that the vehicles were loaded with weapons when the Ethiopian army seized them during recent military operations in the north of the country. This is misleading; while the seizure did occur in the north, it occurred in December 2020 in the first two months of fighting.

The post, archived here, was published on Facebook on October 8, 2021, and has been shared more than 600 times since.

“The Defense Forces announced that they have seized more than 140 vehicles loaded with weapons (sic),” reads part of the post’s Amharic text.

While the post doesn’t explicitly mention where the vehicles were recovered, it says that the Ethiopian army, “which was following the footsteps of the illegal group, has also taken control of the Berha kebele of Chila Woreda,” an area located on the border between Amhara and Tigray regions.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on October 13, 2021

The “illegal group” mentioned in the post refers to Tigray where Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops in November 2020 to topple the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which Abiy said was in response to TPLF attacks on government army camps.

Fighting continues and has spread to neighbouring regions, creating a humanitarian crisis.

The Facebook post appeared a month after the United Nations disclosed that hundreds of World Food Programme (WFP) trucks used to deliver aid to Tigray never returned. WFP spokeswoman Gemma Snowdon reported that 445 contracted non-WFP trucks entered Tigray since July 12, 2021, but only 38 had made it back.

Map showing the Tigray region of Ethiopia

However, the impression given by the Facebook post that the vehicles in the image were seized by government forces during recent operations in Tigray is misleading.

Old image

AFP Fact Check ran a reverse image search and traced the image to an old Facebook post published by the Amhara Media Corporation (AMC) on December 14, 2020. The AMC’s original caption was repeated in the misleading Facebook post.

Screenshot of the original post published on AMC’s Facebook page, taken October 14 2021

Another story was published on the same day by the local news site, Amhara Web.

Their article described the scale of the seizure and the kind of equipment, such as radios and heavy artillery weapons, recovered. It also mentioned that most of the vehicles were owned by two Ethiopian companies: the Messebo Cement Factory and Mesfin Industrial Engineering.

According to the report, most of the recovered military equipment had been taken by the TPLF during the raid on the federal army camp which sparked the conflict.

An army spokesman contacted by AFP Fact Check denied that the Ethiopian military had made a seizure of this size in recent months in Tigray and further confirmed that the image seen in the misleading Facebook post was from 2020.