Fact check: Picture claimed to be of PAF jet shot down in Panjshir is actually from US

Published September 6, 2021
The picture of a US F-16 plane that was falsely claimed as showing a PAF jet. — Photo: Twitter
The picture of a US F-16 plane that was falsely claimed as showing a PAF jet. — Photo: Twitter

Some Twitter users shared a picture of a fighter jet claiming it showed a Pakistan Air Force plane that was shot down by resistance fighters in Afghanistan's Panjshir valley, but a fact check by Dawn.com and independent journalists shows the picture is actually from 2018 in the United States.

A Twitter account purportedly claiming to belong to Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary Afghan rebel commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, tweeted a photo of a military aircraft on its belly on the ground, with the caption saying: "The Pakistani Jet Plane that was shot down by the lion cubs."

The photo, which has since been deleted, was shared by other accounts opposed to the Taliban as well, but a Google reverse image search showed it is an old picture.

An April 2018 article by military news website Military.com showed the picture in question was captured after a US F-16 Fighting Falcon jet crash-landed during a routine training flight near the Arizona-California border.

Screenshot of the news article in which the fighter jet's picture was used.
Screenshot of the news article in which the fighter jet's picture was used.

The same picture was also carried in an article about the crash landing by the Iranian Fars News Agency.

This picture, and other fake news about Pakistan's military involvement in Afghanistan, surfaced as the Taliban said on Monday they had taken control of Panjshir province north of Kabul, the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces in the country and the only province the Taliban had not seized during their blitz across the country last month.

The anti-Taliban forces had been led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and Ahmad Massoud, whose father was killed just days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US.

With Taliban fighters advancing into Panjshir, Indian media outlets during the past week ran unverified claims of PAF planes hovering over Panjshir valley and dropping bombs on resistance fighters in support of the Taliban.

India's Republic TV and Hindi news channel Zee Hindustan shared footage that they claimed showed Pakistani drones attacking anti-Taliban fighters in Panjshir.

But fact-check website Boom found that the viral clip was taken from a longer video recording of the video game Arma-3, and is not from the military conflict in Afghanistan.

Additionally, Indian news channel Times Now broadcast a clip that it said showed a Pakistani fighter jet hovering over Panjshir, terming it proof of a "full-fledged Pakistani invasion" of Afghanistan.

However, independent news website UK Defence Journal reported that the video in question was actually of an American F-15 jet flying in Wales in the United Kingdom.

Experts had doubted that resistance to the Taliban in Panjshir, the last holdout province, could succeed long-term despite the area’s geographical advantage.

Nestled in the towering Hindu Kush mountains, the Panjshir Valley has a single narrow entrance, due to which local fighters had managed to hold off the Soviets there in the 1980s and also the Taliban a decade later under the leadership of Massoud.

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