A set of pictures on Twitter claiming that “white French mercenaries helping Boko Haram” were killed by the Nigerian Army is not true.
The pictures were rather of two Spanish journalists and an Irish-Zambian conservationist who were killed in an ambush during an anti-poaching patrol. This happened in Arly National Park, Burkina Faso, on April 26, 2021, about a week before the pictures began circulating on Nigerian social media space.
A Twitter user, #BuhariRightHandMan (@atani_mr), shared three pictures of murdered ‘whitemen’ and a cache of firearms in a forest. He claimed the deceased persons were killed by the Nigerian troops in a shootout with Boko Haram insurgents. The deceased, the account alleged, were foreign members of the terrorist group.
“All the forces (foreign and local) behind insurgency in Nigeria will be put to SHAME soonest. Boko Haram foreign trainers met their Waterloo,” Atani wrote in the tweet on Monday. The post has since been removed for violating Twitter policy.
Multiple reactions to the Twitter claim showed a wide range of acceptability while some users questioned the source of the information.
Others on the microblogging platform have suggested that the bodies belonged to “white French mercenaries helping and equipping Boko Haram,” who were killed by the Nigerian military.
In the wake of security tensions and Boko Haram assaults in Nigeria, there has been an upsurge in the sharing of security issues on social media, giving rise to an infodemic, a term experts have used to describe the outbreak of fake news and misinformation.
Checks by HumAngle showed that the pictures first appeared on Twitter on April 27, 2021. MENASTREAM, an independent risk and research consultancy with focus on North Africa and the Sahel region, in a thread stated that an Irish conservationist Rory Young, two Spanish journalists—David Beriain and Roberto Fraile—and a member of the Burkina Faso Armed Forces were killed in an ambush during an anti-poaching patrol in Arly National Park in Burkina Faso. The attack was allegedly carried out by a terrorist group, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) who had unofficially claimed responsibility.
#BurkinaFaso: #JNIM has unofficially claimed through audio and photographs yesterday’s ambush against a Burkinabe joint force convoy accompanied by a team of three foreign nationals, all experienced professionals on an anti-poaching mission (or reportage)..
— MENASTREAM (@MENASTREAM) April 27, 2021
The Animal Reader also reported that the four went missing last week after a Monday attack on the convoy of about forty people driving along the Park’s route which had been flagged dangerous, as poachers, bandits, and terrorists often waylay travellers. This report was also corroborated by the Irish Post.
This counters Atani’s claim that the deceased were foreign fighters of the Boko Haram terror group, although his post came as the Nigerian Army said it thwarted an attempt by the terrorists to infiltrate Rann town in Kala Balge local government area of Borno state, and recovered firearms from the fleeing terrorists.
The statement by the Army spokesperson, Mohammed Yerima did not state that foreign nationals were among those killed in the gunfire exchange with the terrorists.
The deceased are not ‘white Boko Haram’ fighters as claimed and they were not killed by Nigerian soldiers.