Claim: Boko Haram released a video of its fighters capturing and beheading Nigerian soldiers.
Verdict: Misleading as the video was published on the internet as far back as December 2019.
Twitter user Emeka Gift, on December 7, shared a video with his over 85,600 followers. The 32-second recording appeared to show tens of insurgents tying the arms of captured soldiers behind their backs as they lay on the ground.
“Video Nigeria government don’t want the world to see. According to Nigeria government, Boko Haram has been defeat [sic]. But watch and see how Boko Haram rounded Nigeria soldiers and behead them one after the other,” Gift wrote.
He added, “#EndNigeria or Nigeria will end you. #SupportBiafra.”
The video had been watched over 1,000 times as of 8p.m. on December 7. It was liked by 144 users of the microblogging platform and retweeted over 330 times.
Some of the comments indicate that those engaging with the tweet believe the video to be recent. Dammy Francos, for example, wrote: “This is the Boko Haram that Zulum said Buhari is doing well.” The statement from the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, was made earlier the same day, Monday, December 7.
Searches through YouTube, a video-sharing platform and search engine, as well as Facebook revealed that versions of the same clip were first shared on Tuesday, December 10, 2019.
On this day, a Facebook page, Biafran Update, shared the video with commentary from Simon Ekpa, a lawyer and self-described Biafra agitator.
“You can see what Boko Haram is doing. They have captured tens and tens of Nigerian soldiers to be slaughtered and killed. The video you are looking at is a new Boko Haram video of 10th November, 2019,” Ekpa said, and urged South-Easterners not to join the Nigerian military or resign if they were already part of the army.
Two days earlier, the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), which broke off from Boko Haram in 2016, had released a video where it killed a Nigerian soldier and police officer, who had been abducted in Benisheikh, Borno State.
There is no evidence connecting the new video to a source within the terrorist camps in Nigeria. It has been suggested that the security operatives in the recording may be from neighbouring countries such as Niger Republic and that the terrorists may be fighters of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which operates in Mali and Niger.
“One difference seems to be, however, ISWAP is more 4×4/truck-dependent and ISGS more motorcycle-dependent; still can share tactics and personnel though,” wrote Jacob Zenn, an analyst for the Jamestown Foundation and adjunct assistant professor on African armed movements at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Programme, in December 2019.
In the video that went viral, about four motorcycles could be seen.
“Soldiers in the video aren’t from Nigeria,” tweeted Murtala Abdullah, a security analyst, on December 14, 2019.
He added that the appearance of the fighters did not fit into the description of those who attacked a military facility on December 10.
Moreso, the timing of the video’s release coincided with the massacre of 71 Nigerien soldiers during an attack on a military camp between Niger and Mali by fighters affiliated with the Islamic State. Twelve other soldiers were wounded and many others declared missing. The country’s army spokesperson had described the incident as “the deadliest raid against the Nigerien military in living memory.”
Meanwhile, two days after the video went viral, Nigerian Army Director of Public Relations, Sagir Musa, described it as propaganda from mischievous persons.
“Accordingly, the call by one Simon Ekpa, (the principal actor in the clip), calling on soldiers of South-East extraction presently serving in the North-East to desert the Army and return to Biafra proved it,” he said.
“Also, the call on South-Easterners not to join the Nigerian Army is an obvious indication of the essence and objective of the masterminds of this fake video which should be discountenanced by the public.”
Musa did not speak further about the video’s context or why he called it fabricated.
The video first appeared online in December 2019, and there is no evidence it was recorded in Nigeria and that it involved local soldiers. It has rather been debunked by the Nigerian Army and experts that suggest the victims may have been operatives of the Nigerien military.