American evacuations from Afghanistan ended on 31st August 2021 but they left behind ammunition worth millions of dollars which is now under the control of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ established by the Taliban.
While General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that “America has left behind around 70 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armoured tactical vehicles, 27 Humvees and 73 aircraft that were already at Hamid Karzai International Airport, he clarified “We have demilitarized the equipment that we did not bring out.”
But hours before the evacuation came to an end, a video went viral on social media with the claim, “Taliban hanging somebody from an American Black Hawk.”
Taking note of this video, noted journalists and media organizations shared the same video in which a man is seen dangling from a low-flying helicopter.
Echoing the same concerns, Sudhir Chaudhary, Editor in chief of Zee News also tweeted this video. His tweet was later deleted but it had already garnered over 58,000 views.
Indian media organizations including WION, Republic World, Aaj Tak, NDTV and MSN India as well as foreign media organisations including New York Post and Daily Star covered the story claiming that this video depicting” Taliban hangs a man to the US Black Hawk helicopter”
American political commentator Liz Wheeler tweeted the video saying, ”If this is what it looks like… the Taliban hanging somebody from an American Blackhawk… I could vomit. Joe Biden is responsible.” The video has received over three million views.
Twitter has marked the tweets of Sudhir Chaudhary, Liz Wheeler and similar such as “The media is presented out of context.”
A closer look at the video indicates that the person appears to be hanging with the help of a harness. He can be seen moving his hands and body in certain keyframes which contradicts the claim that he was hanged to death by the Taliban. Watching the video frame by frame, we found that the man can be seen moving his hands freely -in a waving manner and touching his head.
Kabul based Asvaka news agency shared the same claim that a Black Hawk chopper was spotted over the Kandahar governor office”. Asvaka’s representatives confirmed to Newschecker via Twitter saying, “We have a team there, they have confirmed that the person was controlled and hanging from the helicopter to fix the flag at the governor’s building in Kandahar.”
The now suspended Twitter account of Talib Times, which described itself as “English language official account of the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan” also shared the same video but completely omitted any reference to the man seen dangling from the chopper.
In addition, political activist and former Tolo News journalist, Muslim Shirzad told Newschecker that sources in the Taliban confirmed that this video is of an “attempt to fix a flag over a building by a Taliban fighter”
Though the full purpose of the flight and the man hanging through a harness remains unconfirmed from official sources -The United States Department of Defence has made no comments on the helicopter in the video. Neither the Taliban nor any civilian who witnessed the incident has said anything either. “Local reporting has apparently suggested it was an unsuccessful attempt to install a flag on a flagpole,” said Joseph Dempsey -Research Associate, Defence and Military Analysis at International Institute for Strategic Studies- to Newschecker.
Dempsey confirmed that the chopper seen in the video was indeed a “US-supplied UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter,” that he has been able to geotag to Kandahar. “One of the most prominent features was the exceptionally large central flagpole. As this was a landmark within Kandahar I was able to find earlier images taken from similar angles of the site to confirm my geolocation,” he said.
Dempsey also suggests that while the identity of the person flying the Black Hawk over Kandahar remains unknown, “the level of control suggests specialist training likely for this specific type”. He also indicated that this video is the “first evidence of the Taliban operating a US-supplied aircraft.”
Former BBC Journalist, Bilal Sarwary, who recently fled Afghanistan after the Taliban’s capture reiterates Dempsey words in his tweet saying “Afghan pilot flying this is someone I have known over the years. He was trained in the US and UAE, he confirmed to me that he flew the Blackhawk helicopter. Taliban fighter seen here was trying to install Taliban flag from the air but it didn’t work in the end.”
Claims suggesting that the Taliban paraded a dead body hanging from a helicopter is false. While Newschecker has neither been able to independently confirm the location of this incident nor the identity of the dangling man & the pilot, we can confirm that the man in the video is alive and can be seen moving his hands when the video was shot.
Additional reporting and fact-checking by Preeksha Malhotra
Aśvaka – آسواکا News Agency, a Kabul based news agency.
Muslim Shirzad, a political activist and a former journalist at Tolonews.
Joseph Dempsey, Research Associate, Defence and Military Analysis at International Institute for Strategic Studies. https://twitter.com/JosephHDempsey/status/1432447533419216903?s=20
Bilal Sarwary’s tweet regarding the pilot flying the helicopter: https://twitter.com/bsarwary/status/1432741986545676288?s=20