Fact Check: Does the video show Taliban “hanging” a body from a helicopter?

The United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, marking the end of two decades of conflict. The United States has reportedly abandoned military equipment, and those that have not been dismantled have been taken over by the Taliban.

A video of the Taliban parading a helicopter in the skies of Kandahar is massively viral on social media. Media and reporters claimed that the video showed the Taliban hanging a person, presumably an American interpreter, from an American Black Hawk helicopter. Below is a tweet from Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhary.

The claim was also promoted by India Today editor-in-chief Shiv Aroor, who shared an article from his outlet.

“Do you remember that scene from Scarface? Well the Taliban did the same with an American helicopter in Kandahar, according to reports” – Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor), August 31, 2021

The news was relayed by many mainstream media.

The other main media that disseminated the information were ZEE5, Aaj Tak, Navbharat Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Zee Hindustan, India TV, ANI, MSN India, Zee News, NDTV, Republic and ABP News. OpIndia, a pro-BJP propaganda outlet, also published an article.

Checking the facts

With a keyword search on Twitter in Pashto, we came across the following tweets which confirmed that the helicopters were flying in Kandahar.

Using ‘Kandahar’ as a keyword in Pashto, we found another video of a man hanging from a helicopter. This is a clearer video.

If you look closely, the rope can be seen tied to the man’s back. It hangs from a harness and not from a noose around the neck.

Additionally, in the same video, the man can also be seen gesturing, especially from 15 seconds on. He is not dead contrary to what is suggested on the Internet.

Alt News came across a tweet from the Afghan news agency Aśvaka that posted a similar video from a helicopter over the governor’s office in Kandahar. We contacted the chain via DM and it confirmed that the man was hanging from the helicopter to attach the flag to the governor’s building. “We have a team there, they confirmed the person was checked and hung from the helicopter to attach the flag to the governor’s building in Kandahar,” the channel told us.

Local journalist Sadiqullah Afghan also posted one of the videos showing a man hanging from a helicopter. He informed that the man was a Talib and that he was trying to put a flag on a 100-meter pole.

Another Afghan journalist tweeted that he knew the Afghan pilot who was flying the helicopter. He identified the man hanging from the helicopter as a Taliban fighter attempting to install the flag of the extremist Islamist group but without success.

A keyword search on Facebook using کندهار ولایت مقام (Kandahar province) led to a video of a man hovering over a flag pole. The post said the Taliban were trying to hoist their flag at the governor’s office. In this video, too, the man is clearly alive. He’s also trying to get something out of his pockets.

A similar video was shared by local Kandahar reporter Arghand Abdulmanan.

It should be noted that disinformation is viral across the world, including the New York Post. From what it seems, the video gained some attention after it was posted by @ natsecjeff1. However, he made no complaints when sharing the clip. Another user @Holbornlolz who identifies as a comedian added the spin “man hanged from a helicopter”. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted about how the story got twisted on the internet.

The media and reporters spread misinformation claiming that an American interpreter was hanged to death on a Black Hawk helicopter by the Taliban. The man was a member of the Taliban and he was trying to put up the uniform’s flag on poles. He was not hanged but hung from a harness. It should also be noted that the US Department of Defense has yet to comment on the video, so it could not be established that the helicopter was indeed a Black Hawk.

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