US Syria op­er­a­tion images ‘were video game scenes’

Western Mail - - NEWS - Alas­tair Reid news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

THE Rus­sian min­istry of de­fence has been caught dis­tribut­ing false images it claims are from re­cent Amer­i­can op­er­a­tions in Syria, but which in fact show scenes from a com­puter game and an old Iraqi mil­i­tary video.

The images, shared on the min­istry’s of­fi­cial Face­book and Twit­ter pages on Tues­day, are ac­com­pa­nied by a cap­tion de­scrib­ing the pic­tures as an Is­lamic State con­voy leav­ing the Syr­ian city of Abu Ka­mal, dated Novem­ber 9, 2017.

Rus­sia claimed these pic­tures showed “ir­refutable ev­i­dence” that the US-led coali­tion was work­ing to­gether with IS troops “to pro­mote Amer­i­can in­ter­ests” in the Mid­dle East.

A now-deleted Face­book state­ment went fur­ther, claim­ing the footage was cap­tured by Rus­sian drones on Novem­ber 9. How­ever, all of the images can be traced to ma­te­rial posted on­line be­fore 2017.

In the Face­book post, the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment claimed: “Last week, the Syr­ian Arab Army sup­ported by the Rus­sian Aero­space Forces has lib­er­ated Abu Ka­mal. The op­er­a­tion as­cer­tained facts of di­rect co-op­er­a­tion and sup­port pro­vided by the US-led coali­tion to the Isis ter­ror­ists.”

Yet on­line sleuths quickly tracked the images to a se­ries of dif­fer­ent videos from the past two years.

The most glar­ing in­clu­sion showed what ap­peared to be a mil­i­tary con­voy, filmed from above in black and white.

Yet a re­v­erse im­age search of the pic­ture, which checks it against images stored in on­line data­bases, shows it was first up­loaded as part of a pro­mo­tional video for AC-130 Gun­ship Sim­u­la­tor, a mo­bile video game pro­duced by Byte Con­veyor Stu­dios and up­loaded to YouTube in March 2015.

Re­v­erse im­age searches of the other pic­tures traced two to a video pub­lished to the Mil­i­tary.com web­site in July 2016, al­leg­ing to show Iraqi army he­li­copters at­tack­ing IS con­voys out­side Fal­lu­jah.

An­other pic­ture was traced to a sep­a­rate video claim­ing to show the same op­er­a­tion pub­lished on YouTube in June 2016 by RT, the Krem­lin-backed broad­caster pre­vi­ously known as Rus­sia Today.

The posts comes as Rus­sia’s role in spread­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion around the world comes un­der in­creas­ing scru­tiny in the UK and US.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Face­book, Twit­ter and Google re­cently pre­sented ev­i­dence to a US Se­nate hear­ing about Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion in the 2016 US elec­tion and on Mon­day Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May used her speech at the Lord Mayor’s Ban­quet in London to ac­cuse Rus­sia of “med­dling” in elec­tions to “sow dis­cord in the West”.

The Rus­sian min­istry of de­fence has not re­sponded to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment.

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