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These old photos and videos don’t really show the Kabul airport attacks

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Two suicide bombings occurred on August 26 near Kabul airport, where thousands of desperate Afghans were crowding in hopes of boarding one of the last evacuation flights to flee the Taliban takeover. As soon as the news of the first explosion began spreading, people online started sharing photos and videos of the event, some of which were actually old or misleading.

Numerous images have circulated on social networks documenting the explosions, later learned to be bombings, that killed at least 72 Afghans and 13 US service members near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 26.

But some of these photos and videos were actually taken days before the attacks.

That was the case for these two photos, which circulated massively as soon as word of the first explosion began to spread. 

But, in fact, these two images were taken at Kabul airport on August 16 by AFP photographer Wakil Kohsar. You can find one of these photos in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed, with credit to the photographer. The other is available on Getty Images.

Both photos show Afghans waiting at the Kabul airport to board an evacuation flight the day after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital, according to their captions.

False images of the explosion

Other images purport to show the moment of the explosion. The photo below (on the left) was shared online by journalists and even picked up by some media outlets. However, the same photo appeared online as early as 2016, used by an Iranian press agency to illustrate attacks in Kabul, like in this article from 2018. Therefore, the photo is certainly not from August 26, 2021.

The same goes for this other video claiming to show the second explosion. But this video shows Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, as shown in this Tweet from Al-Jazeera posted on August 21, using the same video. 

Some people online rightfully pointed out that it was still daylight in Kabul at the time of the second explosion, unlike this video which was shot at night.

On the other hand, watch out for videos taken at the airport which seem to show a cloud of smoke, supposedly caused by the explosion. This could actually just be a cloud of dust, says Nick Waters, senior investigator at Bellingcat. 

“This is an area which appears to throw up dust every so often. You can see it on various livestreams when helis [sic] fly across it. I do not believe this video depicts either of the two reported explosions,” Waters said on Twitter, in response to a video said to show the explosion.

Similarly, clouds of dust are visible in the first two photos in this article, which may explain why so many people online mistook them for images of an explosion.

>> Read on The Observers: Taliban in Afghanistan: Watch out for these images taken out of context

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The Groucho

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