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Factcheck: Old, Foreign Photos Recycled As Recent Military Raid Of Terrorist Camp

Claim: The Nigerian military recently raided an enclave of Boko Haram terrorists inside the Sambisa Forest, seizing ammunition and religious books and burning the structures.

Verdict: Misleading and false. While one of the pictures dates back to 2004 and was shot in Sudan, a North African country, others are from a military clearance operation that took place in early 2018.

Full text

A Twitter user, LMAN (@L_man__), shared four pictures on Friday, Jan. 15, and suggested they showed the aftermath of a recent military onslaught against Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest area. The pictures included an aerial view of burning structures as well as shots of religious books and ammunition seized from insurgents.

“Boko Haram have abandoned one of their Sambisa enclaves under the superior power of Nigeria’s military,” LMAN captioned them.

The post coincided with the celebration of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, set aside to mark the end of the Nigerian civil war which lasted two and a half years from 1967 to Jan. 15, 1970, as well as Nigeria’s participation in global military operations.

A day after LMAN’s tweet, another Twitter user, AGGN (@haruna_braimoh), shared three of the pictures and a fifth one, explicitly claiming they were taken recently.

“Shekau was here 2021. Yeye. Bullet keel you.!! This is inside the Sambisa Forest and the inners of the BH leader!! May Allah strengthen the Nigeria military & allied forces to do the needful finally to finish this business successfully,” he wrote.

LMAN and AGGF’s tweets were respectively liked by over 1,200 and 417 users of the microblogging platform as of 8 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 17. They were cumulatively shared 673 times.


Using the reverse image search tool, TinEye, HumAngle found that the aerial shot of a burning building located in a desert land first appeared on the internet in March 2008.

In a 2009 publication by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the picture was captioned as “the burning of Um Ziefa in Darfur, Sudan,” dated Dec. 12, 2004, and credited to Brian Steidle, a photographer for the museum.

Over 3,300 villages were damaged or destroyed mostly between 2003 and 2005 in the Darfur region “during the height of the brutal Sudanese government-backed campaign targeting civilians,” the museum noted.

The other four pictures were traced back to a post from Jan. 31, 2018, shared on Facebook by the Nigerian Army’s former Director of Public Relations, Brig.-Gen.  Sani Kukasheka Usman (rtd).

He had uploaded a total of 24 pictures alongside a statement explaining that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, under Operation Deep Punch II, had cleared Camp Zairo the previous day and recovered battle tanks among other items.

“Yesterday, Tuesday 30th January 2018, the advancing troops had contact with Boko Haram terrorists and engagement ensued,” the general wrote.

He added: “During the encounter, they were able to recover an Eagle Main Battle Tank (EMBT), 1 VBL, 1 AK-47 Rifle, a Police Teargas Rifle, religious books, many gas cylinders and bags of fertiliser, ostensibly for Improvised Explosives Devices making.

“Other items destroyed by the gallant troops include 7 Gun trucks, 4 Trucks, 5 Hilux, 1 Prado Jeep, 1 Golf car, 4 Mitsubishi pick up, 1 Hiace bus, several Motorcycles, makeshift shelters, tentages  and household items.”

The pictures were subsequently included in publications on various news platforms and blogs.

Located in Borno State, Camp Zairo (Zero) was formerly the command and control centre of Boko Haram. It was established as a military training facility under the administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida but was later abandoned after public outcry. The terror group had then taken over the facility and converted the area to a training ground.


All the pictures are not recent and have been used in a misleading context. One of the photos is from the infamous Darfur genocide in Sudan that led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of people. Other pictures are from Nigeria but show a military raid that took place in January 2018.


The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with HumAngle to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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'Kunle Adebajo

Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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