FACT CHECK: Does This Image Show A Pakistani Helicopter In Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook allegedly shows a Pakistani military helicopter on a landing pad in Panjshir, Afghanistan.

Verdict: False

The picture of the helicopter has been available online for years and has been included in various news articles prior to 2021. It does not appear to be connected to the recent conflict between the Taliban and resistance fighters in Panjshir.

Fact Check:

The Taliban in early September claimed it had taken control of Panjshir Valley, a bastion of anti-Taliban resistance in Afghanistan, according to The New York Times. Though the Taliban promised not to carry out revenge attacks, the militant group has reportedly killed at least 20 civilians in Panjshir, according to BBC News.

Amid the Taliban saying it took control of Panjshir Valley, social media users have been sharing images and videos purportedly showing Pakistani aircraft involved in the conflict between the Taliban and resistance fighters in Afghanistan. This particular Facebook post features a photo of a parked helicopter sporting the word “Army” on its side with text claiming it is a “Pakistani military airplane in Panjshir to support Taliban.”

The picture of the camouflage-painted helicopter has been circulating online for years, a reserve image search shows. It can be found on Wikimedia Commons, where the description states it depicts a “Pakistani Army helicopter at the Skardu Airport in Northern Areas, Pakistan.” In the description, the photo is attributed to Waqas Usman and dated to 2002. (RELATED: Does This Video Show Resistance Fighters Shooting Down A Pakistani Jet In Afghanistan?)

The photo of the helicopter has also been included in news articles prior to 2021, further indicating it is not connected to recent fighting between the Taliban and Panjshir resistance group. For example, Russian state-affiliated Sputnik International used the image in a 2016 story about a helicopter crew that got taken hostage by the Taliban. NL Times, a news outlet based in the Netherlands, also included it in a 2015 article about a Pakistani helicopter crash that killed several people, including foreign diplomats.

Usman confirmed in an email to Check Your Fact that he took the photo of the helicopter in Pakistan in 2002.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a response from photographer Waqas Usman.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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