Four images of vehicles engulfed by fire and crowds gathered under smoke are circulating on social media in Nigeria with claims that they show scenes of violent ethnic attacks in the country’s central Plateau state. However, the claim is false: the photos, taken in Zimbabwe and other parts of Nigeria, are old and unrelated to the current unrest in Plateau.
Social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle revealed the images were largely circulated on social media by pro-Biafran accounts, including this Facebook page called Biafra TV.
The Independent People of Biafra is an outlawed organisation that has been fighting for an independent Igbo state in Nigeria’s southeast since 1970.
“The war have started (sic),” reads the caption in the post, which has been shared more than 2,300 times since publication on August 28, 2021. “Fulani men intersected on 2 luxurious bus conveying Igbo’s home and set it on fire killing 230 Igbo’s (sic).”
Biafra TV’s post claims that the coach was purportedly set on fire in Plateau’s capital Jos and urges Igbo residents in the state to stay indoors or seek refuge in nearby churches or military camps.
Unrest in Plateau
Plateau state is located in the central part of Nigeria, called the Middle Belt, a region that has over the years witnessed repeated ethno-religious conflicts.
The set of images has been shared on Twitter and elsewhere on Facebook alongside the same claim about purported Igbo victims of recent violence in Plateau.
While an attack in August 2021 left at least 16 people dead in Jos, as AFP reported, the photos in the Facebook post have been falsely shared and are unrelated to the current violence in the central Nigerian city.
AFP conducted a Google reverse image search on one of the images showing a red coach in flames and found that it was published in this online article on March 16, 2019.
The incident involved a bus belonging to Nigerian transport company, Young Shall Grow Transport, according to the publication.
A Bing search for a similar photo involving a white-coloured coach returned old publications, and one of the earliest versions was found on the website of Zimbabwean online newspaper ZwNews.