Reuters has been able to source the video since this article was first published on Aug. 31. Sept. 2 update replaces paragraph 12, adds paragraph 13, updates paragraph 1 and updates verdict in light of source verification.
What appears to be a zoomed in version of a viral video of a man dangling from a helicopter in Afghanistan shows him moving and waving. This closer-up video, along with other photos that show a similar helicopter and a similar harness, dispel the popular narrative circulating online that the scene shows a man hanged by the Taliban. Since this article’s publication, a local radio confirmed ownership of the video and that it shows a planned maneuver by the Taliban.
One post (here) reads, “Joe Biden deserves credit for supplying the Taliban with 33 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters which it took them 4-5 days to learn how to fly and are now hanging innocent civilians from for the world to see.”
Another (here) reads, “Taliban now actually flying US BlackHawk helicopters, hanging people by the throat from them!! The American President will never be forgiven for this!!”
A tweet with 2.4 million views (here) reads, “If this is what it looks like… the Taliban hanging somebody from an American Blackhawk… I could vomit. Joe Biden is responsible.”
Reuters was not definitively able to source the video. But a closer shot and photos of what appear to be the same helicopter strongly suggest the man is alive, despite the contrary claims.
One early iteration of the video was posted by a now-suspended account called the Talib Times on August 30 (archive.ph/0kkV4). The account described itself as the “English language official account of the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan.” They posted the video with the text: “Our Air Force! At this time, the Islamic Emirate's air force helicopters are flying over Kandahar city and patrolling the city.”
Fact-checker for the Indian outlet Alt News, Mohammed Zubair, posted another version of the video in a tweet (here), apparently showing the scene in more detail and closer up.
This version clearly shows the dangling person moving and raising their arm (see the screenshots imgur.com/a/5XpGTEt ). At the 0:32 mark in the video (here), the person can be seen being held by a harness-like contraption around their back.
Freelance journalist Bilal Sarwary responded to the video in a tweet on Aug. 31, 2021 (here) by saying: “Afghan pilot flying this is someone I have known over the years. He was trained in the US and UAE, he confirmed to me that he flew the Blackhawk helicopter. Taliban fighter seen here was trying to install Taliban flag from air but it didn’t work in the end.”
Alt News, in their fact-check article of the same scene (here), identified another video from Aug. 30 showing a person similarly dangling from a helicopter near a flag pole, corroborating Sarwary’s version of events (here).
A photograph posted (here) shows the person raising their arm. The helicopter and rope appear to be the same as those seen in the videos shared on social media (imgur.com/a/63v0mQB). The caption of this tweet reads (with Google translation from Pashto), “Our Air Force! At the same time, the Islamic Emirate's air force helicopters are flying over Kandahar city,” similar to that posted by the Talib Times.
The Pashto text on the version of the video circulating on social media reads "Tabasum Radio." It posted a higher definition version of the video on its Telegram channel on Aug. 30 (t.me/tabasumradio/2842).
On Sept. 1, Tabasum Radio confirmed to Reuters via email that the video was filmed by “a colleague” of theirs and it shows Taliban efforts to use a helicopter to solve a technical problem with a 100-meter flagpole. “The man is the bodyguard of Taliban governor Haji Yusuf Wafa,” the radio said. “But he did not succeed.”
False. Further evidence (a more zoomed in video and photos of a similar scene on the same day) point toward a viral video purported to show a man killed by the Taliban as alive and part of an organized maneuver. This content shows him moving and tied to a harness.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.