In the aftermath of the coup in Niger, false claims and misinformation are being shared online, adding to the tensions over the country’s future.
We have looked into some of the widely shared claims.
Old and manipulated images showing ‘Wagner troops’ arriving
The US has said Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is “taking advantage” of instability in Niger – but so far there is no evidence of their fighters being deployed there.
Wagner forces have been active in other African countries such as neighbouring Mali and the Central African Republic.
However, a video of a Russian military plane supposedly landing in Niamey, the capital of Niger, has been circulating – along with speculation that “Wagner forces have already begun to enter the city”.
The plane in the video does match an IL 76 Russian military aircraft, but the footage is old.
BBC Verify carried out a search for previous versions of this video available online and found that it was posted on YouTube in 2006, and in fact shows the plane landing in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
The buildings seen in the video match those which surround Khartoum International Airport.
Another video – viewed more than 500,000 times on TikTok – wrongly presents old footage of Wagner fighters in Africa as the first visual confirmation of their presence in Niger.
It comes from a news report, broadcast by the France 24 news channel in January last year, talking about Wagner’s presence in Mali rather than Niger.
The video circulating on TikTok has apparently been edited to get rid of both on-screen captions referring to Mali and references to the country in the report itself.
Elsewhere, an old photograph of Wagner fighters in Ukraine has been shared alongside claims that the group was planning to send its fighters to Niger.
However, no such announcement has been posted in Wagner-affiliated groups on Telegram so far.
False claims about uranium exports ban
Another false claim circulating online following the coup suggested the new military leaders had “with immediate effect, banned the export of uranium to France”.
Niger is a former French colony and France still has influence in the country.
Some posts, like the one above, include largely accurate figures about uranium exports to France and the European Union, but there is no evidence the junta issued a ban on uranium exports to France when they took over.
The French company involved in mining uranium in Niger, Orano Group, said that its activities had continued at the Arlit and Akokan sites and at its headquarters in Niamey following the coup.
Niger military not detaining foreigners
As some European countries began evacuating their citizens following the coup, an unfounded claim started circulating that the junta had ordered the army to detain Europeans.
It alleged this was done to get Western countries to withdraw their forces from Niger.
The claim seems to be based on a call by the M62 movement, which is a pro-junta and anti-French group, for European nationals to be held hostage until foreign forces leave.
The group, however, does not represent the junta.
Coup leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani said last week that French nationals had nothing to fear and “have never been the object of the slightest threat”.
Niger currently hosts detachments of both French and US military personnel, and these forces are still there.
Algeria did not say it would back junta
Claims have also emerged about neighbouring Algeria, speculating that it would support Niger’s military government in the event of any foreign intervention.
“Algeria will not sit idly by while an invasion of a neighbouring country takes place,” one Twitter post said, attributing this to “Algerian news outlets”.
The West African regional bloc, Ecowas, has threatened to intervene (including possibly militarily) if the deposed president is not restored to power.
However, Mali and Burkina Faso – Ecowas members led by military leaders – said they would side with the junta in the event of any outside intervention.
Algeria has said it is opposed to military intervention, but importantly, it has not said it would back Niger’s coup leaders should an outside intervention take place.
Some of the posts claiming Algeria would back Niger against foreign intervention mentioned an account called Intel Kirby as the source for their claims.
We checked this account on Twitter. It did post on 30 July that “Algeria will not sit idly while a neighbouring country is being invaded,” but made clear this was its own analysis of what might happen – not a statement of government policy.
Source : BBC