Network of accounts on X falsely links India to Iran president’s fatal helicopter crash

Network of accounts on X falsely links India to Iran president’s fatal helicopter crash

By: umme kulsum&
May 21 2024

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Network of accounts on X falsely links India to Iran president’s fatal helicopter crash

Accounts that shared pro-Pakistan content were the primary source of unverified claims attempting to implicate India in the helicopter crash. (Source: Reuters/X/Modified by Logically Facts)

Just hours after the fatal helicopter crash that resulted in the deaths of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on May 19, several claims surfaced on social media implicating India in the crash. One post claimed that Iranian intelligence was searching for an Indian individual seen near the helicopter before President Raisi's departure. Another post falsely alleged that Iranian special forces had raided the Indian embassy in Tehran.

Raisi’s death was confirmed by Iran's Red Crescent, a non-governmental humanitarian organization, on May 20. Later, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (archived here) officially announced his death. And while Iranian ministers have recounted the events leading up to the crash, an official cause has not yet been declared.

In the absence of an official explanation, online speculation linking India to the crash has intensified.

Unfounded theories link India to Raisi’s death

Logically Facts discovered that the claims attempting to connect India to the helicopter crash were propagated by social media accounts that posted pro-Pakistan content and listed “Pakistan” as their location in their bios on X (formerly Twitter).

Screenshot of the account displays its location as Islamabad, Pakistan (Source: X)

One such account, The Intel Consortium (@IntelPk_), alleged that Iranian intelligence was “actively seeking” an Indian individual seen near the helicopter shortly before President Raisi's departure. This post, shared on May 19, had garnered over 831,000 views at the time of writing this story. Another account, PSYWAR Bureau, also propagated this narrative.

Screenshots of the posts by the two accounts. (Source: X/Screenshot)

However, these allegations are unfounded and lack credible evidence. Iran has not officially announced the cause of the crash, and an investigation is still ongoing.

This narrative was also disseminated by another Pakistan-associated account, Eagle Eye (@zarrar_11PK), which cross-posted similar content from accounts like @IntelPk to further propagate unverified claims.

Screenshot of cross-posting by Eagle Eye. (Source: X)

Another widely shared claim was that the Indian embassy in Tehran had been raided following the helicopter crash. This claim was first shared by the account @NavCom24, operating under the name "Ironclad,” on May 19, around 11 p.m.

The post read, “#BREAKING: Massive News Reports are coming in that Iranian intelligence and special forces have raided the Indian embassy in Tehran. Iran got a tip from unknown sources that India might be acting on Israel's behalf to assassinate Iran's President Ibrahim Raisi.”

Various iterations of this claim gained traction online, with users suggesting that an Indian individual was seen at the location from where the helicopter departed. Although the account @NavCom24 is withheld in India, this narrative was replicated and shared by several accounts such as @IntelPK, @TelegraphPak, and @Pak_AfgAffairs — all of which routinely share pro-Pakistan and anti-India content (see here, here, and here).

Unsubstantiated claims amplified by Pakistan-linked accounts. (Source: Logically Facts)

However, there is no official confirmation for this either.

Habitual offenders

This isn't the first time that accounts associated with Pakistan have been observed spreading false information after a significant event, often attempting to link it to India.

For instance, on January 17, 2024, the IntelPk account disseminated misinformation by sharing an image of helicopter debris, alleging it to be an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft that had supposedly crashed near Mathura, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

This claim was subsequently debunked by Logically Facts, which confirmed the information was false. The image shows an IAF helicopter that crashed in Arunachal Pradesh in 2021. An IAF officer, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed to Logically Facts that the information in the post was untrue.

We found that the account @NavCom24 was the origin of another claim amplified by smaller Pakistan-linked accounts. NavCom24 shared an image of security officials standing beside a kneeling man with his face covered, claiming that an Indian diplomat from the Indian embassy in Tehran, identified as Sanjeev Mandia, was caught while attempting to flee Iran.

However, the image is from 2022. According to Shafaq News, a local Iraqi news outlet, the image shows the Iraqi Armed Forces arresting a prominent leader of ISIS. This claim, too, was copied and shared by other smaller accounts like Dera Bugti (@DeraBugti136471) and Pakistan Observer (@Pak_Observer_).

The claim was amplified by smaller Pakistan-linked accounts (Source: X/Screenshots)

Interestingly, the PSYWAR Bureau account also alleged that two Indian diplomats, Navendu Shekhar, and Ateeth Sajeevan, were arrested in Iran amid President Raisi's helicopter crash investigation. However, there are neither any news reports nor any official word from either of the two countries on this.

Screenshots of viral claims about the arrest of the two Indian diplomats. (Source: X/Screenshots)

Logically Facts has contacted the Embassy of India in Tehran for a comment. This article will be updated as and when we get a response.

Other Narratives

Numerous users on X also claimed that the incident was an assassination orchestrated by Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency. These claims linked the crash to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, suggesting retaliation for an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel by Iran in April 2024, an action carried out under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s directive.

While an Israeli official told Reuters that the country was not involved in the crash, Iran has not yet announced the cause of the crash. Following Raisi’s death, power in Iran has been transferred to Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber. All constitutional provisions depend on the Supreme Leader's approval, who can decide if Mokhber assumes the presidency alone or if a council, including the first vice president, should be appointed.

Chabahar Port and India link

Disinformation attempting to link India to the helicopter crash emerged shortly after India and Iran signed a 10-year contract for the Chabahar Port in Tehran on May 13. Social media users have highlighted the close ties between India and Iran, particularly their collaboration on projects like the Chabahar Port. This port is considered a strategic counterbalance to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which was developed with Chinese assistance.

Located at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman, the Chabahar Port provides India with an alternative trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, circumventing Pakistan, which denies India land access to these areas.

(Edited by Sanyukta Dharmadhikari and Nitish Rampal)

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