A photograph of smoke rising from an airport has been misattributed to a biolab in Sudan

By: Sam Doak
May 2 2023

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A photograph of smoke rising from an airport has been misattributed to a biolab in Sudan


The Verdict False

The location shown is Khartoum International Airport, not Sudan's National Public Health Laboratory.

Claim ID b0b09b9d


Since April 2023, rival factions in Sudan have intensified their fight for control of the country. As stability in the country has deteriorated, concerns have been raised concerning the status of a biolab in the capital, Khartoum.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) officials, combatants took control of Sudan’s National Public Health Laboratory last week. Since then, it has been reported that technicians have been unable to access the lab, which houses samples of dangerous diseases that include cholera and measles. Responding to these events, the WHO’s representative in Sudan, Nima Saeed Abid, told reporters, “There is a huge biological risk associated with the occupation of the central public health lab in Khartoum by one of the fighting parties.”

In the wake of this news, unsubstantiated claims are circulating concerning the status of Sudan’s National Public Health Laboratory. One of the most prevalent of these is that the facility has been intentionally attacked, affected by a fire, and viruses have been released from containment. This claim appears to have originated on Telegram, accompanied by an image of smoke rising above a cluster of buildings. Both the text of this post and the attached photograph have since been widely shared on Facebook.

While many seem to believe that the photograph shows a biolab in Sudan, this is not the case.

In Fact

The image in question is watermarked with the news organization AFP's branding and the code “33DK2JN.” Using this code, a search of multimedia content published by AFP gives the original context of the photo. According to the agency, “This image grab, taken from AFPTV video footage on April 20, 2023, shows an aerial view of black smoke rising above the Khartoum International Airport amid ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals.”

A comparison with publicly available aerial images of Khartoum International Airport confirms that this is the location depicted in the photograph in the viral photograph. While the National Public Health Laboratory is a relatively short distance from the airport, it is not in the pictured area.

While the situation at Sudan’s National Public Health Laboratory is being closely monitored by officials and news organizations, Logically could find no corroboration for claims that viruses had escaped containment at the facility.

The Verdict

The image circulating online shows Khartoum International Airport, not the aftermath of a fire at a biolab. Despite concerns, there have been no reports of biological hazards escaping containment in Khartoum. We have therefore marked this claim as false.

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before