By: Anurag Baruah
June 25 2023
The three photos are old and unrelated to Manipur.
The Indian state of Manipur continues to reel under ethnic clashes between the Kuki tribe and the Meitei community resulting in mis/disinformation circulating on social media. More than 100 people have lost their lives so far in violent clashes that started after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ on May 3.
Various news reports of violent incidents continue to surface from different parts of the state. One such incident was reported by multiple local news organizations about an alleged landmine blast that led to the death of a cow in Heikol, a border village between Manipur's Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts.
Multiple photos circulated on social media claiming that they show the landmines planted in Heikol allegedly by "Kuki militants." The photos were also carried in a local news channel, Elite TV, with a similar claim on June 20. This was then picked up by other social media pages, including a prominent author and activist from Manipur, Binalakshmi Nepram, who further amplified it on Twitter.
However, the photos are old and related to Manipur.
We conducted a reverse image search of all three photos, followed by a keyword search.
We traced the photo showing a landmine embedded in the ground with two wires to the website of the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). The DVIDS website describes itself as a "connection between world media and the American military personnel serving at home and abroad" and is owned by the DMA (Defense Media Activity) under the United States Department of Defense.
According to the DVIDS website, Lance Cpl. Jamin Powell took the photo on February 19, 2019, during the Cobra Gold 2019 Exercise involving the U.S. Marines and the Royal Thai Armed Forces in Thailand.
A press release from January 28, 2019, by the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Thailand further confirmed about the Cobra Gold 2019 Exercise that was carried out at various locations in Thailand between February 12 and 23, 2019.
We traced the other photo of a landmine embedded in the ground to the website of the National Archives Catalog of the U.S. government. The website described the photo as showing a Soviet TM-46 anti-personnel mine, and the source of the photo as the Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, U.S. The archival entry put the photo date as January 1, 1986, and the camera operator as ‘unknown.’
The third photo, showing a man standing with a red flag with "danger mines" written on it, could be traced to the website of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) which described the photo as an assessment team conducting survey in Darayya, Syria. The credit of the photo has been given to Asso Sabahaddin from UNMAS. The date on the website mentions January-May, 2023.
While we could not independently verify whether a landmine blast had actually taken place in Heikol with no official statement about it, it is clear that the photos used to report the incident are not from Manipur. Therefore, we are marking the claim as false.