Iranian TV station accused of faking reports of Somalia drone strikes
No evidence of attacks reported on controversial channel Press TV as Somali charity says reports are impossible
An Iranian TV station appears to have faked dozens of accounts of US drone strikes in Somalia which it says have killed hundreds of civilians.
Press TV, which was fined £100,000 by Ofcom on Thursday after the station hid the fact that a 2009 "interviewee" was being forcibly detained in Iran, has reported the deaths of more than 1,370 people in 56 drone strikes in Somalia since September this year.
Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, however, has found no evidence of the reported incidents.
first known lethal US drone strike in Somalia occurred on 23 June 2011.
A small number of similar attacks appear to have taken place since
then, possibly in conjunction with operations by the French and Kenyan
militaries.But many claims of drone attacks in Somalia are highly suspect.
15 September 2011, Press TV reported that US drone attacks on the
outskirts of the town of Kismayo, Somalia, had killed nine women and
children.It was the first of many claims of civilian deaths from
drone strikes in Somalia. No photographic or video evidence has ever
been shown in support.At least four reports are identical in all
but place name and casualty numbers, and sources are only named in four
of 56 drone strike reports.Researchers have been unable to
identify the sources Hassan Ali and Colonel Aden Dheere, who were
described as Somali military officials, or Mohamud Abdirahman, described
as an eyewitness, despite lodging a request with the Somali government
and with Press TV's headquarters in Iran.No representatives from
the United Nations, Amisom (the African Union Mission in Somalia),
non-government organisations or journalists in Somalia were able to
confirm the strikes.Tony Burns, the director of operations at the
Somali charity Saacid, which operates from the capital, Mogadishu, said
that Press TV's casualty figures were "simply not possible"."Saacid's
experience has been that Press TV does have a penchant for
exaggeration. In the past they have published conflict reports which, in
reality, never occurred, and casualty figures that are simply not
true."A senior UN official focusing on Somalia said: "Press TV is
not a reliable source. It exaggerates and openly fabricates reports."Some organisations have repeated Press TV's claims. The Kenyan Daily Nation, one of east Africa's largest newspapers, has carried details of a number of "attacks", for example.
Global Research, a Canadian nonprofit human rights group, has also given credence to reports.
Press TV's stories have been picked up around the globe, officials at
the US embassy in Nairobi insist the reports are "wholly false".Jeremy
Scahill of the US magazine the Nation recently exposed secret CIA
operations in Mogadishu. He has spoken publicly about US drones
operating in Somalia and elsewhere.Scahill believed there could
be innocent reasons for the misinformation, including a "benign
misinterpretation" of events on the ground amid the chaos. And US
attacks with other weapons – including cruise missiles or air strikes –
may have been misreported.Alternatively, the reports could form part of a targeted anti-US news campaign, said Scahill.
is an extreme propaganda war going on between Iran and the US at the
moment. You've got to assume that everyone has an agenda."Asked
if the station had exaggerated the number of drone strikes in Somalia, a
spokesman for Press TV in Tehran declined to comment on Friday.This report was written for the Guardian by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
|Liveleak on Facebook|