Old photo of Ethiopian soldiers in Tigray used to claim attacks in Amhara region

·2-min read

A Facebook post shared a photo purporting to show Ethiopian federal soldiers on their way to crush a militia group in the country’s Amhara region. However, this is false: it is an old photo taken in 2022 and shows federal police preparing to safeguard facilities in the Tigray region.

The post was published on Facebook on May 1, 2023 and has been shared more than 120 times.

The post begins with the hashtag “#breaking_news_Amhara”.

“The [federal] defence forces launched heavy fighting in Majete and Mahal Meda against terrorist Fano groups earlier today and destroyed them entirely,” the post reads in part.

<span>Screenshot of the false post, taken on May 8, 2023</span>
Screenshot of the false post, taken on May 8, 2023

The post also asks users to share the story and to follow the account for updated information.

Majete and Mehal Meda are towns in the North Shoa zone of the Amhara region, and Fano is a local militia.

The post includes a photo of armed men in blue uniforms seated in a pickup with a logo that reads “Ethiopian Federal Police Commission”.

Instability in Amhara

Anti-government protests were held in the Amhara region in April over the government’s decision to dismantle regional security forces.

On April 30, 2023, federal agencies arrested 47 people (archived here), accusing them of plotting to overthrow the Ethiopian government after the Amhara regional head of the ruling Prosperity Party was assassinated three days earlier (archived here).

According to local media reports (in Amharic), calm has returned to most of the region, although the city of Gondar saw public demonstrations on May 4, 2023.

However, there have been no reports of fighting between federal forces and Fano in recent weeks, nor does the photo show Ethiopian soldiers in Amhara.

Old photo from Mekelle

A reverse image search found that the photo shows Ethiopian police in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, in December 2022.

The photo was originally shared by federal police on their verified Facebook account. 

<span>Screenshot of original photo, taken on May 4, 2023 </span>
Screenshot of original photo, taken on May 4, 2023

The Amharic description accompanying the photo translates to: “Ethiopian federal police entered Mekelle to protect federal institutions including airport, telecom and electric power facilities in the city.”

The mobilisation in Mekelle was part of the implementation of a peace deal reached between the government and Tigray rebels after two years of war.