A photo of charred bodies is circulating online, with claims that it shows 2000 Nigerians massacred “2 days after Paris.” Is this photo real or fake?
The photo is real, but the story attached to it is unrelated.
First appearance: 2011
The photo (which we have blurred below) first circulated heavily online in mid-2011. At that time, it was claimed that the photo showed Nigerian Christians burnt alive by Muslims. That story was untrue.
Let’s look at the 2011 version. A common caption read:
Christians burnt alive by Sunni Muslims in NIGERIA…(Posted by Jillian Becker in Africa, Arab States, Christianity, Christians burnt alive by Sunni Muslims, Islam, Muslims, jihad)…..PLEASE SHARE IT OR JUST UPLOAD YOUR OWN…BUT SOMEHOW SPREAD IT IF YOU’RE EVEN 1% CHRISTIAN — It is still not over yet! —
The photo and story were angrily shared by readers unaware that photo did not depict an act of violence, but the aftermath of an accident, as detailed below.
In January 2015, the photo surfaced once again online. This time the caption claimed that it was evidence of a massacre in Nigeria. “This is Nigeria. A massacre of 2000 happened 2 days after Paris. They are not Charlie. They are dead.”
That, too, is an incorrect description of the photo.
The caption appears to reference a 2015 report that as many as 2000 were feared dead in a massacre in Nigeria. As the Guardian reported:
Hundreds of bodies – too many to count – remain strewn in the bush in Nigeria from an Islamic extremist attack that Amnesty International described as the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.
Real Incident: Tanker Explosion
Loonwatch posted an excellent dissertation debunking the false description of photo when it first circulated in 2011. That site showed – with many additional photos – that the charred bodes were in fact a result of a tanker explosion in Congo in July 2010.
Reuters originally covered the explosion, writing:
“At least 230 people were killed when a fuel tanker overturned and exploded in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, unleashing a fire ball that tore through homes and cinemas packed with people watching World Cup soccer.”
Africa Check also published a rather convincing piece debunking claims about the photo at the time.
The photo which allegedly shows a massacre of 2000 Nigerians is incorrectly labeled. It actually shows the aftermath of a tanker explosion which occurred in Congo back in 2010. The photo also circulated in 2011 as an example of Christians burned in Nigeria, which was also a misrepresentation of the photo. Although a massacre of 2000 in Nigeria has been reported in January 2015, this photo does not depict that tragedy.
Updated January 11, 2015
Originally published October 2011