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Photos falsely claimed to show arms seized from police in Nigeria

Nigerian self-proclaimed separatist leader Simon Ekpa has shared photos on social media alleging that they show weapons seized by separatists from the Nigerian security forces. But the claim is false: AFP Fact Check found that the images are old and come from different sources.

“The Biafra resistance fighters has neutralised many terrorists @PoliceNG who came to kill Biafrans as usual, send them to God and recovered many weapons including explosives (sic),” Ekpa wrote in an X post published on February 5, 2024.

<span>A screenshot of the false claim, taken on February 6, 2024 </span>
A screenshot of the false claim, taken on February 6, 2024

The post, which has garnered more than 2,000 reposts and 2,800 likes, shows three separate images of weapons displayed on the ground.

Secession and misinformation

Ekpa is a self-declared leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, a separatist group pushing for independence of Nigeria's southeast.

AFP Fact Check has previously debunked his false claims.

Calls for a separate state of Biafra remain a hot-button topic in Nigeria more than half a century after secessionist leader Chukwuemeka Ojukwu declared the independence of the country’s southeast in 1967. This was followed by a brutal 30-month civil war (archived here).

Members of IPOB and those sympathetic to its cause still refer to themselves as Biafrans.

In 2017, the Nigerian government declared IPOB a terrorist group and rearrested its leader Nnamdi Kanu in Kenya in 2021 after he skipped bail in 2017 (archived here). He was charged with terrorism.

The Eastern Security Network (ESN), the paramilitary arm of the group, has been linked to the killings of locals and security personnel. It has also been linked to attacks on government infrastructures within the southeast states (archived here).

Old photos

Using a reverse image search, we found that all three photos had been online for years before Ekpa made his claim.

AFP Fact Check traced the origin of the first image to an X post by Zagazola Makama, a counter-insurgency publication focused on the Lake Chad region, published on January 1, 2023. (archived here).

According to the post, the Nigerian army killed six Boko Haram fighters and recovered three AK47 rifles along with a machine gun following clashes in Borno, a state in northeastern Nigeria.

Zagazola Makama told AFP Fact Check that the report and pictures of the recovered weapons were “sourced from the Nigerian army through one of its operatives in Darel Jamal, Borno”.

“We have noticed how some people on social media used some of our pictures and videos to mislead people about current events,” the publication said.

Ekpa cropped out parts of the original photo before sharing it.

<span>A screenshot shows similarities between Ekpa’s photo, left, and the original, taken on February 7, 2024</span>
A screenshot shows similarities between Ekpa’s photo, left, and the original, taken on February 7, 2024

The second image was published in a report by a local newspaper Premium Times on November 28, 2017 (archived here).

The article said the weapons were seized from a Boko Haram fighter in Borno.

<span>Screenshot of the image published by Premium Times, taken on February 12, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the image published by Premium Times, taken on February 12, 2024

At least 40,000 people have been killed and more than two million others displaced since the hardline Islamic group began a rebellion in 2009.

The third photo was published on US gun blogs (here and here) in October 2018 (archived here and here).

<span>Screenshot of the shotguns from US blogs, taken on February 12, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the shotguns from US blogs, taken on February 12, 2024

The sites identified the weapons as Remington 870 shotguns from the Ohio National Guard and sold by a shop called Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore.

A keyword search for “Remington 870 shotguns” and “Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore” revealed that the company listed the weapons on its website and FB page on October 17, 2018 (archived here).

Attempts to access the company’s website failed as the connection kept timing out. However, a search of the archiving website Wayback Machine revealed the original advert.

<span>A screenshot of the archived Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore website, taken on February 12, 2024</span>
A screenshot of the archived Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore website, taken on February 12, 2024

“The photos represent the average condition of these Remington 870 Wingmaster shotguns. The receivers are stamped with O.N.G. (Ohio National Guard),” the description reads.

AFP Fact Check has reached out to Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore for comment.