There has been a series of graphic photos circulating lately (below), started by Iraqi social media, showing a man who has caught a 60mm mortar round through his shoulder. It is being hailed as an example of the bravery and hardness of the Shi’a militias and Iraqi Security Forces as they battle against ISIS.
Looks like one hard dude, doesn’t it? This is the caliber of the fighters taking the war to ISIS! Except it’s not.
First of all, most likely, this is the aftermath of an accident. The angle suggests that this guy was over the mouth of the mortar tube when the round got dropped, and didn’t get out of the way fast enough. But that’s not all.
The second picture above has been cropped. Here’s the original:
Notice the patch says “Quimbaya.” First of all, you aren’t going to see Roman characters on an Iraqi patch. Second of all, Quimbaya is a city in Colombia, in Quindio Department. This incident happened over 7,600 miles from the fighting against ISIS.
We here at SOFREP aren’t the only ones to figure this out:
Now, when this first came up, a couple of us started digging, because the question arose, “What is happening in Quimbaya?” While much of the Internet seems to believe that the only wars going on are either in Iraq or Ukraine (and Ukraine is definitely on the back burner), as previously elaborated on here at SOFREP, the FARC has abandoned its ceasefire with the Colombian government (although the fighting had continued in one way or another in spite of said ceasefire). So, was this part of an action against the FARC, ELN, AUC, or one of the other armed groups in Colombia?
Well, nothing cropped up. Even the local Spanish-language sources didn’t reveal anything major happening. Sure, there was some violence—narcos getting shot or arrested—but the only mention of military activity in the department was over a year old, and that was simply a tour by an engineer battalion. Quindio was mentioned in a four-year-old article on Insight Crime about illegal mining in Colombia, but there doesn’t appear to be any major fighting going on there. The big hot-spot these days is Cauca.
So the options are thus: The Colombian government (as well as the opposition) is doing a bang-up job of keeping this quiet, it happened a long time ago, or it was simply a training accident. All things considered, the last one seems the most likely, possibly with a bit of the second. (The first is highly improbable in any environment.)
This isn’t the first time old or completely unrelated pictures have been used as propaganda. It’s a lot easier to pick these things out now, of course, since the resources of the entire Internet are available to track down the provenance of images used for propaganda purposes. Unfortunately, too many people are too emotionally invested in the propaganda to do their due diligence before spreading it.
(Featured image courtesy of the-eyeontheworld.blogspot.com)
Note: Peter Nealen’s latest American Praetorian thriller, “The Devil You Don’t Know,” is available for pre-order here.