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No, photo from Syria – doesn’t show Russian troops taking over US base in Niger

IN SHORT: A photo spread widely on social media doesn’t show Russian soldiers taking over a US military base in the African country of Niger but was taken at least four years ago in Syria.

“AMERICAN soldiers watch as RUSSIAN soldiers TAKE OVER a base the US built and paid for in NIGER,” reads the caption for a photo circulating on social media since May 2024.

The photo shows two people in uniform, their backs to the camera, looking at three armoured vehicles on a dusty road. The vehicles fly the flag of Russia.

Niger is a country in West Africa, bordering Nigeria to the north. In July 2023 the government of its democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum was ousted in a military coup.

In March 2024 the military government revoked a security pact that had allowed the US to station some 1,000 troops on two bases in Niger to help fight insurgents linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State. 

A month later the US announced it would withdraw its forces from Niger. In May, the two countries agreed that the withdrawal would be complete by 15 September.

In the meantime, military trainers from Russia arrived in Niger “to develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger”. Russian security forces have also been deployed to the same airbase as US troops. The base, outside the capital of Niamey, belongs to the Nigerien airforce.

But does the photo really show Russian soldiers taking over a “base the US built and paid for” in Niger?

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May 2020 encounter between troops in northeastern Syria

Africa Check ran the photo through a TinEye reverse image search and sorted the results by date. This revealed that the photo has been online since at least May 2020.

Further searches led us to a Greek-language news report of an encounter between patrolling US and Russian forces in the Middle East country of Syria in May 2020.

Here the photo is credited to Syria-based freelance Agence France Presse photographer Delil Souleiman, who posted it on the social media platform then known as Twitter.

 

 

“#US soldiers stand along a road across from #Russian military armoured personnel carriers (APCs), near the village of Tannuriyah in the countryside east of #Qamishli in #Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on May 2, 2020,” the post reads.

The photo can also be seen on the Getty Images stock photo site with a similar caption. It does not show any military base.

In May 2020 Syria was still in the throes of a civil war that began in 2011. Russia gave the Syrian government military support, while the US involvement was largely against the Islamic State and to protect the Kurdish minority.

There were several reports of run-ins between Russian and US troops in Syria’s northeast in 2020.

The photo was shot in Syria in 2020, not in Niger in 2024.

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