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Photos of vehicle and weapons snapped in 2018, not during 2023 security operation in Kenya’s North Rift

IN SHORT: Kenya’s government is battling banditry in the North Rift region, where it has recently launched a new police and military operation. But photos circulating with the claim they show the bandits have government support are misleading – they were snapped five years ago, in 2018.

A flare-up in simmering banditry in Kenya’s North Rift region has prompted security operations in troubled areas. 

In mid-February 2023, photos began circulating online with claims that they showed a successful recent operation – and that security forces were involved in the banditry.  

The photos show three civilians, a Toyota Land Cruiser with Kenyan government plates, six rifles and several rounds of ammunition.

One Twitter post with more than 10,000 views captions them: “A vehicle with registration number GKB345M has been nabbed along Lodwar - Kakuma road with six AK 47 rifles and six magazines together with 30 rounds of ammunition all hidden behind the drivers seat.” 

Lodwar and Kakuma are in the northwestern Kenyan county of Turkana, close to the borders of Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia

Similar claims about the photos can be seen here on Twitter, as well as here and here on Facebook. These claims add that the vehicle has been linked to the member of parliament for Turkana South.


Banditry and cattle rustling in the North Rift

The North Rift region of Kenya covers eight counties, including Turkana. Parts of the region have a decades-long history of banditry linked to cattle rustling. An illegal arms trade has also made the situation difficult for the government to resolve. 

Despite government attempts to tackle banditry, it continues. Recent attacks have led the government to mount a major security operation in the area using both the police and the military.

The claims about the photos may lead some people to believe that government officials or lawmakers are deliberately undermining the new operation.

But has a government vehicle “been nabbed” illegally transporting arms?

Out of context photos

A reverse image search of the photos shows that they were actually taken in 2018

The claims are based on a real incident from that year. But it is false to claim that the photos have anything to do with the 2023 security operation in North Rift.

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