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Viral photo asking for prayers against execution of 22 missionaries in Afghanistan used in false context

A meme flagged on Facebook claims that 22 Christian missionaries have been sentenced to death by “Islamists” in Afghanistan and urges people to urgently share it and pray for them.

[Note: Some links in this article are to images of graphic violence.]

The photo in the meme supposedly shows a masked Afghan man in black clothes about to decapitate a Christian missionary who is blindfolded and has his hands tied behind his back.

In the background are other masked men heavily armed, the legs of someone lying on the ground in a pool of blood, and some onlookers.

While this story has been shared widely on Facebook, is it true? We checked.

Reverse image search shows claims in post untrue

A reverse image search of the photo on Google shows that this image first surfaced online on 13 May 2015 in an article published by the UK newspaper the Daily Mail. It is titled: “Blood runs on the streets of Iraq as ISIS [Islamic State] executioners behead three men accused of spying for the government.”

[Note: ISIS is now usually referred to as Islamic State or IS.]

According to the article, the photographs were taken in Nineveh province in north-western Iraq, and not in Afghanistan. 

The men were not missionaries, as the meme claims, but were accused of spying on IS for the Iraq government, said the Daily Mail.

Fact-checking organisation AFP Fact check also investigated the image. They reported that the story of 22 Christian missionaries in Afghanistan was a “decade-old hoax”. 

According to AFP Fact Check, several elements pointed to the photo being of an Islamic State execution in Iraq. In 2015, IS was in control of a large part of Iraq, including Ninevh. The clothes are similar to those of other IS executioners, and the yellow logo at the bottom right corner is the authentication mark of IS propaganda. 

The execution appears to be of Iraqi men, not Christian missionaries in Afghanistan. – Grace Gichuhi


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