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FACT-CHECKED: Oromo Liberation Army has neither captured Ethiopian Army Commander nor shot down a drone

By MFC Staff 

January 10, 2022

FACT-CHECKED CLAIMS: 

  1. Has Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) Captured General Belay Seyoum?
  2. Has the Oromo Liberation Army downed a Drone in Wollo?

MFC’s VERDICT: 

Both Claims are ENTIRELY FALSE. Oromo Liberation Army has neither captured Ethiopian Army Commander nor shot down a drone

EXPLANATIONS:

On January 6, Shinniigaa Broadcasting Service (SBS), one of the upcoming Oromo media,  posted a story (screenshot provided below) on its Facebook and Telegram accounts stating that Major General Belay Seyoum, one of the top commanders of the Ethiopian army, has been captured by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) operating in Borana Zone of Oromia Regional State. 

According to SBS, the commander was captured on January 5, 2021, in fighting that took place between OLA and Ethiopia’s military in a village called Marsha, close to the town of Negele Borana in Southern Oromia. SBS, although later removed the content from its Facebook but not from its Telegram account, claimed to have received the information from the local OLA commander division named Soddom Booruu

Screenshot 1: SBS Telegram story claiming the capture of Major General Belay Seyoum displaying a picture of an Ethiopian army General who is not Major General Belay. 

MFC contacted OLA’s Spokesperson, Mr. Odaa Tarbii, for fact-checking, asking if the said General is indeed captured; and if true, where, and when. In response to MFC’s email request, the Spokesperson stated that the claimed capture was NOT TRUE. Mr. Tarbii said, “No, this is false. Major General Belay Seyoum has not been captured.”

The existing MFC’s Data Bank on the profiles of Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) commanders also shows that the image used by the media claiming as the picture of Major General Belay Seyoum is rather a picture of Brigadier General Kindu Gezu Tegegn. 

Even though we were not able to track down how many people liked and shared the story on the Media’s Facebook page prior to its removal, the post on Telegram received 661 views. SBS is an emerging satellite-based media that has 2.21k subscribers on YouTube, close to 2.91k and 3.0k followers on Facebook and Telegram, respectively.   

In a related story, Shabo Media Page reported on January 4, 2022 that the OLA shot down a drone operated by the Ethiopian Air Force in Oromo Nationality Special Zone in Amhara Regional State. The media reported the story displaying an image of the drone it claimed to have been shot down by OLA and fallen in arid lowland areas of the Afar Region bordering the Zone. 

Screenshot 2: Shabo Media report as seen on screen with the claimed downed drone.

In the story, the presenter also claimed that he was informed that the OLA North-Command operating in Wollo-Oromo territory (officially known as Oromo Nationality Special Zone) shot down the claimed drone with ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun as it was departing from Semera in Afar Regional State to attack the armed group in West Hararghe of Oromia. The shot Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) fell down in an arid lowland area of Afar, according to the presenter of Shabo Media Page. However, the claimed place of the aircraft’s departure (1), the direction it aimed to take, the interceptors’ position, and the point of the target are evidently implausible. 

Screenshot 3: Based on the claim, the location of departure is Semera in Afar, location of interception could approximately be in the area of Kemise and the destination was claimed to be West Hararge. 

In MFC’s email inquiry, the Spokesperson of OLA dismissed the report rejecting the Media’s claim that the armed group downed the drone. “While there have been drone attacks in Wollo, North Shawa, and Wallaggaa, there have been no instances of OLA fighters bringing a drone down”, the Spokesperson said. 

MFC has also examined the source of the claimed UAV image displayed by the media, which generated more than 5.8k likes and 78,633 viewership. The original picture was doctored from a Defense Blog, a website based in the United States too, as seen in the screenshot below. 

As the report from this Blog shows, the image displayed by the Shabo Media as proof of the downed drone by OLA is rather a drone that according to a US military personnel crashed near Bagdad, Iraq due to technical problems while being utilized by the US-led coalition in the operation launched against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in 2019.

Reportedly, the Ethiopian government has been using drones too in its operation against the OLA and the Tigray Defense Force (TDF). The fight between the OLA and Ethiopia’s security forces re-intensified following the unresolved political deadlock in the country since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration took office in 2018. Since then, many people have been displaced and lost their lives. The armed group has also announced its alliance with TDF with the goal of waging a coordinated armed struggle against the Ethiopian government. 

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Based on voice cloning and using wrong pictures, MFC verdicts the stated content as misleading. 

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