Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show 'Sudan Rapid Support Force' In Control Of 'Khartoum International Airport And Military Base' On April 15, 2023

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show 'Sudan Rapid Support Force' In Control Of 'Khartoum International Airport And Military Base' On April 15, 2023 Old Footage

Does a video shared on social media show Sudan Rapid Forces (SRF) troops in control of "Khartoum International Airport and Military base"? No, that's not true: The video appeared online three months before fighting broke in Sudan in mid-April 2023. Lead Stories geolocated the footage: It was recorded outside the airport in a park typically used for recreational purposes and occasionally for political rallies. While the main speaker at the event said he represented the SRF, he did not say that they were "in full control of Khartoum International Airport and Military base."

The claim appeared in a post on Facebook on April 15, 2023. It contained the video with the following caption:

Breaking news
Sudan 🇸🇩 Rapid Support force said that they're in full control of Khartoum International Airport and Military base.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 11.03.01 AM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Apr 25 15:03:01 2023 UTC)

The video did not contain any visual clues suggesting that the event took place at the airport: No planes, landing strips or any other elements of the airport infrastructure were seen nearby.

The footage portrayed a crowd wearing what looked like military uniforms, gathered outdoors to listen to a speech. Some of the people were lined up in front of a building, some remained farther away, sitting in multiple neatly parked vehicles. Most men were unarmed, some carried guns, and munition was piled up in their cars.

But the video did not show any combat, preparation for an attack, the aftermath of conflict, or growing tension. The atmosphere was rather informal: People were free to move from one spot to another, and the man recording the footage even showed himself on camera, indicating the event was not a secret gathering.

At 25 seconds into the video, a Sudanese flag attached to one of the vehicles appeared in the frame. The speaker, who remained unseen, made several references to Sudanese people.

As translated to English by Lead Stories Arabic-speaking staff, the man said in front of the crowd:

Rapid Support Forces (RSF) work to protect the homeland and to protect the Sudanese nation as a whole. The Rapid Support forces still insist on the necessity of morality ... we never hurt any Sudanese citizen whatsoever and we do not shoot any Sudanese citizen whatsoever. The Sudanese nation are our brothers and our families.

Contrary to the claim, no words in the video suggested that the RSF were "in full control of Khartoum International Airport and Military base" at the time of the recording -- which was made months before the April 15, 2023 Facebook post.

The video did not mention the date it was made, but a reverse image search shows the clip was originally uploaded on TikTok on January 15, 2023. No reports about active combat in Sudan were published that day.

Deadly fighting broke out on April 15, 2023. It initially took place predominantly in the nation's capital, Khartoum, but later spread to another region, Darfur.

The video continued to be reposted on April 25, 2023, creating the impression that its content constituted a breaking news story developing that day.

Khartoum International Airport, allegedly shown in the video, has distinctive architectural features. For example, one of the main buildings has huge semi-oval windows on the facade, as shown on Google Maps:

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 4.47.58 PM.png

(Source: Google Maps screenshot taken on Tue Apr 25 20:47:58 2023 UTC)

The video doesn't portray anything similar.

However, satellite images on Google Earth show a place outside the airport that matches the characteristics of what was recorded in the video -- the area circled in red on the bottom right:

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 4.51.44 PM.png

(Source: Google Earth screenshot taken on Tue Apr 25 20:51:44 2023 UTC)

The circled park is called Freedom Yard, or Freedom Square. It is notable for its amount of green and the specific pattern of the paved paths visible in the video.

A user-generated image uploaded to Google Maps shows a white building at this location also seen throughout the video. The building is visually divided into three sections, with each split into three smaller sections:

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 5.12.20 PM.png

(Source: Google Maps screenshot taken on Tue Apr 25 21:12:20 2023 UTC)

The same building also appeared in an older news article about Freedom Yard.

Another unique identifier in the video shows up in the background, a curvy building with a big rectangular structure in front of it:

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 4.44.27 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Apr 25 20:44:27 2023 UTC)

These features match the appearance of the Ministry of Energy building located just outside Freedom Yard, as seen at the bottom of the Google Earth screenshot below. Its photo is on the right.

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 4.53.16 PM.png

(Source: Google Earth screenshot taken on Tue Apr 25 20:53:16 2023 UTC)

The key forces of the 2023 Sudan conflict have been Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The two sides, which toppled the previous government in 2019 together and were supposed to proceed with an international plan to transfer power to civilian authorities in the months leading up to mid-April 2023, blamed each other for the escalation.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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