A video features an Il-76 military transport aircraft landing in Niger, carrying Wagner PMC fighters.
After the recent coup in Niger, social media users circulated a video clip purporting to show the landing of the Il-76 military transport aircraft in Niger, purportedly carrying Wagner PMC fighters. Authorities in Niger have officially confirmed the presence of Wagner fighters in the country.
Misbar investigated the widely circulated video and found the claim to be misleading.
After conducting a thorough reverse image search, Misbar’s team found the video making the rounds to be outdated and unrelated to Niger’s recent coup.
The IL-76 Aircraft Video Was Shot in Khartoum, Sudan
Contrary to the viral claims circulating on social media, the video actually shows an IL-76, a Soviet aircraft, during its approach in Khartoum, Sudan. The initial speculations about the aircraft being in Niger and carrying Wagner PMC fighters were not accurate.
A YouTube channel uploaded the video on August 5, 2006, under the title, “IL 76 Approach into Khartoum.”
IL-76 Military Transport Aircraft
The IL-76, also referred to as 'Candid' by NATO, is a medium-range military transport aircraft with various mission capabilities. These include carrying out paratrooper drops, transporting troops, combat materials, and equipment, including medium-sized battle tanks. The aircraft is also employed for cargo airlifting in support of troop forces and disaster relief operations.
Production of the IL-76 is carried out by the Ilyushin Aviation Complex Joint Stock Company in Moscow, Russia, and the Tashkent Aircraft Production Corporation in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Since its introduction in 1974, over 500 of these aircraft have been manufactured.
Niger Asks for Help from Russian Group Wagner
Niger's military rulers, facing pressure from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to release the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, have sought assistance from the Russian mercenary group Wagner.
General Salifou Mody, one of the coup leaders, made contact with Wagner during a visit to neighboring Mali. The ECOWAS has set a deadline for the release and reinstatement of the democratically elected president, and they have finalized an intervention plan if the deadline is not met. In response, the military government in Niger warned against military intervention, aiming to avoid a situation like Libya's.
Niger's shift towards seeking help from Wagner comes as they have turned away from former colonizer France. Wagner's presence in Africa, including Mali, has been linked to allegations of human rights abuses. Niger has been a key partner in counterterrorism efforts in the region, which has experienced frequent coups in recent times.
Stances of Russia And the Wagner Group Regarding the Coup
The Kremlin expressed "serious concern" regarding the situation in Niger following the coup, which was condemned by much of the international community. However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group with extensive interests in Africa, welcomed the military takeover.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, during a call with reporters, urged all parties in Niger to exercise restraint and swiftly restore legal order.
While the Wagner Group has not officially claimed responsibility for the coup, Prigozhin praised the actions of the military. In an audio message on the Wagner Group's Telegram, he characterized the events in Niger as the people's struggle against colonial impositions, attempting to impose an outdated way of life and conditions on them, akin to Africa's historical state centuries ago.
2023 Niger Coup
In July 2023, a coup took place in Niger, carried out by the Presidential Guard, resulting in the detention of President Mohamed Bazoum and his family. The coup leaders, a group of senior officers, formed the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP) and announced their assumption of power through a televised broadcast.
To ensure safety and avoid violence, the Nigerien Armed Forces later joined forces with the CNSP to protect the president and his family.
The international community, including the United States, France, the European Union, and ECOWAS, condemned the coup. ECOWAS considered potential military intervention and imposed sanctions, while Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali expressed support for the junta-led Nigerien government and refused to apply any sanctions.