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Verified X Account Glorifies Syrian War Criminal, Boosts Anti-US and Anti-Ukraine Propaganda

The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device on April 25, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)


X account

"Al-Harir base in Erbil, Iraq is overcrowded after the arrival of a new batch of troops from the US"


On August 12, a verified account with the username Sprinter99800 on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, posted a video allegedly showing people swarming a U.S. military base in Erbil, Iraq, after a new deployment of American troops arrived in that country.

Sprinter99800’s post went viral, with more than 2,000 interactions (likes, reposts, comments, bookmarks) and more than half a million views at the time of this fact check’s publication.

Sprinter99800 used the following caption for the video:

“Al-Harir base in Erbil, Iraq is overcrowded after the arrival of a new batch of troops from the US.”

That is false.

The video was taken at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021, not at the U.S. military base in Al-Harir, Iraq, in August 2023.

There is no indication that Sprinter99800 intended the post to be satirical or made an honest mistake in misidentifying where the video was shot.

Moreover, Sprinter99800 did not correct or delete the erroneous post after X users pointed out the false context.

Sprinter99800’s profile is verified, despite being anonymous, and has gained 270,000 followers since its creation in May 2019.

The account’s English-language content, with its anti-U.S. and anti-Ukraine sentiments, mirrors Russian propaganda and disinformation. An overwhelming portion of Sprinter99800’s posts are based on unverified or unverifiable information, and designed to sow mistrust in the U.S. government and military, as seen in the posts below:

For its profile picture, Sprinter99800 uses a photograph of Issam Zahreddine, a Syrian Republican Guard major general killed by a landmine in October 2017. Zahreddine was one of Bashar Assad’s top field commanders.

In December 2011, Human Rights Watch accused Zahreddine of committing war crimes. Citing eyewitness testimony, HRW said Zahreddine had directly ordered the torturing of civilians in the Syrian city of Douma.

In 2016, the family of American veteran war journalist Marie Colvin accused Zahreddine of targeting and killing her in a 2012 shelling attack on the press center in the Syrian city of Homs. Colvin had reported on Zahreddine’s involvement in the mass killing of civilians in Syria.

The Russian and Syrian regimes lamented Zahreddine’s death, memorializing him with obituaries depicting him as a war hero.

Multiple cross-platform social media accounts use the same photograph of Zahreddine as their avatar. For example, this Arabic-language Facebook page dedicates its posts to Zahreddine and Russian President Vladimir Putin:

An Arabic-language Facebook page dedicates its posts to Zahreddine
An Arabic-language Facebook page dedicates its posts to Zahreddine

Under X’s predecessor Twitter, Sprinter99800 was banned in 2022 and reinstated in 2023: “I'm finally back, after almost a year of fighting. Follow us, we will continue with new adventures.”

Sprinter99800’s previous account, accessed via the WayBackMachine Web archive site, also suggests Russia ties, with intense tweeting about thoroughly debunked Russian disinformation topics, including the conspiracy theory that Ukraine staged the March 2022 Bucha massacre.

At the time of this writing, there is a Community Note attached to Sprinter99800’s post with the airport video, headlined: "Readers added context they thought people might want to know".

It states: "This is the 2021 Airlift at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Kabul, Afghanistan".

The original video shows the dramatic moment during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, when Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport was thronged by crowds of Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule.