A fake news article led to gunfire at a Washington pizzeria three weeks ago. Now it seems that another fake news story has prompted the defence minister of Pakistan to threaten to go nuclear.
The defence minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, wrote a saber-rattling Twitter post directed at Israel on Friday after a false report, which the minister apparently believed that Israel had threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons. Both countries have nuclear arsenals.
“Israeli defence minister threatens nuclear retaliation presuming Pakistan’s role in Syria against Daesh,” the Minister wrote on his official Twitter account, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too,” he added.
Asif appeared to be reacting to a fake news article published on awdnews.com.
That story, with the typo-laden headline “Israeli Defence Minister: If Pakistan sends ground troops to Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack,” appeared on the website on December 20, alongside articles with headlines like “Clinton is staging a military coup against Trump.”
The fake story about Israel even misidentified the country’s defence minister, attributing quotations to a former minister, Moshe Yaalon. Israel’s current minister of defence is Avigdor Lieberman. The Israeli Defence Ministry responded on Twitter to say the report was fictitious.
“The statement attributed to former Def Min Yaalon, Pakistan was never said,” the ministry wrote in Twitter post directed at Asif. The Israeli ministry added in a second post: “Reports referred to by the Pakistani Defence Minister are entirely false.”
Asif did not respond to the Israelis on Twitter, and as of Saturday his message had been reposted nearly 400 times. Many of the people reacting to Asif on Twitter mocked him for his mistake.