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Fars News sinks to new depths with fake Saudi warship story

The actual Saudi warship, Al-Madinah, returned to base in Jeddah after completing its Yemen mission. (SPA)

JEDDAH: An Iranian news agency has been widely mocked for a report about a Saudi warship that “sunk” — on the same day the actual vessel docked at a naval base in Jeddah. 
The semi-official Fars News Agency posted a story that claimed a Saudi frigate had been destroyed, accompanied by a picture of a sinking ship.
But as eagle-eyed Twitter users pointed out, this was yet another example of “fake news.”
The picture used to illustrate the Fars News story was actually that of a US Navy ship sunk by a torpedo from an Australian submarine during a 2012 military exercise.
The real Saudi ship had actually returned to base on Sunday morning after completing its mission, despite having been targeted last month by Houthi suicide attackers. 
Many Twitter users commented on the Fars story, pointing out the attempted deception and accusing the outlet of producing “fake news.”
The award-winning journalist, Yaroslav Trofimov, who writes a column on the greater Middle East for The Wall Street Journal, tweeted: “Funny how Iranian state news agency illustrates Saudi frigate with the photo of USS Kilauea, sank in 2012.”
Others posted links to accounts of the fate of the 12,100-ton Kilauea, which was purposefully sunk during a military exercise in the Pacific Ocean.
Numerous pictures — one of which was misappropriated by Fars — show the US vessel being used in target practice.
The Fars story also implied that “Yemeni missiles” downed the Saudi warship, saying without solid evidence that Israeli authorities are worried about the firepower used in the claimed attack.
But as a video of the Houthi assault on the Saudi warship shows, the damage to the boat was inflicted after one of the attacker boats rammed into the rear of the Saudi vessel.
Two Saudi crew members were killed and three others were injured in the suicide attack on the Al-Madinah warship, part of the Royal Saudi Navy, in late January.
Despite that attack, pictures show the warship returning to the King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah, after completing its duties without any delay as a result of the attack by the Iran-backed insurgents.
It is not the first time Fars has got in hot water over fake news.
In 2012 it was moved to apologize to readers for republishing a news article by the US satirical website The Onion — but claiming it as fact.
Fars picked up a story about a made-up survey showing that the majority of rural white Americans would rather vote for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the then Iranian president, than Barack Obama, according to press reports at the time.
As one Twitter user posted following Fars News’s more recent story on the Saudi warship: “Farce News to be more accurate!”