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Woman in Viral Photo Misidentified as Rep. Omar

Quick Take

A 1978 photo of a Somalian army recruit has been misidentified on social media as Rep. Ilhan Omar, who wasn’t born until 1982.

Full Story

A 41-year-old photo of a woman with a gun in Somalia is being used to spread misinformation about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a 36-year-old Democrat from Minnesota.

Omar, whose family fled civil war in Somalia and came to the U.S. when she was a child in the 1990s, became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018. Since then, she has become a frequent target of false online attacks, has had her commitment to the U.S. Constitution questioned, and has been accused by President Donald Trump of harboring sympathy for terrorists.

Now, she’s been falsely identified as a participant in an “Al-Qaeda terrorist training camp” based on a photo of someone else. There are several versions of this false claim circulating on social media, but the photo in question is actually from 1978. Omar was not born until four years later on Oct. 4, 1982.

The Associated Press photo shows an unidentified female recruit for the Somali army during a Cold-War fueled dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia over territory in the Ogaden region between the two countries. So, the claim that it shows an “Al-Qaeda terrorist training camp” is also false. Al Qaeda wasn’t founded until 1988, a decade after the photo was taken, and the group didn’t expand into Somalia until even later.

This mislabeled photo is just another bogus attempt to tie Omar to terrorism.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


Tomkins. “Somalia military forces.” Associated Press. 25 Feb 1978.

Farley, Robert and Lori Robertson. “Trump’s False Claims About Rep. Ilhan Omar.” FactCheck.org. 16 Jul 2019.

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Omar, Ilhan. Accessed 6 Sep 2019.

U.S. Department of State. Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute. “‘Buried in the Sands of the Ogaden’: The Horn of Africa and SALT II, 1977–1979.” Accessed 5 Sep 2019.