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10-18-08, 11:40 AM #1
""Oh, my God, save my brothers on the jihadi forums": Al-Qaeda's web forums abruptly taken offline
Four of the five main online forums that al-Qaeda's media wing uses to distribute statements by Osama bin Laden and other extremists have been disabled since mid-September, monitors of the Web sites say.
The disappearance of the forums on Sept. 10 — and al-Qaeda's apparent inability to restore them or create alternate online venues, as it has before — has curbed the organization's dissemination of the words and images of its fugitive leaders. On Sept. 29, a statement by the al-Fajr Media Center, a distribution network created by supporters of al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups, said the forums had disappeared "for technical reasons," and it urged followers not to trust look-alike sites.
For al-Qaeda, "these sites are the equivalent of pentagon.mil, whitehouse.gov, att.com," said Evan F. Kohlmann, an expert on online al-Qaeda operations who has advised the FBI and others. With just one authorized al-Qaeda site still in business, "this has left al-Qaeda's propaganda strategy hanging by a very narrow thread."
At the same time, in an apparently unrelated flare-up of online sectarian hostility, Shiite and Sunni hackers have targeted Web sites associated with the other sect, including that of a Saudi-owned television network and of Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric.
On several occasions over the past three years, unknown hackers have shut down al-Qaeda-affiliated Web sites after they announced the imminent release of a new video message from Osama bin Laden or another extremist leader. It is often impossible to pinpoint the source of such online attacks, though some experts say the culprits could be independent activists.
A U.S. intelligence official, asked about the online attacks, declined to say whether U.S. spy agencies engage in them. American and British security forces each have joint commands overseeing online operations against extremists.
‘Await Sept. 11’ — and then nothing
In early September, the al-Fajr forums were drumming up anticipation of al-Qaeda's annual video marking the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "Await Sept. 11!" one message declared.
Instead, on Sept. 10, the forums vanished.
"Oh, my God, save my brothers on the jihadi forums," one user posted on al-Hesbah, according to Kohlmann.
"My dear brothers . . . increase your supplications for Allah to guide the bullet and to restore al-Ekhlaas successfully so that the message is spread," another user wrote, according to SITE, referring to the most prominent of the downed forums.
Johnsen said that on extremist "forums that are still up, you have people who are quite paranoid and quite confused" about what's going on. He said it is "certainly normal for jihadi chat rooms and forums . . . to have some kind of disruption. It was very clear this is something entirely different."
In September, hackers targeted what Iranian news media estimated to be 300 Shiite sites, many of them operated by Shiite religious leaders in Iran. Targets included the official site of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq. For several days, visitors to that site were connected instead to a YouTube video featuring American talk-show host Bill Maher mocking what he said were the cleric's edicts, or fatwas, on sexual matters. Aides to Sistani later denied that he had issued such edicts.
Correspondent Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran and staff writer Joby Warrick and staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.
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full story URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27246890/
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Al-Qaida Web forums go offline
‘This has left ... propaganda strategy hanging by a very narrow thread’
By Ellen Knickmeyer
The Washington Post
updated 1:22 a.m. ET, Sat., Oct. 18, 2008
10-18-08, 12:17 PM #2
I wonder if B. Hussein Osama Bin Laden has any information?
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