Sunday, October 19, 2008

Al-Qaida web sites down

By Paul Schemm - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Oct 19, 2008 10:43:32 EDT
CAIRO, Egypt — The main Web sites that normally carry messages from the al-Qaida terror group remain inoperable more than a month after they went down just ahead of the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Associated Press first reported in September that the Web forums that typically carry messages and videos from Al-Qaida and its allied groupings had ceased functioning around Sept. 10, just as the group said it was set to release a new video message.

Only a site called Hesbah and a new one named Faloja function fitfully at this point, more than a month later, and carry messages from Al-Qaida and its allies in Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories about recent operations.

Al-Fajr Media Center, the extremist group’s communications wing, issued a terse statement on Sept. 29 blaming the problems on “technical reasons” but denying that the sites had come under some kind of cyber-attack, as has been widely speculated in the media.

“We deny reports published by the media of the tyrants regarding the fall of some of the headquarters of these networks into the hands of the enemy,” the statement said, according to the U.S-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist sites.

Contributors to the forums also have worried publicly that some kind of Western cyber-attack targeted the sites.

One prominent jihadi poster, quoted by SITE, suggested that extremists should strike back by infiltrating other, more-moderate Islamic discussion forums and flooding them with extremists rhetoric to turn them into al-Qaida discussion groups.

In the past week, a new Web site called “the Electronic jihad” also has resurfaced to counter renewed attacks on Islam online, according to its founders.

It is not clear, however, if the site has any connection with Al-Qaida.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, al-Qaida has run sites on the Web that it has used to disseminate its messages. Many have been shut down over the years as new ones emerge.

The group over the years also has appeared to increasingly turn toward online forums, apparently so that it no longer had to rely on news stations to air video and audio messages.

Terror analysts have long seen al-Qaida’s media arm as a powerful tool for rallying the network’s followers and sympathizers, churning out videos and audiotapes even though the top leadership is mostly out of touch, hiding in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The videos have grown in technical sophistication, featuring computer animations and clips from international television media.

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has issued three audiotapes himself this year, the most recent in May.

The Arabic-language sites also have an extensive online following of would-be jihadis who discuss various topics, including the best ways to carry out attacks and which techniques are religiously permissible.

In its press release explaining the outage, Al-Fajr, the group’s communications wing promised to return online soon.

Editors note: A denial of service attack on al Queda websites by the U.S. government would effectively quiet a good source of intelligence information. Therefore, I think one can rule out U.S. involvement.

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