al-Qaeda Web Forums Abruptly Taken Offline
Ellen Knickmeyer writes in The Washington Post:
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.More here.
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 any 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.