Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mystery surrounds silencing of key al Qaeda websites

Key al Qaeda online forums have fallen silent in the past two weeks, leaving terrorism experts to wonder the cause and whether a key communications mode of the terror group and its affiliates has been purposely undermined.

The sites, where al Qaeda posts messages and jihadists and wannabe jihadists post messages and discussions regarding their ideology and loyalty, started disappearing on March 23, said Aaron Y. Zelin, a researcher in the Department of Politics at Brandeis University. Zelin also maintains the website Jihadology.net.

The outages were first reported by the Washington Post. No entity has claimed responsibility and U.S. officials contacted by CNN would not comment.

The online al Qaeda ecosystem starts with the different branches of al Qaeda - like al Qaeda central in Pakistan, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen or al Qaeda in Iraq - which produce messages through their own media production wings that are distributed by an entity known as al-Fajr Media, which then redistributes them to the various forums, Zelin explained.

"It is an authentication process" so the forums know the al Qaeda communications are legitimate since they come from the same media group, Zelin said. Read More