Why are al-Qaeda websites going off-line?

Shamukh al-IslamBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It began late last month, and nobody seems to really know why:  one after another, the most popular pro-al-Qaeda websites around the world have been going off the air, in what appears to be coordinated fashion. For most of the past decade, a host of al-Qaeda-linked websites have acted as online platforms of outreach, propaganda, and communication between the group’s sympathizers around the world. Most fulfill the role of conduits for al-Qaeda’s media production arm, as-Sahab, as well as for al-Fajr Media, al-Qaeda’s online distribution network. These two outfits routinely rely on a collection of websites to deliver online content ranging from glossy periodicals to audio speeches and digital videos. But on March 23, two of the largest pro-al-Qaeda websites, Shamukh al-Islam and the Ansar al-Mujahidin Arabic Forum, simultaneously disappeared from the World Wide Web. Two days later, another popular site, al-Fida, also vanished. By March 30, two remaining pro-al-Qaeda forums had also gone off line. Two sites, the Shamukh al-Islam and the Ansar al-Mujahidin Arabic Forum, reappeared, but offered no concrete explanation of the reasons why they went off the air in the first place. Interestingly, nobody has claimed responsibility for the disappearance of the pro-al-Qaeda websites, and the US government has refused to state whether its operatives had been engaged in undermining them. But CNN’s Security Clearance blog contacted Brandeis University researcher Aaron Y. Zelin, who offered one possible explanation. The political science professor, who maintains the Jihadology.net blog, said that the outages could be related to the recent arrest in Spain of Mudhar Hussein al-Malki. According to Spanish police, al-Malki was centrally involved in running online forums aimed at “recruitment, indoctrination and radicalization of sympathizers for armed jihad”. Security Clearance also contacted CNN’s National Security Analyst Fran Townsend, who said that the concerted website outings “sound very much like a covert activity”. The blog also contacted an unnamed “US official”, who said simply that the US administration of President Barack Obama has “been aware” of the websites’ disappearance, and that the incident is “of interest to us”.

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13 Responses to Why are al-Qaeda websites going off-line?

  1. Carl Clark says:

    They are going offline as a major attack has been planned, it is a countdown we can almost put a date to when an attack is going to take place, and it will be a spectacular one which will rival all those that have gone before.

  2. john mearns says:

    if an attack is imminent,the crucial dates to note are the beginning of the Jewish Passover which begins at sunset tomorrow i.e. Good Friday and lasts 7 days until the end on Friday 13th April, which represents a scary conflation of two cultures i.e.the Jewish religious and the Western secular.

  3. I hope you are both wrong and that our security services threw them off line to stop spewing their hate messages.

  4. Transhuman says:

    They are going off line b/c this hacker https://twitter.com/#!/th3j35t3r “th3j35t3r” has a very powerful DDoS tool which he uses to take down their websites.

  5. Dark Squirrel says:

    Except for the twitter comment, the other posters are correct. Many times before a planned attack, many of these websites go dark, then restart again later via other carriers. And it is very possible our security services have shut them down. I was having this problem a few years ago working for the USGOV and would monitor the jihadi websites, and the gov kept shutting them down. I complained that the jihadi’s were spewing all kinds of intel and we were gathering all kinds of good stuff, but the suit and tie crowd couldn’t understand this and kept shutting down the sites just when we were getting really good stuff and it would take months to find them again…..dummies.

  6. Carl Clark says:

    They are being taken down by their own people, strategic and i think a countdown to what has been planned for summer.

  7. Carl Clark says:

    The hacker is a catcher for the NSA, anyone going to his twitter account is then looked at in depth, Al Qaeda will certainly fall for the trap.

  8. hpcprogrammer says:

    Breaking up the traffic pattern so they can embed new steganographic channels which might stand out against historical data.

  9. john mearns says:

    In layman’s terms what advantages are gained by adopting such a strategy?

  10. hpcprogrammer says:

    If I am using several web sites and hiding messages inside normal looking web traffic – I want to make it as difficult as possible for a foe to be able to discover my hiding methods – I can vary the methods across the web sites as I change the content of the sites, I can also vary the number of sites to make analysis harder. By taking multiple sites offline in a coordinated fashion I can better hide my methods because of the larger volume of traffic being redistributed.

  11. Will Ozier says:

    Interesting ‘game.’ Seeing the outcome become clear – big ‘if’ – will be one of many levels of changes in the Middle East over the next few years, a drama of historic proportions. Ultimately, Al Quaeda must fail – they go against the most fundamental rules of a moral (God-like)
    life.

  12. john mearns says:

    Thank you.

  13. intelNews says:

    In response to john mearns and hpcprogrammer, I would add that there are no advantages in this for the watchers –i.e. those government agencies who are monitoring those sites. The last thing an agency like the NSA or GCHQ would want is for those types of forums to go underground. [JF]

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