Inside the Ring: Al Qaeda websites hacked

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Three of al Qaeda’s major websites for recruiting terrorists and communicating propaganda were shut down recently in an apparent case of counterterrorism hacking or possibly as a result of internal disputes among terrorists.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports said the websites of Ansar al-Mujahidin, Shumukh al-Islam and Al Fida — all accredited as official outlets of the terrorist group once led by Osama bin Laden — were knocked off the Internet by cyberattacks in early May.

Two of the sites — Ansar al-Mujahidin (as-ansar.com) and Shumukh al-Islam (shamikh1.info) — came back up Monday and Tuesday. The site Al Fida remains down.

Although the origin of the attack is not known, some online jihadists claimed that the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas was behind the cyberattack.

Counterterrorism Internet monitors told Inside the Ring that a posting on Facebook by a member of a hacker group Qassam HackeRs, which supports Hamas, claimed credit for the cyberattacks.

In an online posting that could not be verified, one of the Hamas hackers claimed that service to Ansar al-Mujahidin would continue to be disrupted until al Qaeda stops labeling members of Hamas‘ military wing, the Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, “infidels.”

All three websites are closely monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies and are considered key sources of information about the group.

The disruptions are prompting many jihadists to shift from Web forums to Twitter for communications and propaganda messaging.

Speculation that the cyberattacks were part of an intergroup rivalry is based on a dispute among terrorists over the announcement in April that al Qaeda in Iraq had merged with the pro-al Qaeda Syrian rebel group Al Nusrah Front. The merger prompted accusations that the Iraqi group had been infiltrated by hostile intelligence services.

CHINA ASAT SECRECY

U.S. officials disclosed unofficially this week that China conducted a test of a new high-Earth orbit anti-satellite (ASAT) missile called the DN-2.

The test was mentioned during the official Chinese Foreign Ministry news briefing Tuesday, when spokesman Hong Lei said he had no information on the test but insisted China is opposed to “militarizing” outer space.

The posing of the question by China’s tightly controlled press was viewed as a pre-emptive effort to deflect anticipated criticism of China’s secret space weapons program.

Adding to the mystery surrounding the test, a Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.

The latest ASAT test followed publication last week of the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military buildup. The report states that China’s military first conducted an anti-satellite missile test in 2007, when a satellite was destroyed by a ground-launched missile.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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