Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Terrorists reach out on ‘Net

Groups use Yahoo!, Geocities to recruit

September 17, 2003


— The Web site Taliban Online quotes a senior Taliban commander vowing to continue war against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, boasting that the group's "rocket attacks have become an effective tool against the invaders, showing them there's nowhere for them to hide."

Another Web site -- al Muhajiroun -- threatens to murder, crucify or cut off the hands and feet of anyone who cooperates with American forces in the war on terrorism.

Another -- Princess Taliban -- details the many ways women can help wage war, including reading the proper bedtime stories to prepare their children to fight.

Still another -- 357 Islamic hosting -- provides a way to set up such Web sites, "anonymity guaranteed." It even accepts credit cards.

Dozens of militant groups, including al-Qaida and the Taliban, no longer are hiding in caves and recruiting from the desert. Increasingly, they're using the Internet to send messages, spread hatred, recruit members and raise money.

"With the explosion of the Internet, terrorists can reach massive amounts of people," said Josh Devon, a senior analyst at the SITE Institute, a counterterrorism research center based in Washington. "Now that there's no central base for al-Qaida to operate freely, they're using the Internet to disseminate information and to recruit members."

Devon said militant groups had become sophisticated in their use of the Internet, even getting the Internet company Yahoo! to set up their sites and sponsor chat rooms and message boards, all under the nose of U.S. law enforcement. The sites largely are covered by First Amendment protections on free speech.

"No country is going to block Yahoo!," Devon said. "What you'll find is that they (terror groups) disseminate messages through Yahoo! groups or through MSN (Microsoft Network) groups. They move around a lot, making it hard to track them ... people who look for them can find their sites. And message boards are not easily shut down since there are so many of them."

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