For the third time in less than a year, the Taliban’s El Emara website has been hacked. Images of pigeons and Taliban executions of women were combined with various messages in English, Pashto, and Arabic that support the Afghan government, replacing the Taliban’s usual pabulum of exaggerated battlefield claims and anti-government commentaries, by early afternoon (local Afghan time). One of the statements posted in English read: “Any kind of violence is condemnable, especially killing of innocent people. It is the responsibility of Afghan security forces to provide security for the country after the withdrawal of foreign troops,” according to Pajhwok News.
By early evening, the website appeared to be mostly down, with the exception of the Pashto version of El Emara, which seemed to be operating normally. This marks the third time in the past 11 months that unidentified hackers have disrupted the Taliban’s leading Internet-based propaganda dissemination platform.
There was another attack earlier this month. For a brief period on April 3, El Emara‘s English language page was temporarily replaced with images depicting Taliban atrocities and photographs of roadside bombs.
And last year, around June 20, a sophisticated cyberattack widely attributed to Western intelligence organizations (but never confirmed) sent false messages about the death of the Taliban’s supreme commander Mullah Mohammad Omar from two of the Taliban spokesmen’s mobile phones, emails, and the El Emara website. The text messages sent from the phone of Zabihullah Mujahid to Reuters allegedly read: “Spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid has died” and “May Allah bless his soul.”
So far, the Taliban have not responded to the hacking of their website today. While the latest disruption to the Taliban’s website goes unattributed, the US Defense Department alluded in April 2009 to efforts would be made to shut down extremist webpages in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in 2010, various websites attributed to the Taliban as well as an Arabic jihadi journal covering the Afghan conflict, Al Samood, were ‘infiltrated’ and their content was replaced by images depicting Taliban atrocities.
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