Al Qaeda online sites are believed to be under cyber attack. Most of them all went dark on March 23rd. Some are back up now…and with time on their hands, jihadists are taunting with the following graphic. Feds and NYPD are all over it.
Al Qaeda’s Internet forums have not been having a good month. The two forums officially designated for distributing the terrorist group’s propaganda have been offline for days, leaving online jihad aficionados with a lot of free time on their hands.
One of those “jihobbyists” posted a picture of New York City with the phrase “Al Qaeda: Coming Soon Again in New York” to the Ansar Al-Mujahideen Arabic forum, which is where terrorist trolls have been hanging out while their elite forums are offline.
A graphic featuring the New York skyline and posted on terrorism websites blares a chilling message in bold letters: “Al Qaeda coming soon again in New York.”
The NYPD and the FBI are scrambling to locate the source of the message and trying to figure out whether it’s a credible threat or a sick taunt.
The 3-D images spotted on Al Qaeda Internet forums Monday show the letters scrawled across a city street, as a father and son stroll by in amazement.
“It’s something we’re looking into,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. “We’re trying to determine the origins of it. We take all things like this seriously.”
The graphic appeared on several Arabic-language sites including gulfup.com, Browne said.
Cops believe that it was posted by an Egyptian writer who regularly uses the Internet to spread propaganda about the terror network. The logo was posted in the “artwork and design” section on that particular web page, Browne said.
“We’ve done an analysis. He’s not an American. We’re leaning toward (him being) an Egyptian, using Arabic, to create communications on this site,” said Browne.
Al-Qaeda’s main Internet sites have gone silent for more than a week in an unprecedented outage for the extremist network’s online forums, analysts said Tuesday.
“All of them essentially went down” as of March 23, said Aaron Zelin, a researcher at the politics department at Brandeis University.
The outage hit a number of online forums including two “flagship” sites, al-Fida and Shamukh al-Islam, which serve as a channel for Al-Qaeda forums, providing a stamp of approval for any associated sites, Zelin said.
“The forums authenticate Al-Qaeda’s message, therefore they’re very important,” said Zelin, who writes about extremist Islamist sites on jihadology.net.
“If someone is a true believer in the cause, they’re going to go to the forum because they know it’s the only place they can get al-Qaeda’s message.”
One of the two main sites, Shamukh al-Islam, reappeared online on Monday but had not yet resumed message threads, he said…
No one has claimed credit for the blackout, which bore all the signs of a cyber attack, analysts and former US officials said, as the forums usually post messages announcing a temporary interruption if they close the sites themselves.
The digital sabotage could have been carried out by any number of governments or private hackers, said James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies…
Although the group’s forums are used to encourage terror attacks and spread extremism, the sites also provide a way for intelligence services to monitor the network’s militants.
“There is always a debate over whether it’s better to exploit or to disrupt. In this case, since one site came back up, it might be a way to funnel jihadis and make them easier to observe,” Lewis said.
The blackout will help sow confusion among forum users, who will be doubly anxious about online surveillance and possible digital moles.