Social media giant Twitter is blocking six accounts linked to the al Qaeda terrorist group al Shabaab from using its service to spread propaganda. Three of these accounts have been created within the past two days.
The Washington Free Beacon reported Monday that just one day after the terrorist group’s official Twitter account was blocked, al Shabaab created two other accounts that were blocked as well. By Tuesday morning, however, the group re-emerged with yet another account, @HSM_PR, that tweeted a propaganda post at 10:12 EDT, referring to the deadly attack on Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall as a “new dawn.”
At least 68 people were murdered and more than 200 wounded in the terrorist attack.
Twitter’s terms of service ban the use of threatening language and behavior. “You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others,” the terms state.
U.S. officials who monitor terrorist groups on the Internet indicated that al Shabaab’s new account that was set up Monday gathered over 1,300 followers, including media and government agencies, prior to being shut down.
According to the report by the Free Beacon, “Analysts say the use of social media like Twitter and Facebook by terrorist groups is increasing, as Islamists seek to exploit social media for propaganda and recruitment.”
The official Twitter account of the terrorist group, @HSM_PressOffice, was blocked Sunday and its follow-on account, @HSMPROffice, continued to send messages about the attack for a short time Monday.
The group tweeted:
As the operation gathers momentum inside #Westgate, the Mujahideen [holy warriors] are for the 3rd day still in full control of the situation on the ground.
Tweets that followed indicated the group’s press office had made contact with terrorists inside the mall and claimed their plan was going on “with a surprising degree of accuracy.”
A third tweet commented on the Israeli security assistance to the Kenyan forces fighting the terrorists at the mall:
The #Westgate Warriors informed HSM Press that they’ve successfully repelled a joint Kenyan-Jewish offensive and eliminated 13 Kenyan forces.
Subsequent al Shabaab tweets stated that the terrorists had large stockpiles of ammunition and would conduct more, far-reaching attacks.
Twitter also blocked an unverified account, @HSM_Press2, that claimed to have links to the group and that falsely provided names of people who were supposedly running the attack.
Once the group claimed responsibility for the Westgate attacks, its Twitter account was knocked offline.
The group’s Arabic account, @HSM_PRESOFFICE2, also suspended, identified itself as the official Twitter account of the al Shabaab Mujahidin movement. One tweet from that account on Monday claimed that Ahmad Abdi Godane, leader of the Somali Islamists, had ordered the terrorists to kill all the hostages over the next day, and that the hostages had been outfitted with bombs.
Sheikh Abulaziz Abu Muscab, al Shabaab spokesman, told Al Jazeera Online Monday:
The place we attacked is Westgate shopping mall. It is a place where tourists from across the world come to shop, where diplomats gather. It is a place where Kenya’s decision-makers go to relax and enjoy themselves. Westgate is a place where there are Jewish and American shops. So we have to attack them.