AQIM creates Twitter account
By Jemal Oumar in Nouakchott and Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 04/04/2013
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) joined Twitter last month, spreading the terror group's jihadist propaganda on the popular micro-blogging site.
The account was first created March 16th by the Andalus Foundation, the propaganda arm of al-Qaeda in North Africa. The foundation has been known for years as the distributor of terror tapes featuring hostages and promoting jihadist ideology.
The announcement of the launch of the account came with a statement March 28th, saying, "We bring our Islamic nation in general and its children, especially the supporters of the mujahideen, tidings of the opening by the Andalus Foundation of its own account on Twitter."
The AQIM Twitter account has not released much content to-date except for a video of the terror leader Abu Musab Abdel Wedoud (aka Abdelmalek Droukdel) regarding the war in northern Mali.
In addition, there was an al-Qaeda communiqué addressed to the French public, including the families of hostages.
The rest of the tweets focused in general on how to communicate during a question and answer session with Sheikh Ahmed Abi Abd Al Ellah, the chairman of the Andalus Foundation. The al-Qaeda account only accepted questions in Arabic and English.
The move by al-Qaeda to enter the virtual world of Twitter was considered by some observers an attempt to exploit all available platforms for the dissemination of extremist jihadist ideology as well as an attempt to try to attract new members.
"They are ready to hire anyone to market their ideas in the media because they have resources across the world," according to Mohmmed Ag Mbarek, who is responsible for the website of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Yet he added that al-Qaeda's ideas "are dead and they will not benefit from communicating them via Twitter or Facebook".
Mauritanian blogger Hamid Ould Mohamed said if the new al-Qaeda account proved real, then it was a danger that must be confronted. He suggested people "ask for it to be closed before they succeed in attracting some teens to the alleged jihad fronts of al-Qaeda".
The account has already garnered more than 4,000 followers. Syrian terror group Jabhat al-Nusra, Somalia's al-Shabaab and Tunisia's Ansar al-Sharia are all followed by the new AQIM Twitter account.
"Al-Qaeda is no longer that group fighting in mountains and caves," Mauritanian columnist Moulaye Bahaide said. "They have developed a media propaganda strategy for themselves, parallel to Western media, which has a stronger impact on human souls than do bombers, mortars and aircraft."
He added, "By activating this strategy, which bypasses public forums of al-Qaeda in favour of social networks such as Facebook, and finally Twitter, to prove that al-Qaeda is stronger now. And its ability to respond to the requirements of the times by using modern communication techniques regularly and in a sophisticated manner."
"I do not rule out the possibility that this is the beginning of a media and intellectual war more dangerous for the world than military wars waged in more than one front," Bahaide said.
The propaganda push by al-Qaeda comes at the same time as it tries to replenish its ranks after a series of high-profile losses in northern Mali. Algerian jihadist Yahia Abou El Hammam (aka Djamel Oukacha) was recently named the successor to Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a veteran terror leader killed by international troops taking part in the Mali intervention.
The internet is one of the most valuable tools used by terrorists, sociologist Farah Bekkali emphasised. She explained that there were two ways of indoctrination. The first is favoured by many sites: providing obscurantist ideas that can push fragile youth to become self-indoctrinated. The second related to the use of communication channels by terrorist and fundamentalist networks to attract jihadi fighters.
As the noose tightens on the ground around terrorists worldwide, they use virtual media to co-ordinate and exert psychological pressure by spreading their messages and to recruit.
Political analyst Mourad Sebti told Magharebia that the internet could be a real danger because it allows easy communication through coded messages and it is also a source of inspiration for terrorists.
"The latter have easy access to information and are reinforced by it," he said. "In addition, there is the danger of indoctrination through the dissemination of jihadist ideas which have a negative impact on some minds. We see some sort of virtual training.
"This is what happened for example with the bombing of the Argana. The main suspect was able to make explosive devices along the lines of the internet but the most worrisome is that he moved onward to action," he added.
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