Al-Qaida Members Seen Using Chat Rooms to Plan Attacks

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 16, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

Al-Qaida mem­bers have been us­ing en­cryp­ted In­ter­net for­ums and closed chat rooms to plot out and or­gan­ize ter­ror­ist at­tacks, such as the re­cently al­leged scheme to at­tack U.S. dip­lo­mat­ic out­posts in the Middle East, the New York Post re­por­ted on Thursday.

Al-Qaida chief Ay­man al-Za­wahiri and his seni­or deputy in Ye­men, Nas­ir ul-Wuhay­shi, were be­lieved un­likely to have taken part in the In­ter­net con­ver­sa­tions them­selves, as they would likely wish to avoid do­ing any­thing to tip off the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity to their where­abouts. Rather, the men used a mul­ti­fa­ceted en­coded sys­tem to de­liv­er mes­sages and or­ders to al-Qaida fight­ers, ac­cord­ing to uniden­ti­fied U.S. of­fi­cials.

The In­ter­net activ­ity, which was mon­itored by U.S. in­tel­li­gence ana­lysts, led the U.S. gov­ern­ment to or­der the shut­ter­ing of a num­ber of Mideast and Afric­an em­bassies and con­su­lates for more than sev­en days as a pre­cau­tion­ary meas­ure.

The ter­ror­ist threat — de­tails of which have not been dis­closed — grew out of a com­mu­nic­a­tion from Wuhay­shi to Za­wahiri that ba­sic­ally re­ques­ted ap­prov­al for a plan to carry out the as­saults. The al-Qaida chief’s reply was then dis­sem­in­ated on a closed mes­sage board.

The abil­ity of ter­ror­ist en­tit­ies to cloak their In­ter­net activ­ity from gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance has im­proved over the years, ac­cord­ing to re­search­ers.

“This cre­ates a bit of a cat-and-mouse game between ter­ror­ist groups that can buy com­mer­cial tech­no­logy and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that are try­ing to find ways to con­tin­ue to mon­it­or,” Rand Corp. coun­terter­ror­ism ex­pert Seth Jones said in an in­ter­view.

Earli­er this week, Wuhay­shi vowed ac­tions would be taken to break free mem­bers of his or­gan­iz­a­tion that have been jailed, Al-Jaz­eera re­por­ted.

“The im­pris­on­ment will not last and the chains will be broken,” the Ye­meni ter­ror­ist lead­er said. “Your broth­ers are about to bring down the walls and thrones of evil … and vic­tory is with­in reach.”

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