Al-Qaida’s Internet message forums, which it uses to communicate its messages to the world, have been crippled in a suspected organized cyber-attack, according to a terrorism expert.
Three of the terror network’s main forums – Al-Shamukh, Al-Fidaa, and Ansar al-Mujahideen – have gone offline, said Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism analyst for NBC News. The most important, Al-Shamukh, has been inaccessible for almost five days, he told msnbc.com in an email.
“An event of this scale very rarely occurs -- less than five times in the last five years -- and is usually the result of deliberate actions taken by a major international government,” Kohlmann said.
“The last time there was an outage of this duration, it was later revealed to be the work of British government hackers intent on delaying the distribution of the English-language Inspire Magazine produced by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in June 2010,” he added.
Kohlmann speculated that the outage could be an attempt to prevent the circulation of a footage taken by Mohamed Merah, the Islamist extremist who recorded his gun attacks in France that killed seven people, including three children shot dead at close range.
Before Merah was killed in a gunfight with police at his Toulouse apartment on Thursday, he told investigators he had posted his footage on the web. However, the video has not yet surfaced.
"It is impossible to say for certain, but these sorts of outages seem to be most often tied to the release of high-profile terrorist media," Kohlmann said. "There is nothing more hotly-anticipated right now among hardcore jihadists than a video recording of the reprehensible acts allegedly carried out in France."
The Department of Defense did not immediately comment on the outages.