Terror groups turn to cyberspace to recruit cadres
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Last Updated: Sunday, December 13, 2009, 18:18
  
Washington: In a new trend, terror groups are turning to cyberspace to recruit cadres with the help of websites with mass appeal instead of enrolling them at mosques and community centres which are under scrutiny.

The recent arrest of five American Muslim youths in Pakistan on suspicion of plotting terror attacks is an example of the new strategy adopted by the terror groups.

The five youths from North Virginia, all in their twenties, were lured into jihad by a Taliban recruiter who contacted one of them on popular website 'YouTube', The Washington Post quoted a Pakistani official as saying.

Saifullah, a recruiter for Pakistani Taliban, first contacted one of the men, Minni, on YouTube in August after Minni repeatedly praised YouTube videos showing attacks on US forces, the Post said.

Saifullah, who has links with al-Qaeda, and the men exchanged coded e-mails for months thereafter and the Taliban recruiter invited them to Pakistan and guided them once they arrived, the official was quoted as saying by the Post.

"Increasingly, recruiters are taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centres because places like that are under scrutiny. So what these guys are doing is turning to the internet," said Evan Kohlmann, senior analyst with the US-based NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist Web sites.

This case could help unravel a growing network of terrorist recruiters who scour the internet for radicalised young men, the official said.

The five youths -- Waqar Hussain Khan (22), Omar Farooq (24), Ahmed Abdullah Minni (20), Ramy S Zamzam (22) and Iman Hassan Yemer (17) -- wanted to go to Afghanistan to fight the US-led forces but were arrested by Pakistani police on Wednesday in Sargodha in Punjab province.

The developments point to the dangers posed by an extensive and sophisticated network of online terrorist recruiters, but also its limitations, the Post said.

Investigators and terrorism experts say recruitment worldwide has become far more Web-based, with recruiters playing a critical role in identifying potential radicals and determining whether they can be trusted, it said.

If the emerging case, as outlined by the Pakistani officials, shows the difficulties online recruiters can encounter, it was also clear that the growth of online recruiting poses unique challenges for US criminal investigators, the Post said.

Federal officials said they were aware of the threat and concerned about its potential to radicalise Americans who might meet recruiters online, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Online recruiting has exponentially increased, with Facebook, YouTube and the increasing sophistication of people online," a high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official said.

Criminal investigators say the explosion of online communication made it extraordinarily difficult to monitor, and they indicated that their tracking abilities were limited by constitutional and privacy considerations, the Post said.

PTI


First Published: Sunday, December 13, 2009, 18:18


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