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
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.