Al Shabaab Launches Apparent Twitter Campaign

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December 20, 2011

The Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group Al Shabaab apparently began posting on the social media website Twitter on December 7, 2011, in what is the latest exploitation of the internet by terrorists and their supporters.

A user claiming to be the Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen [Mujahideen Youth Movement] Press Office and operating out of Somalia launched the account of posts with a traditional Islamic preface. The user's profile picture is one of Al Shabaab's battle flags, and describes the group as "an Islamic movement that governs South & Cen. Somalia & part of the global struggle towards the revival of Islamic Khilaafa."

Although the identity of the user cannot be confirmed, recent English-language statements from Al Shabaab, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, posted in online jihadist forums have directed traffic to the account and African and Western officials have stated they believe the account is linked to the group.

Since its inception, more than 100 tweets have been posted on the account and it has attracted over 5,000 followers. The tweets include updates of military action and statements by Al Shabaab officials. The account has also served as a vehicle for a Twitter-based information war with a Kenyan military official who is also active on Twitter, as well as a Twitter-based interview with media and other interactions with journalists.

Al Shabaab has also used the account to provide information and posted pictures of identification cards of Burundian soldiers it claimed to have killed in combat, reportedly after the Burundian government refused to give the information to the families. The African Union has since confirmed the identities provided by the Twitter account.