Several popular online resources for Al-Qaeda terrorists and their allies remain offline more than one month after abruptly being taken down by unknown sources.
Al-Qaeda routinely uses the internet so cell leaders can communicate; distribute propaganda, and audio or video clips from Osama Bin Laden and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda officials.
The terrorist group expected to post a new video prior to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, but the site where the video should have been posted stopped operating 24 hours prior to September 11. "Await Sept. 11!" a post on the Al-Fajr forums said, promptly before the forums mysteriously vanished off the Internet.
"These sites are the equivalent of pentagon.mil, whitehouse.gov, att.com," said Evan Kohlmann, who serves as a security adviser to the FBI and other organizations. Only one or two web sites "has left Al-Qaeda's propaganda strategy hanging by a very narrow thread."
Hesbah is the only original site still working, although a new one, Faloja, has popped up in recent weeks, security experts said. The lost Sept. 11 video was posted on the Hesbah forums.
An Islamic extremist support group created by Al Qaeda released a statement late last night stating the forums were down for "technical reasons" and extremists should not trust any new look-alike web sites.
Al-Qaeda has become a popular target among hackers, but the sites typically reappear after being down a few days. Even though the United States has a command force monitoring extremists online, intelligence officials have been mum when asked if the continued downtime is due to U.S. or ally-supported hackers.
In 2006, former defense chief Donald Rumsfeld warned the United States was losing the internet propaganda war with Al-Qaeda and other internet extremists.
The lack of an organized communication system also makes it more difficult for Al-Qaeda to recruit new members and inspire attacks on coalition-led forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.