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Commentary: Online jihad

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   Aug. 7, 2013 at 7:58 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The enemy now knows that a simple message of disinformation about a major al-Qaida terrorist operation will close U.S. embassies from North Africa to the Middle East to the Arabian Peninsula.

We can't seem to remember elementary information about al-Qaida's modus operandi. The Middle East Media Research Institute, monitoring media reports from Washington, reminds us al-Qaida and its many associated movements, from Nigeria clear across the African continent to Somalia and on to Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan, live online.

Al-Qaida terrorists proselytize online, plan online encoded prayers, tweet, post images on Instagram, and last, but by no means least, they are skilled players of disinformation -- the ability to take a kernel of truth and wrap it with a tissue of half-truths and lies.

Mercifully, the National Security Agency has big global eyes and ears that pay little heed to the claptrap about individual rights going down the proverbial tube. If one of our news sources happens to be an al-Qaida operative in the disinformation game wouldn't we like to know?

The current conflict in Syria, MEMRI points out, "highlights the global jihad movement's total dependence on the Internet and on U.S.-based social media companies."

Hello? Have we already forgotten about the Internet's multipurpose global reach?

About one-third of humanity is on the worldwide 'Net and by 2015 China will outstrip the United States in Internet and social media use. At 27 percent of total Internet users, English is still the dominant language, a slight lead over Chinese with 24 percent.

Spanish is in third place with 8 percent.

The use of social media in the Syrian civil war demonstrates the global jihad movement's total dependence on the Internet and on U.S. social media companies, says MEMRI.

Other points made by the research organization:

-- Skype is being used by the jihadi group Al-Haq Brigade (part of the Syrian Islamic Front) to recruit for the Al-Ansar Battalion training camp.

-- Jihadis fighting in Syria use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to communicate, plan attacks, raise funds and keep in touch with family and friends.

-- Circulate death pictures and eulogies for jihadis killed in action.

-- A eulogy posted on Facebook for Abu Qasura Al-Tunisi, a Tunisian from the al-Fallujah forum who traveled to Syria to fight alongside the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra noted: "He joined jihad with no help but Allah and Google Earth."

-- Flickr, for Internet photo sharing, is widely used by jihadis for recruitment propaganda.

-- Foreigners "martyred" in Syria were on YouTube and Flickr. They included "martyrs" from Australia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Dagestan, Chechnya, France, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark.

-- Typical examples from 360 photos on Flickr: "Rafael Gendroun, martyr from France, was martyred April 14, 2013. He was a member of the Syrian Hawks Brigade in northern Syria."

-- "Sammy Salma, Melbourne, Australia, martyred on the outskirts of Aleppo April 17, 2013."

-- "Mohammed Ali Abu Hammur, Salt, Jordan, martyred April 15, 2013, a Swedish resident."

-- "Hasam Al-Sham, a French national of Lebanese origin. God gave him abundant knowledge ... in forensics, military and political analysis ... At dawn Wednesday, the sixth day of Ramadan, he was wounded in a bombing in one of the suburbs close to the Lebanese-Syrian border and was martyred immediately."

-- Nu'man Damoli, a martyr from Kosovo, fighter of Kosovo's Liberation Army against the Serbian army, was wounded in the mountains of Kosovo in 1999. Thirteen years later he joined the mujahedin of the al-Nusra Front in Syria to fight against the Assad regime, and martyred in one of the battles of Talbisah (Homs province) on Nov. 8, 2012.

MEMRI reports that the Flickr account, which was opened in February before the Facebook page was shut down, includes 360 photos of martyrs (most of them included in this latest report).

The "mujahedin" who were killed in action in Syria were recruited directly or indirectly by al-Qaida and its Associated Movements. Many of them are Arabs who immigrated to Western countries.

The Syrian civil war, now in its third year, has claimed more than 100,000 killed. The country is no longer a unitary state and is divided into roughly three parts.

Sunni-led al-Qaida volunteers have come in from Lebanon and Turkey. The Syrian regime is led by Bashar Assad, 43, whose Alawite sect is affiliated with Shiite Islam (i.e., Iran).

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have lined up behind the revolutionaries. The fact that al-Qaida and its affiliated groups play a key role on the same side is less important to them than the fact the Assad regime is closely allied with Shiite Iran.

The Obama administration would be wise to resist the temptation to become engaged beyond arms aid to the anti-Assad camp. Hard to figure out the good guys in the anti-Assad camp.

In any event, the unitary state of Syria appears to be headed for some kind of de facto partition.

In Egypt, where wise heads prevailed and pulled Egypt back from the edge of civil war, U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., breezed into Cairo – and pushed the country back to the edge.

Release Egypt's Islamists, the senators said peremptorily. "Delusional" and "a blatant interference in Egypt's internal affairs," they were told. "Threatening to suspend U.S. aid is tantamount to blackmail ... a condescending lecture, as rude as it was shallow."

"Uncouth and ignorant about all things concerning Egypt," said an official spokesman.

Now Egypt is considering canceling yearly military maneuvers with the United States. And a new movement has been launched -- "To Hell With U.S. AID."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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