A Site for Jihadi Eyes

A website known as "terror.com" in Arabic serves as a news agency for Islamic jihad.

A Site for Jihadi Eyes

A website known as "terror.com" in Arabic serves as a news agency for Islamic jihad.

A few days after 120 people were killed in twin bombings in the Kurdish city of Arbil on February 1, a formerly little-known group claimed responsibility for the blasts on an Internet website.

Called the Forums of Islamic Terrorism, the Arabic-language website became a meeting place for international Islamist activists of various stripes who advocate jihad or holy war using terror tactics. It has since closed down – but it may reappear at another location.

On the site, a group calling itself Jaish Ansar al-Sunna, or the Army of Supporters of the Sunni Faith, claimed responsibility for the Arbil bombings and said the attacks were carried out to punish "those who paved the way for the crusaders" to occupy Iraq.

A member of the Forums of Islamic Terrorism web group expressed satisfaction with the bombings, saying that "the joy of Eid [Eid al-Adha, Muslim festival] is now twofold with the death of those infidels and apostates in Arbil".

A few weeks later, when the head of the United States Central Command, General John Abizaid, was attacked in the city of Fallujah, a contributor to the website proclaimed in a headline, "The lions of Iraq attack the biggest dog of the Romans".

The site served as a news agency for an international network of jihad supporters. Postings of statements and organisational reports were found alongside fatwas or religious decrees.

The website also hosted an exchange of "ideas" – some of which encouraged killing Jews, Christians and Shia Muslims – as well as instructions in bomb making.

The title on the site banner, “The Forums of Islamic Terrorism”, was designed to look as if it is written with blood, and appeared between a picture of a Koran and a pistol. "From here we start", said the words above the Koran. "And at the battle front we meet" was written over the gun.

More than 1,800 people joined the site in the months after an individual in Yemen registered it in March 2003.

An Internet search for this person’s name turns up a website for Yemeni youth, but the email address given when the site was registered includes a surname that indicates someone from an area inside Iraq's Sunni Triangle.

The website had 10 sections, one dedicated to "our prisoners of war" – mainly suspected terrorists held by US forces at Guantanamo Bay.

Another covered news of jihad around the globe, providing photographs and video clips, and a long list of reports and statements posted by various radical Islamic groups in Iraq, Russia, European countries, and the US.

Suicide bombers were typically described as "martyrs", while their victims are dubbed "infidels", "crusaders" or "apostates".

Another section of the website offered spiritual and military preparation for those wishing to join the struggle against "the crusaders and enemies of Islam".

There was even a section on "Electronic Jihad" which introduced new software and offered computer solutions as well as technical advice to improve the performance of the "brothers" on the web.

But on top of all these sections sat a general page with 5,160 contributions on a wide variety of subjects: love letters to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, an invitation to join a group of volunteers to launch electronic attacks on "misleading websites", and instructions on how to deal with a female Shia visitor to the site.

This section was under the supervision of three individuals who proudly described themselves with the pseudonyms September 11, the Lover of Jihad and the Hawk of Al-Qaeda – the latter considered the most active member on the site with 1,177 contributions at the last count.

The website also acted as a portal to a number of other radical Islamic organisations, providing links to their sites.

Most of the sites run by these groups are fairly transient, lasting just two weeks or so before moving elsewhere.

The Forum site itself had disappeared as this report was published, and calling up its address www.alerhap.com - meaning "terror.com" in Arabic – produced a message saying the site had been suspended.

Many experts agree that these reflect a sophisticated knowledge of computer programmes and the internet.

One Kurdish journalist, for instance, describes the website of the fundamentalist Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam as "the best designed and most developed site of all Kurdish sites". In that case, the death of Ansar leader Abdullah Alshami led also to the death of the site in terms of quality. Apparently, he was the electronic jihadi of the group.

Osama Bin Laden may be hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan, but he or his allies can be found on the internet.

That electronic hideout was the Forums of Islamic Terrorism, for a time. Now it has closed down, but it – or another site very like it – will no doubt be back.

Ahmad Al-Rikaby is an Iraqi journalist, and an IWPR contributor.

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