A Europol cyberattack has eradicated more than 26,000 pages with jihadist content from the Islamic State and temporarily left the terror group, which seeks to create a "virtual caliphate" of followers, off social media. More than 26,000 articles containing jihadist content were identified on various platforms, including social media accounts, links and a large number of communication channels, the Efe news reported.
They were related to nine online service providers, including Google and Telegram, which participated in the European operation between 21 and 24 November seeking to remove the jihadists' presence on the networks.
The main achievement of the operation was a cyberattack against Amaq, the news agency of the jihadist organization, and which has in recent years been the main means of disseminating propaganda of videos, communications and messages to attract new recruits, claim attacks and encourage jihad.
It was not the first cyberattack carried out against Amaq's servers to interrupt the online activities of the terror organization. The Belgian prosecutor's office carried out another operation last year, but the pages and accounts soon became active again. Eric van der Sypt, a spokesman for the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office, said at a press conference in The Hague this came as a surprise and this time round they tried to do better.
The latest attack was a blow for extremists and has left their online presence at practically nil, Amaq's online domain is even on sale again. For the group to recover its presence on the network again "will take a lot of time and work," the Belgian Prosecutor's Office added.
Twelve member states took part in the operation, including Belgian Federal Police and the Spanish Civil Guard, together with judicial authorities from both countries, coordinated by the European Union's judicial office Eurojust and police Europol, that begun two years ago.
A 26-year-old man from Mauritania was arrested in Tenerife, Spain, accused of consuming terrorist propaganda online and sharing extremist videos, Alberto Rodrï¿½guez Vï¿½zquez, an anti-terror officer with the Spanish police, told Efe. The alleged jihadist, the only person detained in the operation, had legally resided in Spain for eight years.
Rodrï¿½guez Vï¿½zquez said, "He worked there and lived in a fairly tourist area of Tenerife, but spent most of the time that he was not out of his home to consume this propaganda."
The images he shared showed executions, extreme violence, techniques for carrying out attacks and murders, and manuals on the manufacture of explosive devices. Although his role is still being investigated, the evidence available to police "points to the indoctrination of others in his city" and further arrests have not been ruled out. Ladislav Hamran, Eurojust director, told Efe: "The case began a couple of years ago and these types of operations are full of legal, practical and logistical challenges. "We have to make sure that the evidence gathered is legal and admissible before the courts in criminal cases in the member states."
Manuel Navarrete, director of Europol's Counter Terrorism Centre, told Efe the sting was intended to reduce the propaganda that the IS does through social media channels Google, Facebook and Telegram.
Social media is an important tool for IS, which has always sought to create a virtual caliphate to maintain its message of violence and radicalism, Navarrete added. He said the presence of IS on the internet was much worse than when the group controlled regions of northern Iraq and Syria.