Closure of Forums Breeds Paranoia, Carpetbaggers

Posted: 21st September 2008 by Will McCants in Uncategorized

The online Jihadi community continues to roil after some of its most prominent forums were shut down (still no word on who did it).  The most important of them, Ekhlaas, has totally evaporated and pleas for new links go unanswered.

The closure of the forums has understandably bred paranoia among the membership, who are filling less-trafficked forums to await news of Ekhlaas’ reopening.  Members of one of these forums, Faloja, were overjoyed several days ago when someone posted an Ekhlaas link that worked.  But problems with the sign-in page led to speculation that the new site is a trap.  Wiser members are counseling others to wait until links are posted on Hesbah, the most exclusive of the JIhadi sites.

Some Jihadis see the site closures as an opportunity to recruit members for their own forums.  One, Khalid al-`Asqalani (also of Faloja), has repeatedly interrupted discussions of Ekhlaas’ demise to post advertisements for the Bayt Muqaddis forum.

Regardless of what one thinks of the feasibility or value of closing forums, it is instructive to watch what happens when they go down.  So far we’ve learned:

  • Al-Qaeda media can be disrupted
  • Major forums can be shut down and kept down
  • Forum closures breed paranoia and diminish morale
  • Second-tier forums are the major beneficiaries when first-tier forums disappear

Document (Arabic): 9-13-08-faloja-member-offers-another-forum-to-replace-ekhlaas

Document (Arabic): 9-19-08-faloja-new-ekhlaas-address-is-a-trap

Document (Arabic): 9-19-08-faloja-paranoia-over-forum-closings-and-some-receiving-new-address-through-email

  1. Patton says:

    So would this be something for the U.S. to work on? Cyberwar against the jihadi forums? Since a lot of AQ has apparently moved online, that could be a way to disrupt AQ’s recruitment, etc.

  2. Hobbes says:

    The real question is whether the elimination of their obvious networks is actually hindering the ‘real’ efforts at attacks, or merely hampers intelligence collection efforts in monitoring their activities.

  3. Or Shahor says:

    The real question is whether Hobbes knows who it was that was responsible for whatever it was that happened to the sites in question, and also what it was those people hoped to achieve with whatever action it was they undertook.

    That question is, of course, rhetorical. Those who know have so far done a pretty good job of not saying anything.

    Analysts need to remember that they represent only one viewpoint and set of priorities. There are others. And the holders of those other viewpoints and priorities are generally better armed, among other things.

    In any event, the sites will likely come back online, and all will be right in the world…

  4. […] at Jihadica reported on a wave of take downs on June 10th, then another on September 21st, then yet another on October 27.  CBS scooped WaPo on it a month ago, re-reporting a story in the […]

  5. […] does not say. There are several candidates, since many forums went down in 2008, foremost of which Ekhlaas (September) and Hesbah (November). I initially suspected the latter, but I was a little confused by […]