European institutions and countries have jointly carried out a cyber attack on Sunni extremism and especially the Islamic State (IS) terror movement. Under the leadership of the Belgian authorities, the movement of Sunni jihadists on the internet has been a major blow. Similarly, the Amaq medium, which mainly served as the IS’s mouthpiece, is virtually eliminated.
According to a spokesperson for the Belgian Public Prosecution Service, IS is no longer available on the internet. The cyber attack took place from Thursday to Sunday and was carried out by the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office, together with the European police service Europol and the Spanish police.
The Belgian federal public prosecutor had already coordinated a cyber attack on Amaq in 2018, but then the news agency and the affected sites and accounts were active again after a relatively short time.
“That surprised us a little and that is why we tried to do better this time,” the federal public prosecutor said earlier today. “That also seems to be successful. We have been able to disable many accounts and take a series of websites offline. No doubt they will try to turn up again in the coming days, but that will take a lot of time and resources and money. ”
The operation that has taken place in recent days was a kind of follow-up operation, carried out in collaboration with police and security services from eleven EU Member States and with nine internet providers. “We have succeeded in achieving something important,” said the spokesperson at a press conference at Europol headquarters in The Hague. “As far as we know IS is no longer active on the internet at the moment and we have to wait and see if and how quickly they will be active again.”
The role of IS’s media network cannot be underestimated, according to the public prosecutor. “It is not news that IS was not only active on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, but also waged a huge battle on the worldwide web, in the form of propaganda, coordinated by the IS media network. Propaganda that could be directly linked to the radicalization of European subjects and foreign terrorist fighters. Belgium has not been spared in that regard. All attacks that have taken place on our territory have been claimed by the IS media network. ”
More than 26,000 online items were taken offline during the cyber attack. This involves a large number of user accounts on social media, but also a large number of IS communication channels.
“The investigation is still ongoing, so those figures are preliminary results,” said a Belgian federal police spokesperson.