Strike by EU, US silences ISIS' media mouthpieces

THE HAGUE • European and US police forces have struck at the heart of ISIS' propaganda machine, seizing servers and "punching a hole" in its ability to spread its radical messages online.

The transatlantic takedown was spread over eight countries and was coordinated by the EU's police agency in "a major operation over a two-year period", the head of Europol Rob Wainwright said yesterday.

Wednesday and Thursday's operation was the latest in a campaign targeting in particular the Amaq news agency used by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group to broadcast claims of attacks and spread its message of jihad.

"With this takedown action, targeting major ISIS-branded media outlets like Amaq, but also al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nasher news, ISIS' capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material has been compromised," Europol said.

The "simultaneous multinational takedown" was coordinated by Europol from its headquarters in The Hague, and led by the Belgian federal prosecutor.

"Dozens and dozens" of national police forces fanned out in their countries, seizing servers in the Netherlands, Canada, the US, Bulgaria, France and Romania.

The goal was "to destabilise this apparatus by seizing and dismantling servers used to diffuse ISIS propaganda and to identify and arrest its administrators," the Belgian prosecutor said.

"With this groundbreaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of ISIS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe," Mr Wainwright said. "They've been squeezed on the battlefield, and now they've been really badly squeezed, badly hit, on the online platform as well," he added.

ISIS used Amaq to claim "every major attack since 2015 in Europe", he said, including the deadly assaults in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Strike by EU, US silences ISIS' media mouthpieces'. Print Edition | Subscribe