Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taliban uses website, text message, Facebook, Twitter

KABUL, July 20 (Reuters) - The war in Afghanistan entered cyberspace on Wednesday when the tech-savvy Taliban said their phones, email and website had been hacked to spread a false report that the movement's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, was dead.

Although the Islamist group banned television during its time in power between 1996 and 2001, its communication strategy in the decade-long war now includes a website, mobile phone text messages, emails and posts on Twitter and Facebook.

The Taliban -- ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces for harbouring al Qaeda militants blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States -- regularly promote their attacks, opinions or exploits online in a publicity war with the West.

Pakistani author and Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid said that, prior to 2001, the Taliban's "media reach to the Afghan people and the world had been virtually zero and totally ineffective".

"They learnt quickly that the war against the Americans had to be fought on many fronts," he said.

The online proficiency of the Taliban could be attributed to an influx of younger recruits during the past decade, said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, but he said the overall strategy was not new.

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