Terrorism experts are wondering why several online forums used by al Qaeda have become quiet. Many of the sites where the terrorists have been posting messages about their loyalty and ideology began to disappear on March 23. The Washington Post was the first to report on the disappearance of the sites. There has not been anyone or any group that has claimed responsibility and officials in the United States have not commented.
There are several branches of al Qaeda, including those in Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraq. All of the branches have been producing messages and media through al-Fajr Media. Those messages are posted to the various forums by al-Fajr Media and this is a type of authentication process. The forums know that the communications are indeed from al Qaeda because they all come through al-Fajr Media.
There are two sites that were down on March 23 that are now backup. Traffic to these sites has dramatically increased because they are filling the void left by the others that are gone. The moderator of the two sites, Abu Sa-d al-Amili, has posted a couple of essays that address the outages because there were several questions asked out it.
One theory about the forum is that the arrest of Mudhar Hussein Almalki has contributed to the silence. He was responsible for maintaining one of the sites that was very busy. He was arrested for running the site, which gave information to extremists and had several private chat rooms.
According to a former counterterrorism official with the United States, the disruption of the sites is very important because it has slowed the dissemination of al Qaeda’s propaganda. He called the stoppage “very crippling.” The full effect of the stoppage is not known. It’s also not known if the sites that are still down will be back up. There will be other conduits for messages that will emerge, though.