Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

Hundreds of pieces of online terrorist propaganda uncovered in the Balkans

Isis and Al Qaeda publish material in Eastern European languages in a bid to target new audiences

More than 340 pieces of terror propaganda targeting people in the Balkans has been taken down by Europe's crime agency.
More than 340 pieces of terror propaganda targeting people in the Balkans has been taken down by Europe's crime agency.

Almost 350 pieces of ISIS and Al Qaeda online propaganda in Eastern European languages have been discovered in a day of targeted action in the Balkans.

Experts have repeatedly warned that ISIS is looking to the Western Balkan bloc as it attempts to regroup and attract new recruits.

The crime agency Europol’s specialist online abuse branch, the EU Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU), said Tuesday it carried out a day of action focused on bringing down terrorist propaganda in Western Balkan partner countries.

“The referral action targeted online content disseminated by members and supporters of Al Qaeda, ISIS and affiliated groups,” the EU IRU said in a statement.

“The counter terrorism units from the participating countries, together with the EU IRU, looked into jihadist propaganda material, such as video tutorials, nashids and social media accounts, which incited violence.

“The content was spread in the languages of the Western Balkan countries mainly by local supporters of the targeted jihadist organisations.”

In total, the investigation uncovered 346 pieces of propaganda on 27 different media platforms.

Specialist units from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia participated in the action day.

The material has been examined by Europol and referred to the relevant online service providers for removal.

“Terrorists’ use of the internet and social media has increased enormously over the course of recent years,” the EU IRU said.

“Jihadist groups, in particular, have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how social networks operate and have launched well-organised, concerted social media campaigns to recruit followers and to promote or glorify acts of terrorism and violent extremism.

“As this is a problem that spans multiple linguistic audiences and jurisdictions, a common EU response was necessary, hence the establishment of the EU IRU in 2015.”

Since it was set up, the EU IRU has assessed more than 42,000 pieces of terror content.

It resulted in 86 per cent of the articles been removed.

The EU IRU has been working closely with social media platform Telegram, which has been ISIS’ primary platform following the closure of its accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Earlier this week, terrorism expert Pieter van Ostaeyen warned migrant routes across the Balkans were likely to be used by terror groups again.

The migrant crisis was exploited by ISIS five years ago as it sought to move terrorists from Syria around Europe and recruit asylum seekers to fight for its cause.

It is now feared that the terrorist groups will again use these well-trodden paths for recruitment drives.

Hungary’s centre for counter-terrorism has previously revealed that terrorists set up logistics hubs in the country to use paths through the Balkans, moving fighters trained in Syria into Europe.

Updated: October 8, 2020 04:49 PM

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