Twitter suspends account of Somali Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda

Two days after a group of Somali islamist militants vowed to execute Kenyan hostages, and tweeted a video of a captive pleading for the Kenyan government to help free them, the Al-Shabaab Twitter account @HSMPress was suspended. A Google cache is visible here. Warning: includes gruesome photos. The group took a French intelligence officer hostage, then apparently murdered him after an unsuccessful attempted raid by the French military which the US assisted). An @HSMPress press release about that killing is available on Twitlonger.

The Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Twitter account has been around since 2011, promoting the group's vision of strict sharia law in Somalia, 140 characters at a time. The US State Department was reportedly looking in to shutting it down ages ago. Wonder what took them so long?

For its part, Al Shabaab blames its "Christian enemies" for suspending its Twitter account. And they do sound rather miffed about being blocked on the popular social networking platform.

From Reuters:

"The enemies have shut down our Twitter account," al Shabaab's most senior media officer, who refused to be named, told Reuters. "They shut it down because our account overpowered all the Christians' mass media and they could not tolerate the grief and the failure of the Christians we always displayed (online)."
You know what's most surreal about their (now-suspended) account? Not the Christian infidel media stuff, or the terror-threat-y stuff, or the images of bloated corpses and prancing soldiers with Kalashnikovs. One expects all of that from an al Qaeda-linked Somalian terror organization.

No, what's weirdest are the tweets that sound like they were lifted from a j-school ethics debate.

How much of the gruesome details of war should be published without detracting from the accurancy and credibility of the event?

Why is it that questions and ethical concerns are usually raised only when the Mujahideen publish images of their enemy combatants?.

A photojournalist wins the Pulitzer Prize for a blood-spattered shot of an Afghan girl, but the fairly clean shot of the French is "graphic"



  1. Regarding their banned account and claims of hipocrisy, I guess there’s a new twist on the Golden Rule: they who make the popular social media platform make the rules.

      1. The nuisance with Africa is that which countries it is changes nearly as often as New England weather…

    1. No, no, no…we stopped having wars. Now we have ongoing fractal overseas contingency operations.

      I came. I saw. I never left.

      Incidentally, as a side note to any drone operators in the audience, I think I saw some Al-Qaeda in the office of one United States New Mexican State Representative Cathrynn Brown…

    1. Isn’t that the intention of declaring a “War on a Limitless Abstract Concept”? For an administration that bragged so often about its “corporate private sector experience,” the Bush administration must have known that launching a war without objectives, a business plan and an exit strategy would result in the on-going conflicts in which the US is enmeshed.

      There are two discrete casus belli: (1) the destruction of a country’s enemies for conquest or state protection, and (2) to establish an occupation force that will allow the conquering state, corporate and private actors to profit under protection from that force.

      What I wondered about the declaration of the “War on Terror” and its manifestation in Iraq, in particular, was how many US elected leaders and members of the Bush administration were perfectly aware of the second reason and the inevitable results it would produce, despite their endless bloviating about casus #1.

  2. in response to this outrage they’ve launched a new social media site only for extremist Islamic males called twalalalalalalalalalalalalalaitter. :-)

    and it seems a double standard on twitter’s part…north korea still has its twitter account:
    (as do many republicans who say way worse things.)

  3. I have this sneaking suspicion that your plan for the revival of the glory days of the Caliphate may not be going particularly well if getting banned on Twitter is enough to have your press flack get all whiny…

  4. Freedom of Speech? 
    France asking for a shutdown of a hate-speech group: Massive uproar by USians how backwards France/Europe is.US shuts down Al-Quaeda Account: Everyone thinks it’s fine.

    1. You do realize neither France nor the US is all one person? We don’t have a weekly meeting where we all agree on everything, and I’m fairly certain neither does France. And clearly not everyone does think it’s fine.

      Let’s try not tossing everyone of a particular nationality into the same bin. Insult my government all you want – they have it coming – but your proclivity for making racist generalizations about USians is banal and not any less bigoted when the millions of people you’re pigeonholing happen to have been born within the borders of a country whose government you revile. Nationalism and xenophobia have done enough damage to this world already.

    2.  I thought Twitter shut down the Al-Qaeda account. Did I read it wrong?

      At any rate, if we’re going to be attributing corporations as identical to governments (which may certainly be valid) then we’d better be ensuring none of these subpoena-without-a-warrant-things happen anymore. Because, you know, laws and shit.

  5. The gruesome pictures are from the body of a french special forces commander who died during the raid to free the secret service agent (codename Dennis Allex)  who they claimed to have later executed.

  6. I suspect it would have to do with the photos and threats of violence breaking the terms of service.

    You can be as political as you want and say as many dumb things as you want but start doing actaully graphic stuff and twitter can chose to step in. 

  7. I am against Western media providing a platform for our enemies to communicate propaganda. Spokesmen for AQIM and their ilk seem to have CBC reporters on speed-dial.

    Read what former ambassador Robert Fowler had to say about it. Based on observing AQ during his captivity, he said that (in Mali in particular) there is nobody to talk to, nobody to negotiate with, nothing to talk about. Any time spent talking to their western-trained media people will be used by them to dig-in, re-trench and recover.

    I am normally more optimistic about such things, but he really set me back on my heels on this one.  If he is right, we face a foe with an implacable hatred. Let’s not give them any forum to spread that hatred.

  8. I’m against Western media providing a platform for our governments to communicate propaganda. Spokesmen for the US government and French government and their ilk seem to have *every* reporter on speed dial.

    This isn’t about these guys being murderous and crazy, which they clearly are. This is about the apalling double standard Twitter applies when it comes to who to censor, and who not to censor. Somehow, it ends up being the people designated as enemies by Western governments (“our enemies”), while those in government who have done similar things are free to propagandize, hypocritically talking about reducing violence while constantly perpetrating it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many other places.

    Additionally, one might want to consider where “implacable hatred” comes from. One might consider what that French agent was doing in Mali, and you might consider the history of French interventions in Africa, particularly Algeria, as well as elsewhere such as Vietnam (Indochina at the time).  Then one might gain an understanding of the unspeakable horrors that produce “implacable hatred”, and some of the reasons why these people act the way they do. This does not excuse their behavior – nothing does – but it provides a context in which one can then understand that there is *also* no excuse for the behavior of the French government.

    Twitter is not subject to the First Amendment, but I hope they reconsider. This is speech that the West needs to hear, despite how vile and painful it is. This is what our policies have produced and continue to produce. These kinds of things are the results of “nation building” and “stability operations”.

    1. Thr first amendment, or any other amendment does not trump our safety and the safety of those of us in the armed forces abroad.

      One has only to reflect back to Jeraldo Rivera exercizing what he believed to be his “right” to give away troop and asset movements in iraq on CNN by drawing childish drawings in the sand many years ago, and appealing to his handlers that he had amendment rights that necessitated he do that.


      We used to execute traitors. 

      1. Thr first amendment, or any other amendment does not trump our safety and the safety of those of us in the armed forces abroad.

        I don’t even understand this statement. What I do understand is that the first amendment of the constitution you’re trying to defend for your people starts with the phrase “Congress shall make no law…” which makes me believe that, in fact, the first amendment actually does trump whatever else. Because you can’t make a law that violates the first amendment, see. Congress shall make no law.

      2. Thr first amendment, or any other amendment does not trump our safety and the safety of those of us in the armed forces abroad.

        Disagree.  Without the first amendment there’s nothing about America worth defending.

        Though I support executing the sorts of traitors who would sell out our few, hard-won, and declining liberties for the sake of protection from an essentially non-existent threat. I’m probably more than 100,000 times more likely to be killed by an American than by an Islamic terrorist.

  9. Would it be smarter to be catching the IP addresses of the subscribers to this channel. 20,000 plus identities as followers would make for some pretty network traces… lets see: Internet Cafe in Karachi? check…  

    1. Who says that’s not what they’ve been doing all along? As Xeni pointed out, the account was active for more than a year without anybody stopping it. Sounds like a classic honey pot to me. 
      As I understand it, the only reason it was stopped was because they were violating twitters common user policy with all the gory images, so they weren’t singled out or anything.

  10.  Maybe they should make their own social media web and get their message out, instead of clinging, remora-like, to technology from nations and people who actually create things instead of tearing them down and calling it God’s will.

  11. I suppose Twitter qualifies as the publisher, and so the First Amendment doesn’t necessarily apply if Twitter chooses not to publish the writings of any one individual.  They have the freedom to publish elsewhere.

    Who follows these guys on Twitter anyway?  I wouldn’t because the last thing I need is to read about psycho murderers, but I’d also suspect that being a follower is a good way to sign up for the no-fly list (and never be told why).

  12. “They shut it down because our account overpowered all the Christians’ mass media”

    Cool story, bro!
    Hey, I thought the Jews controlled the media….

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