Insurgents' Twitter account suspended

(Picture: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com">Shutterstock</a>)
(Picture: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com">Shutterstock</a>)

Nairobi - The Twitter account of Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab insurgents was suspended on Friday, days after they posted photographs of a French commando they killed and threatened to execute Kenyan hostages.

A message from Twitter on the English-language @HSMPress account read that the account had "been suspended", without elaborating.

However, the Shabaab's Somali- and Arabic-language accounts continue to operate, and the extremists used their Arabic account to denounce the suspension as censorship.

"This is new evidence of the freedom of expression in the West," the message read.

On Wednesday the Shabaab used the account to release a link to a video of several Kenyan hostages they said they will execute within three weeks if the Kenyan government does not release prisoners held on terrorism charges.

Earlier this month they posted graphic photographs of a French soldier killed during a failed bid to release a French agent whom the Shebab had held for more than three years.

They later used Twitter to announce the hostage's execution.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault denounced the publication of the photographs as a "particularly odious displayā€¯.

Twitter warns that accounts can be suspended if they violate its rules, which include the publishing of "direct, specific threats of violence against others", according to regulations posted on its website.

Users are also blocked if they use Twitter "for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities".

Last year the Shabaab used the account - which was opened in December 2011, and most recently had more than 20 000 followers - for a series of exchanges with Kenya's army spokesperson, taunting the Kenyans after they invaded southern Somalia to attack the Islamists.

Shabaab fighters are on the back foot in Somalia, reeling from a string of losses as they battle a 17 000-strong African Union force as well as Ethiopian troops and Somali forces.

The Shabaab would use their account to goad Kenya's army spokesperson Emmanuel Chirchir, calling the Kenyan military "inexperienced boys".

And, after Chirchir warned that herds of donkeys were a potential target - since they were viewed as Shebab convoys - the Islamists retorted that Kenya's "eccentric battle strategy has got animal rights groups quite concerned".

In January 2012, during a live web chat platform that the US state department used to engage with international media, Washington's senior advisor for innovation Alec Ross said terrorist organisations should be "dismantled and destroyed".

"And so for me to think about whether they should have the right to use Twitter or not, I go to a more fundamental question, which is: Do they have the right to exist or not? And my answer to that is no... Shabaab and other institutions that are purveyors of terror are going to get absolutely no sympathy from me, and they certainly aren't going to see me advocate for their rights," Ross said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When a Covid-19 vaccine for under 16's becomes available, will you be taking your children to get it?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, immediately!
38% - 4134 votes
I'll wait to see how others respond
26% - 2802 votes
No, I don't think they need it
36% - 3964 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.32
(-0.49)
ZAR/GBP
21.17
(-0.07)
ZAR/EUR
18.28
(-0.12)
ZAR/AUD
11.77
(-0.06)
ZAR/JPY
0.14
(-0.09)
Gold
1700.70
(+0.04)
Silver
25.22
(+0.17)
Platinum
1128.01
(+0.31)
Brent Crude
69.67
(+3.93)
Palladium
2329.95
(+0.62)
All Share
68271.19
(+0.78)
Top 40
62788.64
(+0.87)
Financial 15
12759.80
(+0.67)
Industrial 25
87613.31
(-0.32)
Resource 10
70801.78
(+2.36)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo