By DAVID DIZON
Terrorists linked to the al-Qaeda network are increasingly turning to the Internet to spread propaganda against their enemies and convince sympathizers to join their cause, a security forum in Manila was told Thursday.
Diane Russel Ong Junio, an analyst with the newly-launched Philippine Institute for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said that in the past couple of years, al-Qaeda-funded terrorists have increased the output of videos and other propaganda material on the Internet.
She spoke at the two-day Protect 2008 conference in Manila, which discussed security measures for business and government from the latest threats to global terrorism.
Junio said the al-Qaeda network is using the AS Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Publication as its production arm to spread messages from al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden.
She said the videos are usually filmed in remote locations, then transported for processing and uploading on online forums and even popular video-sharing sites such as YouTube.
"In the past, al-Qaeda used dead-drop method to spread their videos.This means that a video will be left at a specific location, which will then be picked up by a media contact. Now, with the use of the Internet, any al-Qaeda cell can upload a video anywhere in the world, which can then be seen by other groups and their sympathizers," Junio said.
Industry experts discuss cybersecurity in the PROTECT 2008 Conference in Hotel InterContinental Manila.
Junio said use of the World Wide Web to spread terrorist propaganda poses many advantages for al-Qaeda: it is easy to access, has little government control, is low cost, ensures anonymity, has global reach, and accommodates different media platforms, including audio and video messages.
RECRUITMENT THRU INTERNET
She said that aside from spreading propaganda, terrorists have been using the Internet to recruit members, raise funds, and gather intelligence on the United States government and its allies, including the Philippines.
Last year, a report by the Search for International Terrorist Entries (SITE) research group said the Abu Sayyaf terror group has been producing videos to raise funds and gather support for its followers in the Philippines.
One video, titled "The Filipino Lions are Coming", featured speeches from two former Abu Sayyaf leaders, founder Abdul Raziq Abu Bakr Janjalani and Khadaffy Janjalani, and footage of its training.
In the video, the Abu Sayyaf leaders claimed the group does not commit militant acts for personal or political gain, but does so only in the name of Islam and jihad. The 62-minute video also urged Muslims to contribute support, both financial and material, to Abu Sayyaf.
Junio said the spread of terrorist propaganda on the Internet has given rise to a new threat -- that of continuous radicalization of sympathizers and would-be members of terrorist groups.
She said one way that al-Qaeda operatives use the Internet to communicate is to open a shared e-mail account on Yahoo! or Gmail.
"The terror cells share one user-account and share the password. What they do is they write messages but do not send them. Instead, they save the messages in the drafts folder of the e-mail account, which can then be read by the other operatives," she said.
Cynthia Mamon, managing director of the local subsidiary of US IT vendor Sun Microsystems, said that terror groups could also use online banking to move funds and provide financial resources to terror cells all over the world.
The al-Qaeda terrorist network has links with various militant groups including the Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf, which operates in the southern part of the Philippines.