April 3, 2012
Authorities Investigating Possible Terror Threat Linked To Online Image
Counterterrorism experts from the FBI and the New York Police Department (NYPD) are investigating an image posted on multiple Arabic-language websites which appears to suggest that New York may once again be the target of a terrorist attack.
According to Jana Winter of FoxNews.com, the "mysterious" image resembles a Hollywood-style movie poster and includes the phrase, "Al Qaeda Coming Soon Again in New York." Law enforcement officials are concerned enough about the graphic that they have launched an investigation into its origins.
"The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is aware of the posting and investigating its authenticity and origin," FBI New York Field Office spokesman J. Peter Donald told Winter on Monday. "The FBI takes all threats seriously and at this time there is no specific or credible threat to New York."
Mark Hosenball of Reuters reports that the image was found online at a site known as Ansar al Mujahiddin Arabic Forum (AMAF), which he refers to as "a militant web forum which allegedly has close connections to the Afghan Taliban and a key militant leader in Jordan."
Additionally, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Daily Mail that the picture had been discovered at several Arabic-language webpages, including one identified as gulfup.com. Browne said that it was found in the "artwork and design" section of that site, and since then it had been re-posted at what the UK publication refers to as "numerous extremist forums."
“It´s something we´re looking into,” Browne told New York Daily News reporters Rocco Parascandola and Sarah Armaghan. “We´re trying to determine the origins of it. We take all things like this seriously.”
He also told Parascandola and Armaghan that the NYPD believes that the picture was originally posted by a person of Egyptian origin -- an Arabic-speaking writer who reportedly spreads terror network propaganda online on a regular basis. After their analysis, they have determined that the individual in question is not American.
In related news, Hosenball reports that US officials have noticed service interruptions on two Arabic-language forums, Shamukh and al Fidaa, which are believed to have been officially sanctioned by al Qaeda. Evan Kohlmann, who monitors these forums for both the government and private-sector firms, told Reuters that the websites had been down for nearly two weeks -- far longer than past interruptions.
The sites, which Kohlmann said are used in order to post "official" videos from top al Qaeda officials, offered no explanation as to why they were down until Monday, when a message posted to one of them said that it would be back online following a few additional "tweaks."
"Kohlmann said that the outages began roughly around the time of two potentially significant recent events: the arrest in Spain of a suspect who some investigators believe was an administrator for some militant websites, and the shootout in Toulouse, France in which Mohammed Merah, a militant who shot dead a rabbi, three children and three French soldiers, was himself killed by police," Hosenball wrote.
He added, "Kohlmann said speculation in the online world was that the forums had gone offline because they were attacked by government or non-official hackers of some kind."