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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Major ISIS propaganda sites taken down

Extremists group's outlets such as Amaq were crippled in police operation spanning North America and Europe

A solider watches code lines on his computer at the French defence ministry. Police in Europe and North America have seized servers and data from ISIS propaganda outlets in a multi-country operation, Europol announced on April 27, 2018. Michel Spingler / AP Photo
A solider watches code lines on his computer at the French defence ministry. Police in Europe and North America have seized servers and data from ISIS propaganda outlets in a multi-country operation, Europol announced on April 27, 2018. Michel Spingler / AP Photo

European and US police forces have crippled the main mouthpieces of ISIS in a coordinated operation across several countries, the European police agency said on Friday.

"With this ground-breaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of ISIS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe," the head of Europol Rob Wainwright said.

The two-day operation on Wednesday and Thursday was the latest stage of a campaign first launched in 2015, and targeted in particular the Amaq news agency used by ISIS to broadcast claims of attacks and spread its extremist message.

"With this takedown action, targeting major ISIS-branded media outlets like Amaq, but also Al Bayan radio, Halumu and Nashir news, ISIS' capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material has been compromised," Europol said.

The "simultaneous multinational takedown" was coordinated via Europol's headquarters in The Hague with the support of Eurojust, the EU agency for judicial co-operation in criminal matters.

It was led by the Belgian federal prosecutor, while national police forces seized servers in the Netherlands, Canada and the United States as well as digital material in Bulgaria, France and Romania.

Britain's Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit was also involved in identifying "top-level domain registrars abused by ISIS", Europol said.

Europol began warning about the rise of Amaq in late 2015, stressing "the technical resilience of the terrorist online infrastructure".

"Since then law enforcement agencies have, in a continuous joint effort, taken down the web assets of the media outlet," it said.

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ISIS used Amaq in 2016 to claim attacks all over the world and the Middle East, including the deadly assaults in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin.

It also used Amaq to claim the March supermarket siege in Trebes, France where a 25-year-old gunman killed four people, including a policeman who took the place of a hostage.