Anonymous, a loose collective of online “hacktivists,” has said it will ramp up its cyber attacks against ISIS after the terror group claimed responsibility for the March 22 bombings in Belgium, the Daily Mail is reporting.
The group revealed the hashtag #OpBrussels on Wednesday, vowing to increase their efforts towards hacking websites, stealing Bitcoins, and shutting down the Twitter accounts of the Syria-based terrorist group.
ISIS struck Brussels in twin suicide bombings that killed 34 people and injured more than 230 others at Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro stop. Two brothers were responsible for the heinous attack, and a third suspect is currently on the run. The Brussels bombings come days after Belgian police arrested Saleh Abdeslam, the mastermind of the Paris attacks which claimed over 130 lives.
— ABC News (@ABC) March 24, 2016
Sources say the Islamic State had been planning attacks in Europe targeting train stations and airports for months but moved the plans forward after the ring leader of the Paris bombing was arrested.
In a video released online, a person claiming to be a spokesman for Anonymous appears in a Guy Fawkes mask, saying, “We have silenced thousands of Twitter accounts directly linked to ISIS. We severely punish Daesh on the dark net, hacked their electronic portfolio and stolen money from the terrorists. We have laid siege to propaganda websites, tested them with our cyber attacks, however we will not rest as long as terrorists continue their actions around the world. We will strike back against them…we will defend the rights of freedom and tolerance.”
The hacktivist group promised to track down ISIS supporters, saying it was crucial to fight back because innocent people were being killed across Europe. They also stressed the importance of unity and acceptance, urging people not to discriminate against Muslims because of the atrocities of a small and deluded sect.
In the video, the putative spokesman said, “If you stand up to discrimination in your country, you harm them much more than by hacking their websites. The Islamic State cannot recruit Muslims in Europe if they are accepted in society. So we want all of you to stand together against discrimination.”
— The Hill (@thehill) March 24, 2016
ISIS’ online unit, the Islamic Cyber Army, has hit back, branding the group “idiots” and saying all they do is hack Twitter accounts and emails, which do little or nothing to affect their operations. ISIS militants continue to use encrypted messaging services, GPS blockers, and under-the-radar email providers to perpetuate their misdeeds.
The hacking group released a similar video during the November 13 attacks in Paris. Where Anonymous promised to hunt down those responsible for the killings, expose them, and fight their influence on social media platforms. The operation was tagged Operation Paris (#OpParis) and was declared the “biggest operation ever” against the Islamic State, according to the Huffington Post.
Anonymous claims to have shut down over 2,000 ISIS Twitter accounts and taken them offline. It also claims to have blocked a major website that was recruiting sympathizers for the Islamic State. The hacktivist group also launched “ISIS Trolling Day,” according to Russia Today, ridiculing the extremist group by posting uncomplimentary images to undermine its propaganda.
Anonymous has published a series of guides to help people recognize ISIS websites and social media accounts, teaching how to shut them down. A list of apps that jihadists use was also made public after a 34-page ISIS fighter handbook was obtained by the research group Combating Terrorism Center (CTC).
Belgium has become a hotbed of extremism. The Paris mastermind, Abdeselam, and his brother who detonated and died in one of the bomb blasts were raised in Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels. According to CNN, there are more Belgians fighting for ISIS than any other European country.
Experts believe the economic hardships that immigrant communities suffer make them easy fodder for twisted groups like ISIS. Recently, this has been exacerbated by hatred and xenophobic language directed at Muslims for the crimes of the Islamic State.
[Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images]