Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 4
UK PRIME MINISTERS THREATENED BY “AL-QAEDA IN BRITAIN”
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former PM Tony Blair were among the targets mentioned in a January 24 internet threat attributed to “al-Qaeda in Britain.” The English-language posting to the forum of jihadi website al-ekhlaas.net demanded a complete withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and the release of “all Muslim captives” from the Belmarsh high-security prison, especially Shaykh Abu Qatada al-Filistini and Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Misri. If these demands are not met by the last day of March, the message warns that “martyrdom seekers” (suicide bombers) would target political leaders including Brown and Blair as well as “all embassies, crusader centers and their interests throughout the country.” The message was signed by “Shaykh Umar Rabie al-Khalaila,” a previously unknown individual who describes himself as “the leader of al-Qaeda in Britain.”
About 50 Muslim terrorist suspects are housed in a special wing of Belmarsh prison (Sunday Times, January 29). British security officials had difficulty assessing the seriousness of the threat, which appeared only briefly on al-ekhlaas, but comes at a time of heightened vigilance following warnings from Spanish police that Pakistani nationals intended to launch suicide attacks on the London transit system. One British intelligence official dismissed the “al-Qaeda in Britain” message, describing it as nothing more than “background noise” (Reuters, January 16). Al-ekhlaas often carries postings that describe the murder of British civilians and troops as legal under Islamic law.
JIHADI WEBSITE DISTRIBUTES NEW ENCRYPTION PROGRAM
A new data encryption program designed for the use of Islamist militants has gathered wide attention in the information technology community. The software, called Mujahideen Secrets 2, is designed to protect message content as well as the identities and locations of terrorists while online. It is available for free from the password-protected al-ekhlaas website. The program is a significant improvement on the 2007 Mujahideen Secrets software, using 1024-bit encryption instead of the earlier 256-bit version.
According to the website: “This special edition of the software was developed and issued by Ekhlaas in order to support the mujahideen in general and the Islamic State in Iraq in particular” (Reuters, January 18; Internet Business Law Services, January 28). Al-ekhlaas’ domain, Ek-ls.org, is hosted on the web by Tampa-based Noc4hosts Inc., which is in turn owned by the Hi Velocity hosting provider, also based in Tampa (internetnews.com, January 24). Offering encryption software is not illegal, though al-ekhlaas has been forced to change service providers several times due to objectionable content.
The new technology was first identified by Paul Henry of Secure Computing Corporation (NASDAQ: SCUR), a San Jose-based company that “provides internet security appliances and software solutions” to “proactively protect enterprises” from web security threats (securecomputing.com). According to Henry, the cyber-jihadis “are concerned with the backdoors in publicly available code… so they decided to write something themselves” (Information Week, January 25).