Originally Published 2013-07-03 00:00:00 Published on Jul 03, 2013
Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is rapidly expanding its presence and influence in the social media networks. The group is using these networks to recruit tech-savvy younger generation not only from Pakistan but also from the Pakistani diaspora.
LeT's social media warfare
Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), the terrorist group accused of carrying out the Mumbai attacks, is rapidly expanding its presence and influence in the social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Instagram and Soundcloud. The group is using these networks to recruit tech-savvy younger generation not only from Pakistan but also from the Pakistani diaspora.

The group’s latest effort towards this objective has been to hold a series of workshops on exploiting social media for spreading its ideology and create "social movements". The goal is to create an "an army " of social media activists which can be used as a proxy to achieve the terrorist group’s objectives.

The workshops on social media were held at Faislabad, Islamabad and Karachi in June. The overall title of the workshops was "Social Media Warfare" and were held under the leadership of a retired Colonel of Pakistan Army, Nazir Ahmed, a close confidante of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. Col. Ahmed, heads the Rawalpindi unit of the terrorist group. He was arrested along with Hafiz Saeed in December 2008 for the Mumbai attacks. Both Saeed and Ahmed were subsequently released by the court for lack of evidence.

It is also known that Hafiz Saeed’s son, Talha Saeed, who leads the prayers at the group’s headquarters at Chaubhurji in Lahore, is the brain behind the social media outreach of the terrorist group. The case of a Pakistani, Jubair Ahmed, living in Virginia, US, arrested for supporting LeT showed Talha’s prominent role in the terrorist group’s outreach. Jubair said he had prepared propaganda movies for LeT on the instructions of Talha. Jubair was contacted by Talha on the social media and asked to upload the propaganda movies after the Mumbai attacks.

In the last four years, since the global scrutiny intensified on its activities after the Mumbai attacks, the terrorist group based in Lahore has been expanding its presence online with blogs and websites. Most of its recruitment centres and training camps were reluctantly shut down by the security forces. The group moved its training camps to different locations but found it difficult to re-establish its recruitment-fund raising network. The social media offered the group a potent instrument to bridge the gap and it quickly moved into the social media space, opening a Facebook account which was, however, shut down by the government. Without losing much time, the group changed its tactics, went on Twitter and other social media tools difficult to interdict.

A dedicated cyber unit was set up. Called the JuD Cyber Team, the unit coordinate the group’s social media outreach, from running blogs, twitters and facebook accounts to organising workshops. The Cyber Team has representatives in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faislabad and Gujranwala. Some of them are engaged in updating the countless blogs, Twitter accounts and other social media networks. A few of them are working on developing software like mobile and game applications. Some, among them, work with Al Quds Centre in Rawalpindi and Markaz Quba in Islamabad, two religious centres run by the terrorist group. It has recently launched a drive for volunteers.

The focus of the present series of workshops has been "fourth generation warfare" utilising the social media. One of the presentations at the workshops highlighted the concept of "fourth generation warfare", laying emphasis on the "use of massed power". The presenter, going by the name Engineer Qasim bhai, said the fourth generation warfare was "an evolved form of insurgency that employs all available networks" and could be used to hoodwink the adversary.

A slide from one of the presentations

The workshop participants were briefed on the advantages of using social media and other cyber tools to cause a "direct attack on the enemy’s culture". It was explained that it was much easier and safer to work with the social media as it was difficult for anyone to track down the source.

One of the presentations on "Jamat Ud Dawah in Social Media" was made by Tabish Qayyum, one of the several "spin doctors " of LeT who works for a magazine called "The Fortress-Defending Pakistan’s ideological Boundaries" published from Karachi. Qayyum has written extensively against India on jihadi media networks.

What needs to be watched is not only the online community subscribing to LeT’s social media outlets in Pakistan, but also in India.

(Wilson John is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)
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