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15 October 2008, 14:31

Cyberwar between Sunnis and Shi'ites

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A cyberwar is raging between Sunni and Shi'ite hackers. The Arab television transmitter Al-Arabiya reports that some 1200 web sites have been targeted by attacks over the last three weeks. They include the web site of Al-Arabiya itself, up to now the most prominent victim of these cyberattacks, which are evidently motivated by tensions between the two Islamic religious sects.

A burning Israeli flag was to be seen on the broadcaster's web page last Friday, together with a threat and a list of 100 other Sunni pages that had suffered similar attacks. The Guardian reported on Monday that the station was forced to change its domain name. Al-Arabiya now intends to take legal action in the USA against the attackers. The domain is registered with Network Solutions but, last Thursday, persons unknown succeeded in re-registering the domain name with the GoDaddy registrar in the USA.

Although the television station says these unknown parties were unable to gain any control over its content, they were probably able to launch their threatening message via the changed domain. Visitors to were shown this "Serious Warning" under a burning Israeli flag, in Arabic and English: "If attacks on Shia websites continue, none of your websites will be safe". After a few hours, this message was replaced by a photograph of a leopard and the name of the culprit.

It is still unclear who was responsible for hijacking the page. A letter to the Gulf News newspaper claiming responsibility only confirmed the assumption that Shi'ites and Sunnis had for some time been involved in a dispute on the net, characterised by a series of revenge operations in the virtual sphere as well. The letter described the broadcasting station, based in Dubai, as a "Wahhabi channel" that wanted to declare war on Shi'ites. The Wahhabi movement follows the particularly strict Sunni interpretation of the true Islamic life, which rules in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Arabiya says that during Ramadan in September a Sunni cracker group calling itself Ghoroub X.P. attacked approximately 300 mainly Shi'ite religious web sites, and this was followed by revenge attacks on 900 Sunni web sites. Gulf News reports that the Director of Dubai Media City sent a letter to the head of the Al Arabiya channel in June this year, advising it to take a neutral stand on political issues and sectarian friction between the two largest Islamic groupings.


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