Terrorists known for grisly murder photos return to Twitter

An Al Qaeda–affiliated group that threatened murder on Twitter and posted gruesome photographs of at least one victim is tweeting again after a two-week suspension.

Twitter forbids “direct, specific threats of violence against others,” but was slow to act against the Somali rebel group Al Shabaab, which had assembled an impressive media presence on the social network under the account HSMPRESS. 

Tweeting in perfect English, the Al Shabaab account launched textual attacks against the Somalian military and their allies, the Kenyan Defense Forces. At the same time, the group threatened assassinations and the murder of hostages. On Jan. 14, it tweeted three grisly photographs showing the body of an alleged French soldier.

At the time, the Al Shabaab account had more than 20,000 followers. Even the U.S. government had pressured Twitter to shut it down, claiming that Al Shabaab was likely using it as a recruiting tool to lure Americans “to travel to Somalia to fight with the Shabab and then return home to wreak havoc.”

On Jan. 25, after a public outcry of Al Shabaab’s threats of violence, Twitter suspended the account. 

Now, under the handle HSMPRESS1, it’s back. It promises nothing has changed.

“[Our new account] will function like the one they closed,” a spokesman told Reuters.

Twitter does not comment on individual accounts, so it’s unclear exactly why Al Shabaab’s first account was suspended, nor why they’ve been allowed to return. Al Shabaab’s Somali and Arabic language accounts were never shuttered. 

In a tweet, Al Shabaab likened its work on Twitter to holy warfare.

“Propaganda is antithetical to the true aim of journalism & thus the need for journalistic guerrilla warfare to counter it; enter Jihadnalism.”

Photo via HSMPRESS1/Twitter

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.