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Twitter locks down Boko Haram social media account

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The account in question was set up on January 18 as part of what is believed to be a bid to mimic the successful PR and recruitment campaigns of groups like al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (Image Source: http://www.vocfm.co.za)

According to Nigeria Communications Week, social media giant Twitter has locked down and suspended an alledged Twitter account that was purportedly set up by Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. According to the report, pictures of child soldiers in training were openly displayed on the social media account.

The account in question was set up on January 18 as part of what is believed to be a bid to mimic the PR and recruitment campaigns of groups like al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Twitter revealed that the account had drawn in as many as 4000 followers before it was shut down. Additional images were also posted in order to suggest Boko Haram, which means “Western Education is Sinful”, was very active in the  of training child soldiers. According to Nigeria Communications Week, this is seen as a tactic borrowed from conflicts in other parts of Africa. The images showed children dressed in dark robes, training in military formation and holding AK-47 assault rifles.

According to the report, the Twitter account also displayed a video interview with Abu Mus’ab Al barnawi, who is said to be the group’s spokesman, in which he discussed the capture of Baga – the village where an estimated 2,000 civilians were killed. A second video was talso published showing an interview with a group of Boko Haram fighters, explaining their motivation.

Speculation has arisen on the authenticity of the account; however, the suspension of the account may however point to the fact that it may have been authentic.

According to Nigeria Communications Week, the US State Department also lent credibility to the claims by tweeting a photo of the purported child soldiers, writing: “Amid its massacres of innocents, Boko Haram running training camps for child soldiers.”

According to The Telegraph UK, the videos posted to the account, if genuine, reflect a growing sophistication in Boko Haram’s publicity machine, which previously was limited to disseminating shaky clips showing the group’s leader Abubakabar Shekau flanked by arms-laden pick-up trucks and ranting in rudimentary Arabic.

In a statement to the Telegraph UK, Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst for Red 24, a crisis management firm, said the Twitter account appeared to be just one outlet in a “media network” launched by Boko Haram in mid-January through trusted jihadi channels also used by Isil.

He said the interviews reflected a desire to dispel the notion that Boko Haram was killing indiscriminately, and emphasised the group’s Islamic credentials.

“It does seem very legitimate and until it was shut down, offered some very interesting insights into the operations and methodology of the organisation,” he said.

“The fact that there was no mention of Abubakabar Shekau, for example, suggests a new degree of factionalism, and the strengthening of links with groups like Isil which is something he never supported.”

Staff Writer

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