India-based Twitter account hailing Islamic State jihadists shut down

Chris Johnston
The Guardian
11 December 2014

Owner of the ShamiWitness account, with almost 18,000 followers, was an executive at a company in Bangalore

A Twitter account followed by supporters of Islamic State (Isis) has been shut down after a reporter exposed the Indian man who had sent thousands of tweets about the jihadist group.

Channel 4 News revealed on Thursday night that the owner of the ShamiWitness account was an executive at a company in Bangalore called Medhi. It did not reveal his full name because he said his life would be in danger if he was identified.

However, after being tracked down he agreed to shut down the account, which hailed foreign Isis fighters who were killed as martyrs.

ShamiWitness had almost 18,000 followers and the tweets were seen an estimated 2 million times a month. They were mostly sent from his smartphone.

Mehdi said he would have joined Isis, but that he could not leave his family: “If I had a chance to leave everything and join them I might have … my family needs me here.”

He used the ShamiWitness account to tweet five times the video of US aid worker Peter Kassig being executed minutes after it went online, as well as the killings of dozens of Syrian soldiers.

“May Allah guide, protect, strengthen and expand the Islamic State … Islamic State brought peace, autonomy, zero corruption, low crime-rate,” Medhi wrote on Twitter last month.

In an earlier tweet to British fighter Mehdi Hassan, 19, who later died in Kobani, he said: “May Allah give you brothers decisive victory there.” To another British fighter he said: “May Allah reward you.”

A recent report by Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute thinktank, found social media to be one of the key organisational strengths of Isis. It used outlets such as Twitter “to spread and legitimise Islamic State’s ideology, activities, and objectives, and to recruit and acquire international support”.

Twitter closed dozens of accounts linked to Isis jihadists earlier this year. They had been used to boast of victories in Syria and Iraq and threaten US forces and post grisly images of executed hostages.

The service does not monitor content posted by users, but will take action when alerted of accounts that violate its rules. While tweeting support for Isis is permitted, publishing graphic content is not.

After facing a clampdown on Twitter, Isis supporters experimented with other social networks such as Diaspora, which was used in August to distribute video of US journalist James Foley being killed.

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