A multinational law enforcement operation targeting the Islamic State’s propaganda apparatus culminated in authorities seizing computer servers and websites associated with the terror group’s online radicalization efforts, police said Friday.
Eight countries including the U.S., U.K. and Canada participated in a coordinated, two-day operation launched Wednesday against propaganda outlets linked to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, temporarily disrupting the group’s ability to broadcast terrorist material and possibly giving authorities information about its inner workings, Europol said in a statement announcing the effort.
Spearheaded by the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the operation targeted ISIS-affiliated propaganda outlets including the Aamaq News Agency – the group’s “main mouthpiece,” according to Europol – as well as the al-Bayan radio station and the Halumu and Nasher news sites, the statement said.
The operation resulted in the seizure of digital evidence by law enforcement agencies from Bulgaria, France and Romania, as well as the seizure of web servers in the Netherlands, Canada and the U.S., according to Europol. British authorities, meanwhile, pursued actions involving alleged domain registrar abuses, the statement said.
Combined their efforts “punched a big hole” in the group’s ability to spread propaganda and radicalize young people, said Rob Wainwright, Europol’s executive director.
Police expect that data retrieved as a result of the operation will help to identify the administrators of ISIS media outlets and individuals they may have radicalized, Europol’s statement said.
Launched in 2014, the Aamaq News Agency publishes information in at least nine languages involving the Islamic State and is regarded as “the primary source of information” regarding the group’s activities, according to Europol.
“It has become much more assimilated into the Islamic State’s propaganda infrastructure, and now it’s a fully fledged and very important part of it. It has become the first point of publication for claims of responsibility by the group — though not as a rule,” researcher and terrorist expert Charlie Winter told The New York Times in 2016.
Aamaq founder Baraa Kadek was killed during a U.S. airstrike in eastern Syria in 2017, The Associated Press previously reported.