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Twitter ends Somali militant tweets

JOHANNESBURG — Twitter suspended the account used by Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked militants on Friday after the insurgents used the microblogging site to post a hostage video and death threat.

The Shabab-run Twitter account @HSMPress was suspended two days after Al Shabab used the platform to disclose a death threat on Kenyan hostages unless Kenya’s government meets its demands. Twitter’s terms of service do not allow specific threats of violence against others.

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Terrorism analysts say that the militants’ use of Twitter has upsides and downsides. Analysts and governments can use militants’ Twitter postings to gather intelligence, but militants use accounts to spread propaganda or recruit fighters.

On Jan. 16, Al Shabab posted a statement saying it planned to kill Denis Allex, a French hostage who was the subject of a rescue attempt by the French military. Al Shabab shortly thereafter used Twitter to announce his death. French officials think Allex died in the Jan. 11-12 rescue attempt.

J.M. Berger, a terrorism analyst, alerted Twitter to the death threat against the Kenyans on Wednesday.

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