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Twitter shutters terrorist account of Somalian group

NAIROBI — The flagship Twitter account of al-Shabab, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, was closed Friday for the second time this year, less than 24 hours after a US-based terrorism specialist reported violations of Twitter’s terms of service.

The closure comes only days after al-Shabab claimed a failed assassination attempt against Somalia’s president and tweeted that the next time the president wouldn’t be so lucky.

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Al-Shabab uses Twitter mainly to make claims of enemy kills and to spread its view of events in Somalia and East Africa. A United Nations report on Somalia released last month said UN specialists believe the person running the English-language account is a British member of al-Shabab.

Twitter in January suspended al-Shabab’s previous account two days after the group used the platform to announce a death threat against Kenyan hostages. Twitter’s terms of service says it does not allow specific threats of violence against others in its posts.

The extremists’ use of Twitter has upsides and downsides, say terrorism analysts. Analysts and governments can use the rebels’ Twitter postings to gather intelligence, but militants can use the accounts to spread propaganda and recruit fighters.

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