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Scouting Net for jihadi recruits

In a new trend, terror groups are turning to cyberspace to recruit cadres with the help of websites with mass appeal instead of enrolling them at mosques and community centres which are under scrutiny.

world Updated: Dec 14, 2009 00:04 IST

In a new trend, terror groups are turning to cyberspace to recruit cadres with the help of websites with mass appeal instead of enrolling them at mosques and community centres which are under scrutiny.

The recent arrest of five American Muslim youths in Pakistan on suspicion of plotting terror attacks is an example of the new strategy adopted by the terror groups.

The five youths from North Virginia were lured into jihad by a Taliban recruiter who contacted one of them on popular website ‘YouTube’, The Washington Post quoted a Pakistani official as saying.

Saifullah, a recruiter for Pakistani Taliban, first contacted one of the men, Minni, on YouTube in August after Minni repeatedly praised YouTube videos showing attacks on US forces, the Post said.

Saifullah, who has links with al Qaeda, and the men exchanged coded e-mails for months thereafter and the Taliban recruiter invited them to Pakistan and guided them once they arrived, the official was quoted as saying by the Post.

“Increasingly, recruiters are taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centres because places like that are under scrutiny. So what these guys are doing is turning to the internet,” said Evan Kohlmann, senior analyst with the US-based NEFA Foundation, a group that monitors extremist websites.

The five youths wanted to go to Afghanistan to fight the US-led forces but were arrested by Pakistani police on Wednesday in Sargodha in Punjab province.

Experts say recruitment worldwide has become far more web-based, with recruiters playing a critical role in identifying potential radicals, it said.

If the emerging case, as outlined by the Pakistani officials, shows the difficulties online recruiters can encounter, it was also clear that the growth of online recruiting poses unique challenges for US criminal investigators, the Post said.

Federal officials said they were concerned about its potential to radicalise Americans.