Twitter has suspended the account of Jordanian preacher and militant group al-Qaida’s spiritual leader, Abu Qatada, along with two other influential scholars said to be aligned with the extremist organisation. According to scholar of jihadism at Princeton University, Cole Bunzel, the three accounts, which had tens of thousands of followers, were at the heart of an online network of al-Qaida supporters.
Bunzel tweeted, “After years tolerating them, @twitter finally suspends accounts of 3 leading al-Qaida-aligned scholars, al-Maqdisi, Abu Qatada & al-Siba’i.”
The accounts focused mostly on the war in Syria, frequently attacking Islamic State, but also commented on other issues from law to religious judgments.
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Twitter has cracked down heavily on the ISIS supporters, but al-Qaida supporters have not been so heavily targeted. “Twitter has been a permissive forum for supporters of al-Qaida as compared to supporters of the Islamic State who have been pushed off,” Bunzel said.
It was not clear what had prompted the shutdown or whether the move would cause the al-Qaida supporters to embrace other social networks.
Qatada was deported from the United Kingdom to Jordan to face terror charges after a court battle lasting nearly 10 years. Last summer, he was released from custody after being acquitted of all charges. Since his release, he has become an increasingly vocal critic of the ISIS.
Maqdisi, regarded as the most influential jihadi scholar alive, is counted as a close friend by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Twitter said it could not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons, but a spokesperson said: “We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism. Since the middle of 2015 alone, we’ve suspended more than 360,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.”