US analysts to post online messages to blunt Qaeda influence

Seeking to deter Americans from getting influenced by al-Qaeda, US analysts will post messages on English-language websites used by jihadists, asking young people to "turn away" from extremist groups.

The pilot programme launched by the State Department comes at a time when intelligence officials say dozens of Americans have travelled or tried to travel to Syria since 2011 to fight with the rebels against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a New York Times report said.

With al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen putting English subtitles on its website propaganda and Islamist extremist group in Somalia, the Shabab, publishing an English-language online magazine, American and European intelligence officials warn that al-Qaeda's efforts to recruit English-speaking fighters could create new terrorist threats when the "battle-hardened militants return home."

A small group of Arabic, Urdu, Somali and Punjabi-speaking analysts and bloggers at the State Department have focused their efforts over the last three years on trying to understand what "inspires their target audience - men 18 to 30 years old, mostly in the Middle East to violent extremism, and on finding ways to steer them away from that."

Under the programme, the analysts would post messages and images on English-language websites that jihadists use to recruit, raise money and promote their cause.

"We need to be ready to blunt their appeal," said Alberto M Fernandez, a former American ambassador to Equatorial Guinea who is the coordinator of the State Department office, the Center for Strategic Counter-terrorism Communications (CSCC).

"The online messaging aims to create a competing narrative that strikes an emotional chord with potential militants weighing whether to join a violent extremist group," the report said.

One online image shows photographs of three American men who had travelled to Somalia and died there, including Omar

Hammami, a young man from Alabama who became an infamous Islamist militant.

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