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Al-Shabab Twitter Account Apparently Suspended

A Twitter account used by Somali insurgent group al-Shabab has apparently been suspended, days after the group used the page to boast about killing a French hostage and showed graphic photos of a dead French soldier.

Although Twitter has not confirmed it shut down the account, a message on the Twitter page used by al-Shabab in English said "the profile you are trying to view has been suspended."

Al-Shabab's Arabic-language Twitter account confirmed the page was deleted, saying it was a violation of its freedom of expression. It was not clear why the Arabic account, which had also posted the photos and threats, was not also shut down.

A Somali analyst who follows militants' use of modern media tells VOA that the suspension likely will not deter al-Shabab for long.

"They will continue to exploit the use of the Internet. Whenever an account is deactivated they use affiliate websites and accounts who pass on their messages in Somali. They also use Internet forums where they post coded messages in English and Arabic."

Al-Shabab, which wants to impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law on Somalia, began using the English-language Twitter account in 2011, around the time when Kenya sent soldiers into the country to fight the group.

On Thursday, it used the account to publish a video that threatened to execute several men it said were Kenyan hostages unless Kenya agrees to free Muslims arrested on terrorism charges and meets several other demands.

The group said Kenya has until February 14 to respond. A Kenyan Defense Ministry spokesperson later told VOA that the government will not negotiate with the militant group.

Last week, al-Shabab used Twitter to announce that it executed a French hostage, Denis Allex, after an unsuccessful French rescue operation.

Following the rescue operation, the insurgent group posted several graphic photos of what it said was the body of a French soldier killed during the raid, as well as a photo of captured French weapons.

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