The Islamic State group has reportedly lost its second-in-command in Iraq during a U.S.-led coalition airstrike. The news came as the Pentagon tries to track the online recruitment system used by the militant organization, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
U.S. Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, said that militant groups used the Internet to spread propaganda. "The thing I always look for is at what point do groups, for example, decide that they need to move from viewing the Internet as a source of recruitment, as a way to spread ideology, as a way to spread their message, their propaganda, do we see it move from that into something for greater concern as viewing it as a potential weapon system," Rogers said, as CNN reported.
ISIS forces remained active in the region despite months of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition. Its use of social media was considered a powerful tool for recruiting new groups of fighters.
But ISIS reportedly suffered a setback with the death of Abdul Rahman Mustafa Mohammed, aka Abu Alaa al-Afari. The BBC reported that Brig. Gen. Tahsin Ibrahim, spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Defense, confirmed the death, but neither the U.S. military nor the Islamic State group has done so.
Ibrahim said that Afari was among dozens of militants killed in the airstrike. He was a major preacher at the al-Shuhada mosque near Tal Afar, in northwestern Iraq, where the militants used to meet. ISIS forces seized Tal Afar in June 2014.
The Pentagon is fighting the “Dark Web,” or "Deep Web," areas of the Internet where terrorist organizations recruit fighters, plan terror attacks and share intelligence. Rand Corp.’s Lillian Ablon compared the Dark Web to the 80 percent of an iceberg that remains underwater. While people can see the “surface Web,” or the tip of the iceberg, through search engines like Google, the Dark Web is not indexed.
The Pentagon is trying to find a way to intrude the Dark Web and track ISIS forces. Ablon said that part of the Web is “dark” even to Google.
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