AN 80-strong US terrorism task force raided the Texas-based host of Arabic Web sites, including that of the Arab world’s leading independent news channel, prompting charges of an ‘anti-Muslim witch hunt.’
But the FBI, which took part in the raid last week at privately held InfoCom Corp., in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, denied any anti-Arab bias and said it was executing an unspecified federal search warrant.
The FBI declined to specify the target of the search warrant, which is under seal in a federal court, except to say in a statement that the search was "one aspect of a more than two-year investigation that is ongoing."
Analysts said it was not surprising the federal government would chase down terrorism leads in cyberspace. ‘Terrorist organisations use the new technology just like everybody else,’ said Donald Hamilton, deputy director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism.
InfoCom’s owners said the raid resulted in a temporary shut-down of Web sites it hosts for about 500 customers, including that run by Al-Jazeera television and the newspaper Al-Sharq, both based in the Gulf state of Qatar.
Al-Jazeera is a major regional news source for Arabic speakers. Often dubbed "the Arab CNN," it has emerged as a major force in a region where most broadcasters operate under direct state control.
The Web sites were shut down while about 80 agents copied information from InfoCom’s Internet servers, said Ghassan Elashi, brother of owner Bayan Elashi.
He said many of the sites were able to start up again on other servers, while the task force continued to copy computerised information. The office remained sealed off by FBI agents.
"We have nothing to hide. We are cooperating 110 percent with the FBI," InfoCom’s lawyer Mark Enoch told reporters. But Enoch said whatever tips had led to the search was "bad information." "If they think they’re going to find that InfoCom is associated with terrorism, they’re wrong. It’s not," he said.
ANKIT Sood, a 14-year-old student from St. John’s High School, Sector 26, Chandigarh, claims to be the youngest Microsoft-certified Professional in Windows 2000 track.
A son of a businessman, he completed the test in 40 hours from a Sector-34 based institute He says his favourite subject is history and he loves to play football.
Ankit cleared the test on September 4. Earlier another student from the same school had cleared the same exam in programming track. This Class IX boy loves to dabble in Web designing and is currently busy making and designing his own Web site, www.chandigarh4u.com.