Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, has returned to the social media networking site Twitter more than two months after their last account was suspended, an official for the group told Al Jazeera.
On Monday, a message was posted on the social media site under the handle of @HSM_INFO carrying the standard signature of the group. An al-Shabab official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed to Al Jazeera that the account was genuine.
“The aim is to vigorously challenge defamatory reports in the media by presenting an accurate portrayal of the current state of Jihad in Somalia and countering Western, state-sponsored propaganda machines that are paid to demonise the Mujahideen,” the al-Shabab official told Al Jazeera.
The Somali government, which has borne the brunt of most of al-Shabab attacks, has called on Twitter to ban the group.
Abdirahman Omar Osman, a Somali government spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the government was opposed to al-Shabab being back on the social media site.
“People like this should not be given the platform to mislead the youth. They should be banned,” he said.
In September, Twitter suspended at least six accounts belonging to al-Shabab after the group, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall, mocked the Kenyan government’s response to the four-day siege that left more than 60 people dead.
According to Twitter’s policy on abusive behaviour, “Users may not make direct, specific threats of violence against others.”
A spokesman for the networking site told Al Jazeera, “We do not comment on individual accounts, for security and privacy reasons.”
Al-Shabab first joined Twitter in late 2011 after Kenyan forces moved into southern Somalia. Early tweets by al-Shabab mocked a Twitter posting by Kenya’s army spokesman, Maj Emmanuel Chirchir, that threatened to bomb concentrations of donkeys that might be moving weapons for the rebels.
Al-Shabab who still carry out attacks in Somalia have been losing territory to the UN-backed Somali government and AMISOM – the African Union peacekeepers – in the past two years.
Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa