By Stephanie van den Berg
THEHAGUE (Reuters) – European police agencies have knocked out several internet servers used by Islamic State in a significant blow to the armed group’s ability to spread propaganda online, the Europol police agency said on Monday.
The move shut down a large number of accounts and websites run by the group’s news arm, Europol said.
“They have disappeared from an important part of the internet”, Belgian prosecutors’ spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said at a news conference at Europol headquarters in The Hague.
“I cannot say at this time it is 100%, we will see how they recuperate from this. It will take a huge effort for them to come back.”
Police officers involved in the joint action by Europol and police agencies in 11 countries said around 26,000 items were taken offline last week, including a high number of communication channels.
Europol earlier said in a statement it had been working with nine of the largest Internet platforms to counter Islamic State propaganda operations, including with Google, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram.
Europol said on its website it had examined “propaganda videos, publications and social media accounts supporting terrorism and violent extremism” over the course of two days last week.
“Telegram was the online service provider” where most offending material was found, Europol said.
“As a result, a significant portion of key actors within the IS network on Telegram was pushed away from the platform.”
It praised Telegram’s assistance and said the company was helping Europol to “root out … malicious content.”
There was no immediate response from Telegram to a request for comment.
“IS is not all about the battlefield. They have radicalised and have recruited a large number of foreign fighters in our countries through those media channels,” Van Der Sypt said.
“These activities can be directly linked to the radicalisation of European citizens.”
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, writing by Toby Sterling and Bart Meijer, Editing by William Maclean)