Somalia's al Shabaab rebels back on Twitter after suspension

MOGADISHU Tue Feb 5, 2013 3:50pm IST

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's Islamist al Shabaab militants, who have used Twitter to announce assassinations and bombings, are back on the microblog service two weeks after their account was suspended.

" will function like the one they closed," a spokesman who declined to be named said on Tuesday.

Al Shabaab's previous official Twitter account was suspended around January 24, days after group, which is aligned with al Qaeda, used the social media site to threaten to kill two Kenyan hostages.

The group tweeted a link to a video of the abducted civil servants and threatened to kill them unless the Kenyan government released all Muslim prisoners in its jails.

Twitter rules say threats of violence are forbidden but the site declined at the time to comment on why al Shabaab's account, which had thousands of followers, had been suspended.

Al Shabaab's Somali- and Arabic-language Twitter accounts were never closed.

The new account, using the handle @HSMPRESS1, has attracted over 1,100 followers within two days.

Al Shabaab wants to impose its strict version of sharia, or Islamic law, across Somalia. However, it has lost significant territory in the southern and central parts of the country in the face of an offensive by African Union troops.

(Writing By Drazen Jorgic; Editing by James Macharia and Kevin Liffey)

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