, NAIROBI, Jan 25 – Twitter suspended the account of Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shabaab insurgents on Friday, days after they posted photographs of a French commando they killed and threatened to execute Kenyan hostages.
A message from Twitter on the English-language @HSMPress account read that it had “been suspended”, without elaborating.
However, Somali and Arabic language accounts of the Shabaab continue to operate, and the extremists used their Arabic account to denounce the suspension as censorship.
“This is new evidence of the freedom of expression in the West,” the message read.
On Wednesday the Shabaab used the account to release a link to a video of several Kenyan hostages they said they will execute within three weeks if Nairobi’s government does not release prisoners held on terrorism charges.
Earlier this month they posted graphic photographs of a French soldier killed during a failed bid to release a French agent the Shabaab had held for more than three years. They later used Twitter to announce the hostage’s execution.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault denounced the publication of the photographs as a “particularly odious display.”
Twitter warns that accounts can be suspended if they violate its rules, which include the publishing of “direct, specific threats of violence against others”, according to regulations posted on the social media website.
Users are also blocked if they use Twitter “for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities.”
Last year the Shabaab used the account – which was opened in December 2011, and most recently had over 20,000 followers – for a series of exchanges with Kenya’s army spokesman, taunting the Kenyans after they invaded southern Somalia to attack the Islamists.
Shabaab fighters are on the back foot in Somalia, reeling from a string of losses as they battle a 17,000-strong African Union force as well as Ethiopian troops and Somali forces.