MSNBC has an item taken from Newsweek on tracking down the operators of Islamic terrorist Web sites. This is like trying to locate a floating craps game: here today, gone tomorrow. During the past year, investigators in America and Europe watched as a business called 357Hosting, based near Utrecht, the Netherlands, became the officially registered Internet host for several notorious militant Islamic Web pages and bulletin boards, including sites that disseminated videos of beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq and messages from Qaeda leader Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. The public prosecutor’s office in Utrecht tells NEWSWEEK that it has opened a criminal investigation into possible Internet hate crimes.

he says 357 would continue to host radical Web sites to promote “free speech” and to counter what the spokesman claims is excessive Jewish influence in the media.


Newsweek

April 4 issue – Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies are learning that tracking down the operators of Islamic terrorist Web sites is like trying to locate a floating craps game: here today, gone tomorrow. During the past year, investigators in America and Europe watched as a business called 357Hosting, based near Utrecht, the Netherlands, became the officially registered Internet host for several notorious militant Islamic Web pages and bulletin boards, including sites that disseminated videos of beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq and messages from Qaeda leader Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. The public prosecutor’s office in Utrecht tells NEWSWEEK that it has opened a criminal investigation into possible Internet hate crimes.

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But the former operator of the hosting company claims that ownership of the firm has already moved out of the Netherlands. In e-mails, 357Hosting’s former chief, who asked to be called “Awad,” acknowledged that his business last year hosted Web sites “that may be deemed as radical,” including sites that glorify the actions of Iraqi militants and others promoting the Palestinian resistance. Information on 357Hosting’s own site indicates that the Dutch firm offered Islamic groups bargain-basement rates, from as little as 4.99 euro ($6.47) per month. Awad says a former owner of 357 even offered Islamic groups free space, raising questions among investigators as to whether 357’s rates were subsidized by wealthy Islamists from outside the Netherlands. One site hosted by 357, Albasrah.net, today features what purport to be daily news bulletins from Iraqi terrorists; other sites 357 has hosted include Hamasonline.com and Shareeah.org, a site promoting the wisdom of Abu Hamza, a notorious London imam who now awaits trial in Britain on terror-related charges. Both Dutch and U.S. investigators say 357 also hosted sites that were among the first to distribute Iraqi beheading videos. Awad, however, says that 357 had been wrongly accused of hosting such material because the sites that really did display the beheading videos at one point were hosted on the same computer servers that 357 bought space from.

Zarqawi: Spreading hate online
Reuters
Zarqawi: Spreading hate online
As the criminal investigation heats up, 357’s former owner claims that Dutch authorities once indicated the firm’s activities were legal. “My policy was freedom of speech … as long as they didn’t violate laws, so no threats, no bomb-making manuals and things like that.” Nonetheless, Awad tells NEWSWEEK that earlier this year, after 357’s activities became controversial in the Netherlands, he turned the hosting business over to a new owner in Jordan, whom he declined to identify. A “spokesman” for the new owners, telephoned at Awad’s recommendation, declined either to identify himself or the new owners. But he says 357 would continue to host radical Web sites to promote “free speech” and to counter what the spokesman claims is excessive Jewish influence in the media.

—Mark Hosenball
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.