Did U.S. intel hack the Taliban?
High-ranking members of the Taliban are blaming U.S. intelligence for launching and spreading a rumor this week that Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid was dead.
The rumor spread as text messages spoofed to look as if they came from regular Taliban spokesmen, from whom both Taliban rank-and-file members and members of the global media would expect to hear such momentous news.
"Spiritual Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid has died. May Allah bless his soul," the texts said, translated into English.
The messages went out to Taliban members and to reporters from Reuters and the rest of the world press.
If the culprits were from U.S. intelligence, they appear to be far ahead of the rest of the Pentagon in their ability to do more than add more defense to their plans to make American counter-cyberwar tactics more able to strike back at attackers rather than just try to stop them at the firewall.
The news was fake and the phones were hacked, Taliban spokesmen said, though they didn't say whether it was a genuine, News of the World phone hack or the kind of "phone hack" a senator uses to claim a Tweeted photo "isn't my crotch, even though it could be, but it's not, OK it is."
A second spokesman, Qari Yosuf Ahmadi, also said phones had been hacked, according to the Times of Oman.
"That's a false message. The Westerners hacked into our cellphones and sent the message from our numbers to everyone. They want to deceive the Afghan people. It's wrong. He is not dead and is alive," said Ahmadi.
The rumor forced the Taliban to scramble to deny the report, the second in three months that Mullah Omar had died.
“This is the work of American intelligence, and we will take revenge on the telephone network providers,” Mujahid told Reuters.
There is no way to confirm the source of the hacks, but U.S. and Afghan intelligence services regularly attack or shut down Taliban sites, according to Bloomberg source Haroun Mir, director of the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies in Kabul.
On May 23, Afghan television cited unidentified Afghan intelligence sources as claiming Omar had died, three weeks after Al Queda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid by a U.S. Navy SEALs, according to Bloomberg.