Rami Olwan

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Hacking is New Realm of Moroccan-Algerian Conflict

ALGIERS (Ramadan Belamry)

The Algerian-Moroccan dispute over the Western Sahara has entered a new realm as hackers took the decades-old land conflict into cyberspace with attacks on websites and domain names. Hackers assumed to be Moroccan intensified their attacks on Algerian websites and posted vitriolic statements condemning both governments in a series of series of hackings that included news websites in French and Arabic.

Among the targets of the most recent attack was the French speaking website Le Quotidien d’Oran (Wahran Daily). The hackers cursed both the Algerian and Moroccan governments and posted statements like “Damn both governments.”

The electronic battle started a month ago when suspected Algerian hackers posted a banner with the Moroccan flag and the words “Le portail du Sahara Marocain” (The portal of Moroccan Sahara) on the French-language news site Tout sur L’Algerie (All about Algeria). They also posted stories lashing out at Algeria and the independence movement group Polisario Front.

Lounés Ghamash, editor of Tout Sur L’Algerie, identified Hakim Allal as the hacker responsible for the attack and said he used the account of one of his reporters.

Allal allegedly asked for €5,000 ($6,338) to restore the domain.

“We took the matter to French courts to regain the domain and punish the culprits,” Ghamash said.

The Paris-based Tout Sur L’Algerie is popular among Algerian intellectuals and decision-makers. Its extensive coverage of the Western Sahara issue could have aroused Moroccan resentment and triggered the hacking.

Experts say electronic warfare is the extension of the political dispute between the two countries.

Algerian Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni dismissed accusations that his country is trying to Balkanize the Arab world, while Moroccan king Mohamed VI lashed out at Algeria for refusing to normalize relations and re-open the borders closed since 1994.

Journalist Abdul-Salam Baroudi, who lives in the border province of Tlemcen, said the fact that hackers cursed both governments shows that the matter is political rather than popular.

The intensity of Moroccan hackings, Baroudi told AlArabiya.net, indicates that Morocco is more affected by the border closure than Algeria.

“The message of the Moroccan hackers reflects the frustration of Moroccans at the financial damages triggered by the closure, especially for those who live in border provinces,” he said.



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