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Pro-WikiLeaks hacktivists have launched a denial of service attack against government websites in Zimbabwe.

Websites belonging to the Zimbabwe government and Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party were blitzed by junk traffic during the latest phase of the Operation Avenge Assange campaign by the anarchic Anonymous collective. The Finance Ministry in Zimbabwe was also defaced with a message from the fun-loving criminals of Anonymous (the defacement was purged by Friday afternoon but recorded for posterity in a blog entry by Sophos here). The attacks were mounted as reprisals against attempts by the Zimbabwe government to suppress the publication of politically embarrassing WikiLeaks-sourced material by local media.

Grace Mugabe, wife of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and self-styled "mother of the nation", is suing local newspapers for millions over the publication of allegations that she feathered her nest with funds from illegal diamond trading. The accusations stem from leaked US diplomatic cables, published by WikiLeaks, that formed the basis of reports by the Standard newspaper.

Anonymous published a statement explaining its actions: "We are targeting Mugabe and his regime in the ZanuPF who have outlawed the free press and threaten to sue anyone publishing wikileaks."

The hacktivist collective has recently been involved in numerous online attacks against various organisations perceived to be hostile to Wikileaks and its spokesman Julian Assange. Most of these attacks have been DDoS efforts emanating largely from illegal botnets controlled by individual Anonymous members: however it has also been normal for a few hundred activists to voluntarily make use of such tools as the Low Orbit Ion Cannon software to bombard targeted websites with packets.

Mugabe has reduced his country to financial penury over decades of misrule, characterised by widespread corruption. However attacking Zimbabwe government websites is extremely unlikely to have any practical effect on the regime. ®

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