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Hi-tech mobile hack spreads rumour of Taliban chief's death

'This is the work of American intelligence'

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The Taliban has become the victim of a hi-tech disinformation campaign spreading false rumours that its leader, Mullah Omar, had died following a heart attack.

Text messages spoofed so as to appear to have originated from phones used by Taliban spokesmen Zabihullah Mujahid and Qari Yousuf were used to spread the rumour. Translated versions of the text messages said:

Spiritual Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid has died. May Allah bless his soul.

Mujahid denied the rumours in an interview with Reuters: "This is the work of American intelligence, and we will take revenge on the telephone network providers," he said, adding that Taliban websites had been blocked since 14 July.

Spoofing doesn't rely on collaboration with service providers, as any fool knows, but we doubt Mujahid would care to hear this. Taliban areas of expertise include destruction of centuries-old Buddhist statues, opium production and road-side bombs. Tech awareness doesn't really get a look-in.

Meanwhile Mullah Mohammed Omar has been in hiding since October 2001, when US authorities put a $10m bounty on his head. ®

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