Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 17:24 pm (KSA) 14:24 pm (GMT)

Al Arabiya hit by Sunni-Shiite hacking war

The warning message displayed as hackers shut down the domain
The warning message displayed as hackers shut down the domain

Al Arabiya's website was shut down shortly after midnight on Thursday after an attack by hackers accusing the Dubai-based news channel of being pro-Sunni.

A warning message in Arabic and English was displayed that warned "if attacks on Shiite websites continue, none of your websites will be safe."

The warning page showed a picture of a burning Israeli flag and went on to list 100 Sunni sites that were also hacked, including the late Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz's (former president of the Saudi Scholar's association) website. The cyber attack claimed to be in retaliation for recent attacks on Shiite websites.

Al Arabiya's servers were not hacked but the domain name company's system was hacked. Al Arabiya's website can currently be found at www.alarabiya.tv as administrators seek to get the main page back online at www.alarabiya.net.

"Hackers infiltrated the system of the U.S.-based company that hosts the alarabiya.net domain name, the problem is not with our server and an investigation is currently underway to identify those responsible," the website's editorial manager, Anas Fouda, said.

Fouda said the hackers claimed to be Shiite's but there was no proof they were.

"We are un-biased in our reporting and because of that we are constantly accused of backing the opposite side," Fouda said, adding the AlArabiya.net team comprises a host of different nationalities and religions and the website will continue to adhere to its policy of being moderate, balanced and objective.

AlArabiya.net is regarded as more tolerant than other Arabic news sites because its policy allows everyone to express their views freely in the comments section, Fouda said.

In volatile times of increased tensions, such as during the July 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, AlArabiya.net has adopted a policy of restricting comments in order not to fan the flames of tension, added Fouda.

Last month, prominent Sunni religious commentator Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi charged that Shiites were"invading" Sunni societies. A tit-for-tat cyber war disabled more than 1,000 websites, belonging to both sects, as Shiite and Sunni hackers infiltrated religious websites and uploaded their own messages.

The UAE-based Sunni hacker group Ghoroub X.P. targeted about 300 primarily religious Shiite websites in mid-September followed by retaliation that disabled up to 900 Sunni religious sites.

Al Arabiya is among the most prominent sites that has been hacked in the recent cyber war.

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