Iran unleashes 'cyber army'

Posted at 03/14/11 10:19 PM

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran has unleashed a cyber army which draws on the ranks of Islamist volunteer militias to counter attacks online and take down "enemy websites," the official IRNA news agency said Monday.

"Just as we are under attack from our enemies on the web, e-trained Iranian military experts, including Basiji teachers, students and clerics, are attacking enemy sites," said Ali Fazli, deputy chief of the volunteer Islamist Basij militia, quoted by IRNA.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have joined the Basij militia, which is overseen by the Revolutionary Guard, according to the authorities.

Fazli gave no details on the type of "attacks" launched against foreign websites or on the nature of these sites

Ultra-conservative sites have reported in recent weeks cyber attacks lunched from Iran against Voice of America Farsi, Dutch government-funded Radio Zamaneh, which also broadcasts in Farsi, and microblogging site Twitter.

Hackers regularly bring down Iran's official websites.

The general secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, said earlier that "enemies of Iran" had funded the creation of "874 websites" to destabilise the Iranian government.

The websites he referenced emerged alongside opposition-led demonstrations contesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

In January, Iran announced the launch of a special police unit to combat "cyber crimes", especially those committed on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter which are popular among the opposition and dissidents.

The Iranian government also blocks the majority of foreign news websites, accusing Western media of taking part in a plot by the United States, Israel and Britain-led Europe, against the Islamic Republic.

Iranian authorities stripped 11 correspondents of their press cards on February 15, a day after they had covered a major Tehran protest.