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Anonymous Shuts Down Tunisian Govt Websites After Violence and Web Censorship

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Websites run by the Tunisian government have been successfully targeted by Operation: Tunisia, a cell within Anonymous' Operation Payback, in a distributed denial of service action, which dropped this image and message on several government sites before the Anon-fueled DDoS knocked them offline. Reminder: DDoS is illegal and people have been arrested for launching them and participating in them.

The message from Anonymous is to the point:

The Tunisian government wants to control the present with falsehoods and misinformation in order to impose the future by keeping the truth hidden from its citizens. We will not remain silent while this happens. Anonymous has heard the claim for freedom of the Tunisian people. Anonymous is willing to help the Tunisian people in this fight against oppression. It will be done...

This is a warning to the Tunisian government... It's on the hands of the Tunisian government to stop this situation. Free the net, and attacks will cease, keep on that attitude and this will just be the beginning.

The sites affected include: pm.gov.tn, rcd.tn, benali.tn, carthage.tn, bvmt.com.tn, sicad.gov.tn, indrustrie.gov.tn, commerce.gov.tn, douane.gov.tn and ministeres.tn. You can see screen shots of some pages here and here and here.

Anonymous has been assisting Tunisia dissidents with dedicated actions, much as they did -- and continue to do -- in Iran, responding to that country's post-2009 election revolts, with codes, the manual mean of DDoS, and with spreading the word about what is happening in the country.

It is reported that many of the Tunisian DDoS-ers are based in that African nation, but with Anon being an Erisian global disorganization, there is help from around world with a bunch of people supplying code that helps Tunisians move past Internet filters and surf anonymously.

The country's already tense situation escalated on after New Year's Day when Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's government blocked WikiLeaks, a Tunisian WikiLeaks mirror and media sites reporting on WikiLeaks; several cables from Embassy Tunis released by WikiLeaks going as far back as 2008 were highly critical of the Tunisian government.

Within nine hours of the government shutting down access to WikiLeaks, numerous sites linked to the government were decorated with Anonymous/Operation: Tunisia's message, then knocked offline.

As of this writing many government sites still remain offline. Tunisian pro-government hackers have returned the favor according to more than one report; Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, a university assistant, told Al Jazeera:

The government has cracked down on activists by hacking our emails, facebook and blogs. They have deleted a few pages in which I was writing about the public protests.

According to reports on Facebook, there have been dozens of injuries and at least four deaths in the recent spate of protests, though this is difficult to confirm. Al Jazeera is covering the protests, which include police surrounding high schools and colleges to prevent demonstrations after

[A]bout 250 demonstrators, mostly students, attended a peaceful march on Monday afternoon to express their support for the protests in the region of Sidi Bouzid, a union source told AFP.

The march then turned violent when police tried to contain the protesters by firing tear gas canisters, one of which fell into a mosque.

Enraged, the protesters then reportedly set fire to tyres and attacked the local offices of the ruling party, the source said.

Because of tech issues centering around DNS servers hosting governmental as well as business and media sites (DNS=domain name service, a hierarchical naming system built on a distributed database for computers, services, or any resource connected to the internet), some non-governmental sites have been unavoidably affected.

As pointed out in the WikiLeaks cables, corruption in Tunisia is rampant, so Operation: Tunisia has also targeted Tunisian President Ben Ali's wife, Leila Ben Ali and her extended family the Trabelsi, and are knocking off websites linked to the family's businesses.

In an egregious and morally reprehensible move, the government has cracked down on access to religious leaders and local police and officials are harassing Muslim men with beards. According to the Tech Herald, which has done excellent reporting on the Tunisian situation:

One [internet relay chat/IRC] user explained how local mosques are only available during certain times of the day now.

"In the mosques we have not the right to learn our religion, we do the prayer, and they close the mosques," a Tunisian explained to us on IRC.

"We have five prayer sessions a day. We go to the mosque, do it, and then they close the mosque until the next prayer. In the past there is Imam (religion man) who [teaches] people the Quran, now we have nothing."

This is the second African nation which has been the focus of an Anonymous DDoS action; in late December Anon instigated a DDoS-ing of a complete takedown of the ZANU-PF website, the Zimbabwean government portal, and the Zimbabwean Finance Ministry website, as well as posting their message on Finance Ministry website, stripping all other news content and offering a message that said simply:

We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

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