BRUSSELS European Union states have started sharing monitoring of militant Web sites, including sites linked to al-Qaeda, a draft statement agreed by the bloc's ambassadors on Wednesday shows.
Police say the Internet has taken on huge importance for militant groups, enabling them to share know-how and spread propaganda to a mass audience, and to plan operations.
"The (EU) member states have started to work on joint projects. At present some member states under German lead responsibility are sharing the task of analyzing al Qaeda's media department as-Sahab," the draft prepared for the next meeting of EU justice and interior ministers in June said.
Al Qaeda has its own media arm, as-Sahab, whose output has included a series of statements by its senior leaders.
The EU police agency Europol is building an information portal to allow exchange of information on militant Web sites monitoring, the draft said.
The portal is to include a list of links of monitored Web sites, statements by terrorist organizations, and details on experts checking the web in EU countries, including their language competence and technical expertise. Expert meetings will also be organized.
Western security analysts say al Qaeda and its offshoots have been very adept at using new media, publishing footage of violent executions and attacks on British forces in Iraq on the Internet within hours of them happening.
"Internet use plays a major role in the logistic, operational and communication network of terrorist organizations," the statement said.
"Terrorists use the Internet not only as a means to communicate and spread propaganda, but also to radicalize, recruit and train terrorists, to spread instructions on how to carry out concrete offences and to transfer covert information," it said.
Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, has been pressing the 27 EU states to cooperate on web monitoring, arguing that not all member states have experts who can translate and analyze Web sites used by militants.
"The systematic cooperation in sharing the task of monitoring and assessing the Internet needs to be further strengthened," the statement said.