The Envoy

The Taliban joins Twitter

The Envoy

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Once, Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding in caves, and Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban rulers, who gave him and Al Qaeda sanctuary, banned music, movies and dancing.

Now we know the al Qaeda leader was actually living in a comfortable compound in a modern Pakistani city for the past five years, where he used computers -- and even rigged up a system to send e-mail while going undetected by international eavesdroppers.

And Afghanistan's Taliban have also relinquished their formerly dim views on technology to join the social-networking, micro-blogging age, the Guardian's Jon Boone reports from Kabul:

Their Twitter feed, @alemarahweb, pumps out several messages each day, keeping 224 followers up to date with often highly exaggerated reports of strikes against the "infidel forces" and the "Karzai puppet regime."

Most messages by the increasingly media-savvy movement are in Pashtu, with links to news stories on the elaborate and multilingual website of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban's shadow government likes to style itself.

On Thursday the feed broke into English for the first time, with a tweet about an attack on the police in Farah province. "Enemy attacked in Khak-e-Safid, 6 dead," read the message.

Among their followers, Boone reports, are some of the U.S. forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan:

Presumably operating on the grounds that it is best to know one's enemies—140 characters at a time—the first feed the Taliban signed to follow was that of @Afghantim, who describes himself as a US air force logistics officer working as a combat advisor to the Afghan army. The Taliban are also following @AfghanHeroesUK, a charity supporting British troops in Afghanistan.

(Afghan protesters shout anti-US slogans as they march during a demonstration in Laghman east of Kabul, on April 4, 2011.: Rahmat Gul/AP Photo)

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