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Google removes Taliban-developed smartphone app from play store
[SAN FRANCISCO] Google has removed a Taliban-developed online application for Android smartphones aimed at increasing the militant group's visibility worldwide.
The launch of the app was reported by the US-based SITE Intel Group, which monitors jihadist social media, on April 1. The Pashto language app includes content such as official statements and videos from the Taliban, which has waged a jihad in Afghanistan for more than 14 years since it was ousted in 2001 with help from the US.
A Google spokeswoman confirmed on Sunday that the app is no longer available from the company's Play Store.
The app was part of the Taliban's digital campaign to attract a bigger audience worldwide. The movement has an updated websiterun in five languages including English and Arabic, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts providing daily updates on its insurgency. The group's website and Twitter accounts have been taken down several times as the Afghan government seeks to prevent the group's communications efforts.
Social media platforms have been criticised for not doing more to stop extremist groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic State from using their sites to recruit members and raise funds.
"The app will help Taliban to further psychologically weaken Afghanistan by their propaganda reports," said Jawid Kohistani, an independent Kabul-based security analyst.
Taliban spokesmen didn't return calls to their mobile phones. Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said by phone he wasn't aware of the Taliban app.