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Reuters/ Afghanistan stringer
Taliban fighters pose with weapons in Afghanistan.
STUTTERING START

The Taliban’s quest for a digital audience hits a hitch: its new app has “technical issues”

By Olivia Goldhill

The Taliban’s new app for android phones, launched on Friday, is already down, denting the Afghan group’s plans to spread its propaganda digitally.

The app, called Alemarah, was spotted in Google’s Play Store on Friday, according to SITE Intel Group, but was removed shortly after the launch was reported. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said it was removed on Saturday to fix “technical issues,” but would be publicly available again shortly.

The app “is part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience,” Mujahed told Bloomberg on Sunday (Apr 3).

Alemarah reportedly features official Talbian statements and videos in the Pashto language. Tore Hamming, a militant Islamism researcher at the European University Institute, told The Guardian that the technological development is likely a reflection of the Taliban’s rivalry with ISIL, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or the Islamic State. ISIL is adept at using social media and online platforms to promote its own propaganda.

The Taliban already have an extensive online presence themselves, including a Twitter feed managed by an official spokesperson, and a website with reports in five languages, including English and Arabic.

The Taliban has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Google said the company does not comment on specific apps. But a spokesperson added: “Our policies are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers. That’s why we remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies.”