US-based terrorist monitoring group Site, first reported the app’s launch on 1 April, after which Google removed the app, dubbed Alemarah. The Android app was the first created by the group and according to Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahed, part of the group’s “advanced technological efforts to make more global audience”, Bloomberg reported.
The move reflects the extremist group’s intentions to expand its digital operations and emulate the more visible IS (Daesh). The Taliban currently runs a channel on the encrypted messaging service Telegram and also has a website in five languages, including Arabic and English. The group is also active on social media with accounts on both Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter has taken down its account several times in order to cull the group’s propaganda strategy. Given how Taliban social media accounts have been targeted and shut down several times already, the app could have come in handy to maintain a more stable source of communication and ensuring that recruitment efforts proceed effectively. A Google spokesperson confirmed on 3 April that the app has been taken down from the Play Store and will no longer be available on the online store.
The Taliban are not alone in having their social media accounts shut down. Twitter recently closed thousands of IS-related accounts to crack down on online terrorist propaganda. The Taliban, which was ousted from Afghanistan in 2001 with US assistance, has since waged insurgency in Afghanistan.