BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State militants raided Internet cafes in their Syrian stronghold city of Raqqa after ordering a ban on wireless networks that can be used by private homes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Monday.
In order to implement a news blackout of the group’s activities, Islamic State had given cafe owners four days from Sunday to disconnect wireless Internet networks used by residents, the Observatory said, citing an IS leaflet circulated in Raqqa.
The United States said earlier this month it had intensified an aerial campaign against Islamic State in Syria with a wave of strikes in and around Raqqa, de facto capital of the militants’ self-declared caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.
Citing a network of sources on the ground, the Britain-based Observatory said Islamic State members had already started an Internet crackdown that included shutting down networks that could be used by its own fighters at home.
The group also aims to cut off communication between its members and their relatives for fear they may try to escape or pass on information to intelligence agencies, according to the Observatory.
Islamic State controls Raqqa province and other parts of northern and eastern Syria, reaching up to the Iraqi border. In Raqqa, it strictly regulates public life and has outlawed music and images of people in public. Islamic State also runs nearly everything from bakeries to schools, courts and mosques.
In December the ultra-hardline group ordered shopkeepers to shut down their wireless Internet during prayer times in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor. [ID:nL6N0TV3NR]
U.S.-led forces dropped anti-Islamic State leaflets on Raqqa, the activist group called Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reported on its Twitter feed on Sunday.
The leaflets showed a comic book-style image of dead Islamic State fighters and a group of four people in military fatigues with guns walking on a road through the bodies. The words “Freedom will come” are written in Arabic at the bottom of the image.
The soldiers appeared to be from the Kurdish militia which has joined with Washington in fighting Islamic State in Syria.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Mark Heinrich