LONDON – Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad hijacked the Twitter accounts of the BBC’s weather and Arabic services on Thursday and posted messages that were by turns political, anti-Semitic and comical.
The BBC confirmed that several accounts had been hacked, saying that it is “actively working” on the issues and expects them to be resolved shortly.
The hackers identified themselves as members of the Syrian Electronic Army, a group that has carried out a string of web attacks against targets such as Al-Jazeera, which it sees as sympathetic to Syria’s rebels.
The BBC Weather, BBC Arabic and BBC Radio Ulster accounts appear to have been the targets.
Among the messages posted on the BBC Weather Twitter account — which has approximately 59,600 followers — were “Long Live Syria Al-Assad” and “Saudi weather station down due to head-on collision with camel.”
A further message claimed Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered terrorists to launch chemical weapons at civilian areas in North Syria. The hackers posted about 10 messages before signing off.
“Sorry about that, we were hacked. Normal service resumes,” the account later posted after the offending tweets were deleted.
The BBC Arabic service account also bore the hallmarks of the hackers, with one message proclaiming “Syrian Electronic Army Was Here.” Another tweet linked to a YouTube video purporting to show Syrian rebels killing civilians.
After carrying a pro-Assad post, the Twitter page for BBC Radio Ulster later posted a message saying “apologies to all our followers our account was hacked today.”
Assad sympathizers in the past also have hacked the Reuters blogging platform and disseminated fake stories about Syria’s rebel movement.
Fergus Bell in London contributed to this report.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd