Arab news Web site suffers hits

The Web sites of Arab news agency Al-Jazeera have been taken offline, with a denial of service attack one possible cause.

The Web sites of Arab news agency Al-Jazeera have been taken offline, with a denial of service attack one possible cause.

The Qatar-based agency, which operates an Arab-language site among its many media properaties, launched an English-language Web site on Monday, providing a starkly different view on the war with Iraq than that offered by many Western media outlets.

According to a report on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) online, the English site was hit almost immediately by what they have termed "hacker attacks" and technical glitches.

The report quoted Al-Jazeera managing editor Joanne Tucker.

"We've had a lot of obstacles thrown in our way," she told the ABC.

"I thought the launch of this site would be quite smooth and wouldn't make make too many waves but the reaction has been amazing - it has been almost surreal."

ZDNet Australia was unable to reach the company's two Domain Name Servers (DNS). Both machines were inaccessible, which is unlikely to result from too much "legitimate" traffic going to the site. DNS processing does not use a lot of system resources, and does not use a lot of traffic. Furthermore, the two name servers are hosted on different IP ranges, which is unlikely to spring from a run-of-the-mill system outage.

The US-based companies that host the DNSs and the Web servers were unable to comment. Datapipe, who host the secondary name server, flatly refused to comment on the phone, insisting that all enquiries be directed to the legal department of the company.

Global company Navlink, who host the Aljazeera.net primary DNS, were unable to comment at the time of writing. However their own Web site is offline also.

The Aljazeera.net site, which is devoted to news on the conflict in Iraq, joins a chorus of voices emanating from the war zone, including individual Web logs as well as the many TV broadcasts, radio reports, newspaper dispatches and other media reports.

US military leaders have criticised Iraq for showing videotapes of US prisoners and some have extended that criticism to Al Jazeera. "Needless to say, television networks that carry such pictures are, I would say, doing something that's unfortunate," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Monday in an interview on CNN's Late Edition.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the site.

Although some are likely to value a contrasting voice, the site is sure to be controversial, with features including "Coalition of the willing has become a joke" and "Has Israeli lobby influenced this war?"

Among its dispatches on Monday was what it described as an eyewitness account of the assault on Baghdad.

"Baghdad witnessed intense bombardment last night," begins the unbylined report, attributed simply to Al Jazeera. "Glass panes on windows and doors of the Al-Jazeera Satellite TV office were shattered as shock waves ripped through the city. We still can smell gunpowder and smoke here."

The report goes on to give details on an attack on the Al Salam palace, which Al-Jazeera said is used for hosting heads of state.

"We visited this palace along with the Iraqi Minister of Information and saw the damage," the report said. "It was completely empty and devoid of the alleged weapons of mass destruction."

The site also features a section devoted to "global reaction", which focuses entirely on opposition to the war, including various protests as well as antiwar sentiments expressed during Sunday's Academy Awards.