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Reuters Hacked: Fake Posts Push Rumors About Rebel Forces

News ageny takes down its own site after compromised with false and misleading stories about Syrian rebels

Common Dreams staff

Reuters took down its blog after hackers gained control of it Friday and posted misleading stories. (Photo: Moon of Alabama)

The blogging platform of the Reuters news website was hacked on Friday morning and a series of false posts were  published on a journalist's blog, Thomson Reuters has confirmed.

" was a target of a hack on Friday," the company said in a statement. "Our blogging platform was compromised and fabricated blog posts were falsely attributed to several Reuters journalists."

One of the false posts purported to be an interview with Riad al-Asaad, the head of the Free Syrian Army.

"Reuters did not carry out such an interview and the posting has been deleted," the Reuters statement said.

In another seemingly related incident, a blog posted under the name of a Reuter's columnist based in Jordan, claimed that Syrian rebels had "acquired chemical weapons from Libya" including "mustard gas and sarin [sic]" and reported that members of the Free Syrian Army had been documented unpacking gas masks in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The posting, which was only available briefly before being taken down by Reuters (and can be seen in a cached version here), read:

"Photographs from Aleppo seem to show rebels donning chemical weapons mask, others showing others in fresh unopened packaging, such as the M-42A1 gas mask. It is unlikely that the rebels have captured these masks from Syrian storage areas as they are manufactured in the United States, suggesting they may be part of the non-lethal aid that the Obama administration has tasked the CIA in handling to the rebels."

In the purported interview with al-Asaad, Reuters said, the FSA leader was alleged to have said his forces were pulling back from the northern province of Aleppo after clashes with the Syrian army.

The Free Syrian Army, in turn, issued a statement denying that any such interview had taken place, and blamed President Bashar al-Assad's government for the false posting.

The report "was fabricated by the regime, as it seems the news agency was hacked", it said in a statement.

Thomson Reuters had no immediate information on who was behind the hacking, but given the nature of the false rumors contained in the posts it seemed clear that the hackers had a firmly pro-Assad bent.

Authentic Reuters journalists in Aleppo have reported Free Syrian Army fighters are still present in the city and outlying province where fighting continues.

The blogging platform was taken offline on Friday while the company works to address the problem.

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