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Taliban app surfaces on Amazon

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NEW YORK– In a game of whack-a-mole, a Taliban app banned by Google has become available on Amazon.

The app, called “Voice of Jihad,” lets people keep up with the latest Taliban news, videos and updates.

The version currently available on Amazon is in English. On Monday, Google removed a Pashto version of the app from its Play store. A spokesman for Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon’s app store provides an alternate way for people to download apps for Android smartphones. Though most of the apps on Google Play and the Amazon app store are the same, Amazon offers a small handful of apps that have been banned by Google.

In case Amazon removes “Voice of Jihad,” the Taliban released the app file on Twitter. That will allow any Android phone owner to simply load it directly.

The Taliban app was first discovered on Friday by SITE Intel Group, a website devoted to tracking jihadists online. The propaganda product was removed from Google’s app store a short time later.

Jihadist groups, including the Taliban, have successfully used the Internet and social media to spread propaganda and recruit fighters. Apps, however, are strictly regulated by Google and Apple. It’s much harder to sneak a jihadist app by the stores’ gatekeepers than post a recruitment tweet on Twitter.

The Taliban has other ways to get its message out to supporters. It has a Twitter account, in which an official spokesman sends updates about Taliban activity. And it has an active channel on the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

In recent years, ISIS has proven itself adept at using social media and the Internet, leaving the Taliban to play catch-up.

By David Goldman