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A day after they brought down Independent Newspapers’ servers, the hacking group known as Anonymous Africa targeted a range of websites belonging to the Zimbabwean government.

By Thursday night, the Zimbabwean Ministry of Defence’s website had become the latest Anonymous target.

Claiming to be fighting against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his supporters, the group are now recruiting members and even accepting donations from a list of its 250 followers on Twitter.

IOL editor Alastair Otter said the problems began at about 11am on Wednesday as the group executed a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack on Independent Newspapers’ e-mail servers and website.

This involves crashing a system by flooding it with too many queries.

Anonymous Africa, which had been counting down to the attack, tweeted: “IOL your website is tango down for supporting the dictator Mugabe.”

The attack was in response to an opinion piece titled “Mugabe hero of African liberation” which ran in The Sunday Independent this month. Independent Newspapers’ systems were restored at about 1.30pm.

But Anonymous Africa quickly moved on to their next targets, which included the websites of Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF, and Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald.

IT specialist Arthur Goldstuck said the group or person behind these attacks used incredibly sophisticated hacking methods.

Most DDOS attacks make use of a “Botnet”, essentially a collection of computers that are used to bombard websites with queries.

“(The hackers) gain control over other people’s computers by distributing malware (viruses), and use them for this purpose,” said Goldstuck.

As a result, the attacks are difficult to trace because most, if not all, of the online addresses involved belong to unknowing participants.

Anonymous Africa’s popularity is growing – they are gaining followers and even offering job positions.

“The African cyberarmy is recruiting. If you have leet (elite) skills or access to a giant Botnet, contact us,” tweeted the group.