WASHINGTON – Activists for peace in Darfur who are trying to use this year's Olympic Games as a tool to apply international pressure on China to help solve the Darfur problem said Thursday their computer systems have come under attack. They believe they were targeted by China.
The Save Darfur Coalition said it had notified the FBI and was cooperating with its agents. At the bureau, spokesman Richard Kolko said, "We are aware of the report and are looking into it."
A U.S. Defense Department annual assessment of China's military said it had launched hacker attacks on foreign computer networks.
Save Darfur holds China partly responsible for the violence in Darfur, a barren region of western Sudan, which entered its sixth year last month. Hundreds of thousands have died, and more than 2.5 million have been made homeless by attacks allegedly perpetrated by militias backed and armed by the Sudanese government.
China is Sudan's largest trading partner and absorbs most of its oil exports. Save Darfur has pressed the Chinese to use their economic muscle to force Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to allow the entry of foreign peacekeepers ordered into Darfur by the United Nations.
A call to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for reaction to Save Darfur Coalition's allegations was not immediately returned.
Allyn Brooks-LaSure, spokesman for the coalition, said the organization's leaders had met with FBI agents this week and talked with them again Thursday morning about the computer attacks.
He said China was pinpointed as the source of the intrusions "due to technical information that traces back to China."
The coalition has proved a major headache for Beijing. On Thursday, it announced in conjunction with Dream for Darfur plans to mount major demonstrations in Beijing during the Olympics. Its campaign for boycotts of the Olympics have many of the Summer Games' sponsors worried about possible repercussions.
Coalition president Jerry Fowler said in a statement Thursday, "The closer we are to the Olympics, the more scrutiny is applied to China's obstructive role on Darfur and their overactive attempts to deflect pressure on this crisis. By attacking our computer systems, someone in Beijing is clearly trying to send us a message."
The organization said in a news release that Save Darfur staff members discovered the anomalies when they noted that e-mail messages appeared to have been read by a third party.
"Further inspection revealed several other sophisticated attacks, which appeared to originate in China," the release said.
It said other messages included e-mails from ostensibly friendly sources that contained elements that could damage the technology.