Amnesty International, Unicef and other Twitter accounts hit by attack, repeating Turkish claims Germany and Netherlands are 'Nazi'
Hackers on Wednesday appeared to gain control of hundreds of Twitter accounts, including high-profile human rights groups, posting messages that echo Turkish government statements that the Netherlands and Germany are "Nazis".
While the origin of the hacks is unknown, hundreds of account profile pictures were reportedly changed to the standard of the 'Ottoman Heaths', a group that says it defends Ottoman values.
The posts on Twitter say they are a "little Ottoman slap", and point to a YouTube video summarising speeches by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he says: "If we’re going to die, let’s die like men."
They also use the hashtags "NaziGermany" and "NaziHolland", and use an image of a swastika.
Major Twitter hack, looks like it's supporting Turkey calling Germany & Holland Nazis. This is unbelievable. Check you accts people.
— JAMES ن (@JIMMYJ101) March 15, 2017
The sites affected included Amnesty International and Unicef USA, the Reuters news agency said.
Forbes, Die Welt, BBC North America, and Reuters Japan were also affected, according to Bloomberg. The attack also targeted the European Parliament and French politician Alain Juppé.
A Die Welt reporter is currently in Turkish custody charged with aiding terrorism for conducting an interview with members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting the Turkish state and is considered a terrorist group.
Turkey is locked in a dispute over the rights of Turkish politicians to campaign in Germany and the Netherlands over an April referendum that would create a new presidential system.
This would transfer powers from parliament to the executive and allow Erdogan to rule until 2029.
A Twitter post by hackers on Unicef USA (screengrab)
Erdogan has called both European states "Nazis", following their decision to ban political campaigning on their soil.
The Netherlands on Sunday sent mounted police to break up a protest outside Turkey's consulate in Rotterdam, leading to violent scenes and calls from Ankara to sanction the Dutch.
The European Council's president, Donald Tusk, on Wednesday said Turkish accusations of fascism in the Netherlands were "completely detached from reality".
Rotterdam destroyed by Nazis. Today w/ Moroccan-born mayor. Anyone seeing fascism there is detached from reality. We are Europeans & proud.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 15, 2017
"Rotterdam, the city of Erasmus, totally destroyed by the Nazis, which now has a mayor born in Morocco: If any anyone sees fascism in Rotterdam they are completely detached from reality," Tusk told a plenary session of the European Parliament.
The Twitter profile of BBC North America noted: "Hi everyone - we temporarily lost control of this account, but normal service has resumed."
Twitter confirmed the attack.
"We are aware of an issue affecting a number of account holders this morning," a spokesperson said, adding the source of the attack had been tracked to Twitter Counter, an application that monitors Twitter statistics, and permissions had been removed.