Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu (C), leader of the 969 movement, looks on as he attends a convention held by the Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force, BBS) in Colombo
Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu (C), leader of the 969 movement, looks on as he attends a convention held by the Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force, BBS) in ColomboReuters

An independent Myanmar news site has been taken offline by hackers for its reportage on controversial ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk Wirathu, who recently visited hardline monks in Sri Lanka.

Replacing the English version of Irrawaddy with a black screen and a raging message, hackers calling themselves the Blink Hacker Group claimed the news outlet "supports jihad and radical Muslims" and was attacking Buddhism "with so called freedom of speech".

The hackers, who reportedly came from Sri Lanka, demanded Irrawaddy to apologise for calling the country's Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or Buddhist force "radical", according to AFP.

Violence against Myanmar's Muslims has intensified over the past two years, allegedly incited by extremist monks and Wirathu's virulent anti-Muslim '969' campaign, which espouses hate and urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim businesses.

Much of the sectarian violence has taken place in the western Rakhine state, where clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in 2012 left about 200 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

A 27 September article on Irrawaddy exposed Wirathu's attendance to the BBS conference. Just like the 969 movement, BBS has been accused of attacks on mosques and churches around the country. In June, BBS-backed attacks on Muslim businesses, homes and mosques in southwestern Sri Lanka reportedly left nine people dead and 10,000 displaced.

After Wirathu's visit to Sri Lanka, the country's Muslim Council warned that the monk posed "a serious threat to peace in our beloved motherland".

The website's editor-in-chief Aung Zaw said that after the article's publication, the media's Facebook page received hundreds of abusive messages. He described the attack as "brutal" but said the website was being restored. "It is very clear that a team is behind the cyber attacks and cyber abuse... Clearly, they are criminals," he told AFP.

After years of exile in Thailand, under the Burmese junta rule, Irrawaddy is now based in Yangon.

Irrawaddy website
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