Updated, 16:47 GMT: The splinter group behind the AnonOps 'coup d'etat' speaks exclusively to thinq_ about their motives for seizing the sites.
Civil war appears to have broken out in the ranks of headless 'hacktivist' collective Anonymous, with claims that a rogue admin has seized control of two key sites used to coordinate the loose-knit group's online direct action.
The news follows speculation that a breakaway group of Anonymous members was responsible for the hacking attacks on Sony's PlayStation Network and Online Entertainment Network, which saw personal information, including credit card details, stolen from as many as 100 million users' accounts.
In a message to users posted on AnonOps.in, part of Anonymous's AnonOps network, admins accused a former comrade of organising a "coup d'etat".
The rogue operator - 'Ryan' - who is also alleged to be behind the revamped 'Oh Internet' relaunch of notorious shock site Encyclopedia Dramatica - is accused of stealing the IP addresses and passwords of users on two Anonymous sites, AnonOps.net and AnonOps.ru, before launching Denial of Service (DoS) attacks against them.
The sites are used by Anonymous to provide communication services such as IRC chat between members, and were key in organising activity such as Operation Payback, launched against copyright holders and anti-piracy groups, including dodgy UK legal outfit ACS:Law. The sites were also used to organise Anonymous activity in support of the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and ongoing protests in Syria.
Former admins 'shitstorm', 'Nerdo', 'owen', 'blergh' and 'Power2All' declared themselves "profoundly sorry for this drama" and issued the following warning to Anonymous members, urging them to steer clear of the sites:
We would STRONGLY ADVISE all users to STAY AWAY from AnonOps.net and AnonOps.ru, and they should be considered COMPROMISED. Using or connecting to any service on those addresses may put your computer, and by extension your person, at risk.
An update posted early this morning includes a screen shot taken of a revenge hacking attack carried out by supporters of the 'old' admins, outing the culprit's details.