updated 11/8/2011 6:00:59 PM ET 2011-11-08T23:00:59

The Anonymous hacking group launched an online strike against government websites in El Salvador last Saturday, forcing several of them to shut down to prevent the theft of high-ranking officials' personal information.

David Rivas, a presidential spokesman, said the website of the presidency was "suspended" to stop the attack and to prevent Anonymous from accessing the "private information of internal and external users."

Part of "Operation Justice El Salvador," Saturday's attack continues the hacktivist group's recent rash of politically motivated cyberattacks against government sites in Israel, including the Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), as well as billionaire chief executive officers like Hugh Grant from Monsanto and Walmart CEO Michael Duke.

According to the AFP, Anonymous first threatened two weeks ago to attack Salvadoran government sites, including those belonging to the presidency, the National Civil Police and the ministries of justice and labor. On Nov. 5, the group made good on its promise, launching a denial-of-service attack and flooding the presidency site with at least 30 million hits, making it inaccessible.

Lisa Vega from the security firm Sophos believes El Salvador's checkered human rights history brought on the Anonymous attack. She cited death threats against journalists, "thousands of killings and disappearances during the country's 12-year armed conflict, an amnesty law that protects those responsible for the killings, and the murder of two environmental activists who opposed mining projects in the central Cabañas area" as potential reasons Anonymous may have chosen to target El Salvador.

However, the Salvadoran civil war ended nearly 20 years ago, and the former leftist guerrilla party now holds the presidency and has a plurality of seats in the national legislature.

Anonymous has a history of going after governments it feels are abusing citizens' rights; in August, the hacking group defaced Syria's Ministry of Defense website to protest controversial President Bashar al-Assad. Government websites in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain and Iran have all felt Anonymous' wrath in recent months.

Latin American members of Anonymous called off a Nov. 5 plan to expose people associated with the Zetas, Mexico's most violent drug cartel, according to the group's blog.

In a post written in Spanish on the group's Latin American blog, the members said they had called off the action after the Zetas met a demand to release a kidnapped group member, and that: "We can say that, while bruised, he is alive and well."

Reuters also contributed to this report.

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