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updated 4/20/2012 2:21:06 PM ET 2012-04-20T18:21:06

The website for Formula 1 racing was crippled today (April 20) by Anonymous hacktivists, who launched a denial-of-service attack to protest the Grand Prix scheduled to take place Sunday in Bahrain, amid widely publicized clashes.

At 2 p.m. EST, Formula1.com was down, the result of Anonymous' Operation Bahrain, the security firm Sophos reported. In this phase of "OpBahrain," as it's called on Twitter and in Anonymous dispatches, the hackers also defaced the Formula 1 site with a lengthy message, decrying the oppressive regime and the human rights abuses of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

"Not only is the Human Rights situation in Bahrain tragic, it becomes more drastic with each passing day," Anonymous wrote in its defacement. "For these reasons the F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain should be strongly opposed." The hackers continued, criticizing the Al Khalifa regime for its promise "to use live ammunition against protestors" as a means of keeping order during the event.

The Al Khalifa family is a Saudi-backed Sunni Muslim dynasty, but the majority of the population is Shia. The uprising, which began following similar anti-government protests in Egypt and Tunisia, has been active for a year, and led to last year's cancellation of the Grand Prix.

Bahrain drew the attention of the security world last February when, according to a Web traffic-monitoring firm, it tried to keep its citizens offline.

During a practice race session today in Bahrain's capital, Manama, police dispersed protesters with tear gas and stun gun grenades,  BBC News reported.

"The Formula 1 racing authority was well-aware of the Human Rights situation in Bahrain and still chose to contribute to the regime's oppression of civilians and will be punished," Anonymous wrote.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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