The Islamic State has released a new audio message purportedly of its leader challenging the US and its allies to confront his extremist group on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while telling his followers to persevere despite major recent battlefields setbacks.
In the 24-minute audio, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said the US won’t come to fight the extremists because “their hearts are full of fear from the mujahideen”.
The message was Baghdadi’s first since May, and comes amid battlefield setbacks that ISIS has recently faced.
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The authenticity of the recording could not be confirmed. It appeared to be Baghdadi’s first public address since May, and it followed reports that he had been either killed or gravely wounded by airstrikes.
The speech was released on jihadist social media accounts after a string of defeats for the Islamic State in Iraq and amid intensifying bombardment by an American-led military coalition in both Syria and Iraq.
In the message, Baghdadi acknowledged escalating pressure on the Islamic State but framed it as worldwide attack by “disbelievers” against Muslims.
“America and its allies dream of destroying the caliphate through their proxies and henchmen, and whenever an alliance of theirs fails or a tail is cut, they hasten to establish another, until they recently declared the Salouli (Saudi) alliance that was falsely called Islamic,” US media quoted Baghdadi as saying.
Baghdadi gave a stern warning to the nations participating in airstrikes against ISIS.
“We promise you, God permitting, that whoever participates in the war against the Islamic State will pay the price dearly.”
“Soldiers of the Islamic State be patient because you are on the right path,” Baghdadi said, adding “Be patient, because God is with you.”
He also threatened Israel saying: we haven’t forgotten you” and “we are getting closer to you” every day. To Israeli Jews, he said that they “will hide behind trees and stones” from the ISIS.
And while he referred to several recent developments, including the entrance of Russia’s military into the Syrian war and the claim by Saudi Arabia to be forming a military coalition of Muslim countries, Baghdadi did not refer to recent mass killings in Paris and San Bernardino that were connected to the Islamic State.
In the last few days, Iraqi government forces have mounted a major offensive to recapture the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, hoping to deal the group a major blow in the western province of Anbar, a stronghold.