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IS leader al–Baghdadi rallies followers in purported new audio

PTI Cairo | Updated on January 10, 2018

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'Step up your attacks and include the media centers of the infidels'

The leader of the Islamic State group urged followers to burn their enemies everywhere and target “media centers of the infidels,” according to an audio recording that the extremists said was by Abu Bakr al–Baghdadi.

The reclusive leader of IS, who has only appeared in public once, also vowed to continue fighting and lavished praise on his jihadis for their valour in the battlefield despite the militants’ loss of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July.

The recording was released on Thursday by the IS-run al–Furqan outlet, which has in the past released messages from al–Baghdadi and other top figures of the extremist group. The voice in the over 46 minute long audio sounded much like previous recordings of al–Baghdadi. His last previous purported message was released in November, also in an audio recording.

“You soldiers of the caliphate, heroes of Islam and carriers of banners: light a fire against your enemies,” said al–Baghdadi, a shadowy cleric who has been surrounded by controversy since the Sunni terror group emerged from al–Qaida in Iraq, its forerunner.

“You soldiers of Islam, supporters of the caliphate everywhere, step up your attacks and include the media centers of the infidels and the headquarters of their ideological war among your targets,” he said in the recording, apparently alluding to Western news outlets and research centers.

Valiant fight

“Don’t you dare allow the Crusaders and the apostates to enjoy a good and comfortable life at home while your brothers are enduring killings, shelling and destruction,” al–Baghdadi said, reminding his followers of the rewards of martyrdom, including “72 wives” from among the maidens of paradise.

He also lauded his fighters for what he called their valiant fight against US–backed Iraqi forces that wrested control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, from IS after nearly nine months of fighting.

“In Mosul, they defiantly stood firm on a land ruled by God’s laws against the infidels and nations of the cross...only leaving it over their skulls and dead bodies after nearly a year of fighting,” he said. “The sons of Islam will willingly continue to sacrifice their blood and bodies for the sake of their creator,” he defiantly declared.

In the recording, he also consoled IS fighters over the number of major military setbacks suffered in recent months in both Iraq and Syria, but also made a passionate plea for them to rise up and never surrender. “You Sunnis of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and everywhere...get out of your beds and shake off oppression...return to your faith and restore your glory and eminence,” he said.

On US and Russia

Addressing Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, he warned them against the “cunning” of the minority Alawites—an offshoot Shiite sect from which President Bashar Assad hails—as well as the designs of Turkey and Assad’s allies Russia and Iran.

“What have you gained from the conferences of humiliation and the crumbs of supporters except appeasing the Alawites and surrendering your homes?” said al–Baghdadi, adding that Syria’s government forces, their allies and other forces fighting IS, would “not last an hour” without the air cover provided by the Russia or the US–led coalition.

Al–Baghdadi also spoke of what he called the United States’ waning global power, saying Russia was taking advantage of that to cast itself as the super power replacing America. Russia, he added, was in full control of the “Syrian file.”

Whereabouts unknown

Russian officials said in June that there was a “high probability” that al–Baghdadi had died in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital. US officials later said they believed he was still alive.

Al–Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown but he is believed to be in IS’ dwindling territory in eastern Syria. The IS-held cities of Raqqa and Deir el–Zour are under siege and likely too dangerous for him to hide in.

Some IS leadership is believed to have gone to the nearby town of Mayadeen, and the group still holds a stretch of the Euphrates River from Deir el–Zour to the Iraqi border, as well as remote desert areas along the border.

Published on September 29, 2017

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