Coinciding with this week’s Eid al-Adha holiday, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has apparently resurfaced in a new recording that takes a dig at the state of affairs in the U.S. and urges Western followers to launch attacks.
The nearly 54-minute audio file released by ISIS’ al-Furqan Media, “And Give Glad Tidings to the Patient,” was distributed via online channels today. U.S. intelligence officials were reviewing the tape to determine its authenticity.
The self-proclaimed caliph last released a 46-minute message in September, appealing to Sunnis to not turn to other terrorist groups and come fight for ISIS despite their territorial setbacks. Baghdadi also suggested media as targets, saying jihadists should “intensify one attack after another against the infidels’ information centers and their headquarters of ideological war.”
In the new audio, Baghdadi declared that “America is going through the worst time of its entire existence.”
He dropped a couple of current events references to give an indication of when the message was recorded, saying that America had less diplomatic pull than in the past considering Turkey rebuffing the Trump administration’s calls for the Erdogan regime to release pastor Andrew Brunson and “we also see the Russians and the Iranians are standing up, refusing to listen to whatever America dictates of sanctions.” He specifically refers to the sanctions levied against two Turkish officials by the Treasury Department on Aug. 1.
As in past messages, Baghdadi tells jihadists to not lose heart as “the scale of victory or defeat is not dependent on a city or town being stolen or subject to that who has aerial superiority, intercontinental missiles or smart bombs” and to recommit to “true passion for martyrdom” with tailored attacks.
Baghdadi also renews his call for jihadists to target “disbeliever media centers,” and urged followers in the United States, Canada and Europe to wage attacks, citing the efficacy of driving into crowds.
Iraq’s AlSumaria TV reported last week that Baghdadi was incapacitated after “Iraqi warplanes launched an airstrike inside the Syrian territories in June, targeting a meeting of Islamic State leaders, where the group’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was present.”
The report said a Tunisian, Abu Othman al-Tunisi, was nominated to assume Baghdadi’s leadership duties, a choice that hasn’t been universally accepted within the terror group.
There have been numerous reports over the length of the caliphate about Baghdadi’s death that turned out to be unsubstantiated. In March, the U.S. commander of a joint coalition force assisting the Iraqi security forces as they root out remnants of ISIS declared that it “doesn’t really matter” where al-Baghdadi is because “he’s not having an effect out here.”
“So if al-Baghdadi is the king of his so-called caliphate, and, you know, then we don’t need to go directly after him,” said Col. Seth Folsom, commander of Task Force Lion. “All we need to do is systematically pick off his knights, and his rooks and bishops. His mid-level and senior commanders, until none of them are left to protect him. And then eventually we’ll bring him to justice.”
The number of ISIS fighters believed to remain in Syria and Iraq is much higher than previously estimated, according to a report to Congress last week from the U.S. Lead Inspector General.
The new report estimates “roughly 14,000 fighters” still in Syria and “15,500 to 17,100 ISIS fighters” remaining in Iraq at the conclusion of the quarter at the end of June. Previously, defense officials’ estimates ranged from fewer than a thousand to fewer than 3,000.