The Islamic State’s (ISIS) supreme leader and self-proclaimed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, issued an audio tape on Thursday calling on his followers to keep up the fight and hold their ground.
This audio message was released by the jihadi al-Furqan Media Group, which is controlled by ISIS. It is being widely interpreted as an effort to bolster morale, as it was released after the would-be Caliphate was forced to abandon vast swaths of Iraqi territory.
Al-Baghdadi has generally avoided the spotlight, only releasing a handful of tapes. These proclamations usually followed major reorganizations within ISIS. The Islamic State’s enigmatic leader last released an audio message in December 2015.
Thursday’s 30-minute tape was entitled “this is what God and his Messenger have promised us,” from Surah Al-Ahzab. The implication being that the battle for Mosul should be seen by Muslims as a second Battle of the Trench.
In this canonical battle, also known as also known as Ghazwah al-Khandaq, the followers of Prophet Muhammad defeated a numerically superior force by exploiting trench lines and natural fortifications. The US-led coalition and its Kurdish and Arab allies take the role of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe in this analogy. The Banu Qurayza were exterminated following the Battle of the Trench.
In that context, al-Baghdadi gave far-reaching instructions to his followers, He demanded that the “soldiers of the Caliphate” stand firm in the face of the coalition air raids. Al-Baghdadi argued that the number of forces aligned against ISIS –more than 60 nations– was a testament to the strength of ISIS.
In a surprising move, the Islamic State’s supreme leader, for the first time, directed his supporters to carry out attacks on the ‘apostate’ Turkish Army inside Iraq and Syria. Four days ago, Washington ordered its Istanbul consulate staff members to leave Turkey, fearing ISIS attacks.
Al-Baghdadi also issued instructions to the global Muslim community, calling on those that cannot reach Iraq and Syria to instead wage their jihad in Libya and Saudi Arabia. The self-proclaimed Caliph said that the Shiites are doing everything in their power to take over Iraq and called on Sunni communities to close ranks, behind ISIS.
Al-Baghdadi’s instructions were not only concerned with the material world. He argued that the US-led coalition was formed after non-believers looked inside the ‘Caliphate’ and discovered that Muslims had regained the ancestral strength and dignity. He also reminded his followers to obey their emirs and instructed them to pay more attention to sins than to their enemies.
According to Rita Katz, the Director of SITE Intelligence Group, while al-Baghdadi had multiple objectives in releasing this message, he principally wanted to frame the coming battle as exclusively sectarian, pitting the Sunnis against the Shiites and their infidel allies.
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s statement is the fastest in tempo and strongest among his speeches,” Hassan Hassan, co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror said. “He clearly wants the fiercest fighting to protect [ISIS-held] areas.”
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