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ISIS leader to followers: Attack US while ‘drowning in Iran quagmire’

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2004, photographed by the U.S. during his detention at Bucca Camp, near Umm Qasr, Iraq. (Sofia Amara/N0VAPROD/Abaca Press/TNS)
September 17, 2019

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, called on the terror organization’s followers to redouble efforts in furtherance of the Islamic State, while U.S. interests turn to Iran.

It is not yet clear when Baghdadi’s latest statements, reported by the Wall Street Journal, were first released, but his comments did appear to reference an ISIS campaign from August.

“O soldiers of Allah everywhere, know that what is coming is good…so the efforts must be redoubled and one’s best must be given in all aspects, whether in preaching or media or military or security,” the terrorist group’s leader said in a 30-minute recording issued to his followers.

In his statements, Baghdadi referenced ongoing conflicts by the U.S. and its allies in battlefields throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, West and Central Africa, East Asia and North Africa.

Baghdadi said the U.S. is “drowning in a quagmire” and “being bled along with its proxies,” implying an opportunity for ISIS to regain some aspects of prior control.

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The latest audio recording has appeared amid growing escalation between the U.S. and Iran. In recent days, President Donald Trump signaled the support of U.S. forces in backing a Saudi Arabian retaliatory strike against Iran, after Iran’s apparent involvement in missile and drone strikes against Saudi oil sites.

Iran has denied involvement in the Saudi oil facility attacks and the Yemen-based Houthi rebels took credit for the attack. Iran has been credited in the past with supplying those same rebels in their ongoing civil war.

Baghdadi has been on the run and various intelligence agencies have been looking for him even as the Islamic State’s territorial strongholds in Iraq and Syria have fallen in recent months. The ISIS stronghold in Baghouz, Syria, fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in March of this year; eliminating the last of the group’s Syrian territorial holdings, according to the White House.

Baghdadi also currently has a $25 million bounty on his head and Iraqi intelligence believes he may be hiding somewhere in the desertous border region between Iraq and Syria.

The terrorist group has shifted its tactics from those of a territorial power to that of an insurgency, fighting on the run and calling on supporters to infiltrate and carry out attacks in other countries, on their behalf.

Following the fall of Baghouz, Baghdadi sent out a prior video statement to followers at the end of April of this year. His latest statement and the April one are among the first statements to followers in five years, following his sermon at the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq in July of 2014.

The news of the Islamic State’s renewed vigor joins the Wall Street Journal’s prior reporting of a Pentagon Inspector General’s report, that the terrorist organization may be preparing for a comeback amid Trump administration plans to withdraw its presence in Syria and Iraq.