The Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) is calling on its supporters to launch renewed attacks around the world while the U.S. and other western nations are distracted by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In an audio message to supporters, obtained by the Jerusalem Post this week, the group’s new spokesman, Abu-Omar al-Muhajir, called on supporters to take revenge for the death of the previous ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi in February. During a U.S. special operations raid in Syria, ordered by President Joe Biden, al-Qurashi detonated explosives, killing himself and members of his family.
In the new audio recording, the ISIS spokesman also called on supporters to avenge his predecessor, ISIS spokesman Al-Muhajir abu Hamza al-Qurashi.
“We announced, with the help of God, a blessed battle to avenge the two sheikhs, Sheikh abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi and Sheikh al-Muhajir abu Hamza al-Qurashi,” Muhajir said in the newly released audio file.
“Fight them, and God will chastise them at your hands,” Muhajjr said, reportedly calling for more attacks specifically in Europe.
According to Voice of America, Muhajir said ISIS supporters should take the “available opportunity” created by “the crusaders fighting each other.”
ISIS often refers to U.S. and European nations as “crusaders.” The description of “crusaders fighting each other” is in apparent reference to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has seen the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supplying Ukraine with weapons to use against Russia.
Muhajir also called on ISIS supporters to continue attacks on Israel. The month of March saw a string of attacks throughout Israel, including by multiple different ISIS sympathizers. Muhajir said more ISIS supporters should “follow their path and arm themselves with weapons and carry out further attacks.”
“These acts caused pain to the Jews and showed the world that there is a difference between those who fight and die for God and those who fight for empty political slogans,” the ISIS spokesman added.
Few details are available on Muhajir and the new leader of ISIS, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. Muhajir named the terrorist group’s new leader in a March 10 voice recording. That recording served as the group’s first confirmation that the group’s previous leader had been killed.
The March ISIS audio recording provided few details about the organization’s new leader. Muhajir may have withheld that information in an effort to protect the group’s leadership from being as easily tracked and killed as their predecessors.
ISIS had, at one time, controlled an area of eastern Syria and western Iraq, behaving as the region’s de facto government. ISIS lost control of its territory in 2019, but they still continue to persist throughout the Middle East and neighboring parts of central Asia and Africa.
Offshoots of the Islamic State have cropped up in a number of places, including parts of western Africa and Afghanistan. In August, a member of the Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch — known as ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) — carried out a suicide bombing attack on the Kabul airport, killing 13 U.S. servicemembers and dozens more civilians during efforts to evacuate the country after the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed under Taliban pressure.
In January, days before the raid on Al-Qurayshi, ISIS fighters launched a series of attacks in Iraq and Syria, including a prison break in an area of Syria controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. The prison break resulted in a week-long battle at the prison and the surrounding area, before Kurdish forces regained control. As the New York Times reported, it is unclear how many ISIS fighters were able to escape in the prison break.
Incidents like the Kabul airport bombing and the Syrian prison break demonstrate that ISIS still has some capacity to carry out significant attacks, despite its territorial losses.