ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi Releases Message As Challenges Multiply
The Islamic State's commander in chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has reportedly released a message which attempts to rally ISIS troops amid mounting difficulties currently facing the terrorist organization.
The 24-minute address titled, "Wait, for we as well are waiting with you" — apparently a reference to a Quran verse — was released via audio recording and is al-Baghdadi's first such address since May, CNN reported Sunday. The news organization could not independently confirm the authenticity of the recording.
"Do not be amazed by the meeting of the nations of disbelief and groups against the Islamic State," says al-Baghdadi, speaking of the growing international coalition forming against the group, CNN reported. "If we are killed and the wounds are numerous and the problems amassed against us and the hardships are great, then it is no surprise either."
The ISIS leader also used the recording to project strength and taunt the group's numerous adversaries.
"Crusaders and Jews don't dare to come on the ground because they were defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, the Telegraph reported. "Be confident that God will grant victory to those who worship him, and hear the good news that our state is doing well. The more intense the war against it, the purer it becomes and the tougher it gets."
The address comes around the same time the Iraqi military announced it had recaptured the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. In May the metropolis fell to ISIS fighters, an event the New York Times declared the biggest gain for the terrorist organization by that point of 2015.
In addition to ceding physical ground, the group has endured relentless airstrikes from the U.S. and Russian warplanes. In the area south of the Syrian city of Hasakah, oil reserves have been targeted, denting the group's revenues. Reportedly, al-Baghdadi was himself targeted in an October airstrike.
While, the group has risen to new levels of infamy after it directed or inspired terrorist attacks from Paris to Lebanon to Nigeria to San Bernardino, California, the situation for ISIS forces on the ground continues to be precarious. Kurdish troops presently occupy a thriving area in the Syrian northwest called Rojava, with forces continuing to bear down on ISIS territory from all directions. Elsewhere, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed group and one of the many contenders for power in the region, are coming within striking distance of the ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria, according to CNN.
Nevertheless, over the course of its existence, the terror group has proved resilient and wily. ISIS has successfully used social media propaganda to an extent never before seen in grimmer predecessor organizations like al-Qaida; the decentralized recruitment tool has empowered lone wolf operatives to commit attacks in its name with increasing ease. As its home base comes under threat, ISIS has also capitalized on other destabilized regions, like Libya, where the group could relocate should it lose its hold over Raqqa.
With Ramadi fallen, it remains to be seen what gains or losses remain for the Islamic State in 2016, but a recent poll suggests Americans are more fearful than ever of the threat of ISIS, a development the organization would no doubt consider a victory.