An Islamic State (ISIS) propaganda wing has published a chilling image of Argentine soccer icon Lionel Messi crying blood, intended to intimidate fans planning to travel to next year’s FIFA World Cup in Moscow.
The image, released by the group’s media organ the Wafa Media Foundation, shows Messi standing behind prison bars, crying a tear of blood.
“You are fighting a state that does not have failure in its dictionary,” the tagline reads, coupled with the words “Just Terrorism”:
— SITE Intel Group (@siteintelgroup) October 24, 2017
As the star player of Argentina’s national team, Messi is expected to be in attendance at the 2018 World Cup. Argentina qualified after defeating Ecuador 3-1 this month.
The attack on Messi is a far cry from the Islamic State propaganda preceding the last World Cup—the 2014 Rio de Janeiro tournament. At the time, Islamic State members used social media to encourage Messi to abandon his lucrative soccer career and join the Islamic State in waging jihad in Syria and Iraq. Messi appears to have attracted Islamic State attention at the time by scoring a key goal to eliminate Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, from the tournament.
The latest threat comes just days after the terrorist organization released a poster of an armed terrorist prowling outside what appears to be a football stadium, with the tagline saying, “I swear that the Mujahideen’s fire will burn you … just you wait.”
Another image shows a gunman holding a meat cleaver splattered in blood in front of New York’s One Worldwide Plaza skyscraper, with the caption saying, “Soon. Just terror. So the penalty of your strikes will be paid in your lands.”
Security forces are currently carrying out drills during European soccer matches in preparation for next year’s tournament, as they face threats from both terrorists and hooliganism.
The group is also known for their use of propaganda videos, with media impact becoming increasingly important as the caliphate’s finances continuing to diminish.
In recent months, the group has released multiple videos, including one depicting ISIS ‘cubs’—Iranian, Russian, Turkish, and Turkmen children—savagely beheading prisoners and threatening to carry attacks in the West and their home countries. Another video, released in August, starred an 11-year-old “American” boy threatening President Donald Trump.
Russia is also one of many countries targeted by the Islamic State. In April, 14 people were killed and scores more were injured following a St. Petersburg train station attack carried out by a radical Islamist. It is also the top non-Muslim country with most Islamic State foreign fighters.
However, coalition forces last week celebrated the defeat of ISIS expulsion in the Syrian city of Raqqa, while forces in the Philippines also expelled the terror group from their stronghold of Marawi. Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared Raqqa the capital of the terrorist state in 2014.
A report from the Soufan Center this week also estimates that as the caliphate collapses under the offensive of the U.S. led coalition, at least 5,600 men, women, and children from 33 countries who traveled to support the Islamic State have now returned to their country of origin, with many being in Europe and the United States.