Islamic State media on Monday released an audio clip purportedly containing a new message from fugitive “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In what would be his first public statement since April, the terrorist leader urged his followers to break “soldiers of the caliphate” out of “prisons of humiliation run by Crusaders and their Shia followers.”
The Islamic State enforces an extreme form of Sunni Islam, so Baghdadi was accusing some Shiite Muslims – presumably the Iran-linked Shiite militias who fought ISIS in Iraq – of working as stooges for the “Crusaders” of the Western world. The Shiite theocracy headquartered in Iran would vigorously dispute this characterization.
The alleged Baghdadi’s half-hour audio message asked how any Muslim could “enjoy life” when so many Muslim women are living in prison camps. Thousands of ISIS brides and children wound up in camps after the “caliphate” Baghdadi’s followers carved out of occupied Syrian and Iraqi territory was destroyed. Most of the camps are in Syria, run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democrat Forces group, and they are notoriously unpleasant and overcrowded.
“The prisons, the prisons, soldiers of the caliphate. Do your utmost to rescue your brothers and sisters and break down the walls that imprison them,” Baghdadi allegedly urged in his message. He also advised his followers to kill judges who preside over the trial of ISIS members and interrogators who interview them in prison.
The voice claiming to be Baghdadi said ISIS jihadis are still active around the world, while the United States is “drowning in the quagmire” of Iraq and Afghanistan. He also said the U.S. military has been “dragged by its feet” into conflicts in Mali and Nigeria.
“No longer can it do anything but give empty talk and false promises to its partners,” Baghdadi said of the United States. “The wheel of attrition is running smoothly by the grace of Allah and on a daily basis and on different fronts.”
Baghdadi applauded the Iranians for attacking American interests. He quoted a September comment from Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the lack of American “deterrence against attacks on our partners in the region” as evidence the U.S. is weak and unable to defend its allies in the Middle East.
The authenticity of the recording had not been determined as of Tuesday morning. Baghdadi has been in hiding for the past five years. The U.S. State Department is offering a $25 million bounty for information leading to his capture. Various rumors over the years have held that Baghdadi was gravely injured or killed during the fall of the ISIS caliphate.