In an audio message distributed via various social media Sunday, Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani threatened citizens of all countries fighting the militant group. It explicitly encouraged Muslims living abroad to attack "disbelievers [...] in any manner."
The United States was the first country to announce airstrikes against the Islamic State in support of the Iraqi government. Adnani refers to "America and its allies" over and over again, making it clear that the United States is the main target of the militant group.
As many as a dozen out of roughly a hundred Americans who have traveled to Syria, or attempted to, have joined the Islamic State. The actual threat these fighters pose to U.S. national security is unclear, and some have argued that it has been overstated.
Among European nations, the Islamic State considers France to be the main opponent and Adnani describes them as "spiteful and filthy" in his statement. France is the only Western country besides the United States conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, and the French have been involved in several military operations in countries with Muslim populations over the past few years. Adnani's speech blames France and other Western countries for waging war against Muslims in general.
The Canadian government has stepped up its efforts to stop the advance of the Islamic State by invalidating passports of Canadians fighting alongside the militants. Canada estimates that there are at least 30 of its citizens fighting in Syria. The government's decision can also be seen as a measure against the recent threats of the Islamic State.
Last week, some 800 Australian police officers carried out multiple raids and arrested at least 15 terrorism suspects. The alleged Islamic State sympathizers had been planning to abduct someone from the public at random, behead him or her and drape the body with the flag of the Islamic State. This plan bears sinister similarities to the recent Islamic State speech which gives several recommendations on how to kill foreigners which are too brutal to quote.
According to the Australian government, the Islamic State has urged its supporters to prepare attacks against Australians for months. Consequently, the country has recently expressed willingness to join the U.S. in its airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq; it has already sent military advisers to the country.
It is striking that the speech does not explicitly mention Britain, which was among the U.S. allies in the 2003 Iraq war. In August, however, Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the Islamic State posed the "greatest terrorist threat" in history to the country and referenced particular threats made against Britain.
Europe as a whole
In his statement, Adnani claims that Americans as well as Europeans are responsible for starting "the transgression against us [...] and will pay a great price." Due to the ease of travel between Western Europe and the Middle East, returning jihadists have become a major worry of many European governments, and some have decided to stop potential terrorists headed to Syria or Iraq from leaving their home country in the first place. Last week, reports emerged of a couple that returned from Syria planning an attack on the European Union's offices in Brussels. The couple has been detained.
It is not only Western countries that are targeted by the Islamic State. Insurgents in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula were also asked by the Islamic State to target security forces and behead captured soldiers. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Cairo on Sept. 13 that Egypt had a key role to play in fighting the Islamic State. Its current government has ruthlessly tried to stomp out political Islam on its own soil.
While Russia considered joining the alliance against the Islamic State on Monday, the militants' statement did not make any direct reference to the country. However, it mentioned Muslim fighters in the Caucasus at least twice. Moscow has long battled Muslim fighters from Chechnya in the Caucasus, and earlier this summer, WorldViews examined the presence of Chechen fighters among the Islamic State, concluding that "Chechnya and its people have a modern history of violence that has created a number of battle-hardened fighters."
The Syrian conflict has drawn many of these fighters to the Middle East, and the focus may now shift toward their home countries, be it Russia, the United States or another nation opposed to the Islamic State.