BEIRUT — The Islamic State on Saturday released a new message purportedly from its reclusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claiming that his self-styled “caliphate” is doing well despite an unprecedented alliance that has formed against it, including a Saudi-led Islamic military coalition, which he mocked.
In the 24-minute audio, Baghdadi said airstrikes by the international coalition only increase his group’s determination and resolve. The message was Baghdadi’s first since May, and it comes amid battlefield setbacks that the Islamic State has recently faced.
The Islamic State has come under pressure in Syria and Iraq, where it has declared its “caliphate” on territory that the militant group controls. It lost the town of Sinjar in Iraq last month, and areas across the border in Syria at the same time. Iraqi government troops are advancing in the Islamic State-held city of Ramadi, the provincial capital of the sprawling Anbar province — Iraq’s Sunni heartland.
And airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition and Russia in Syria have destroyed Syrian oil facilities — crude is a key money-maker for the Islamic State — and killed several ISIS leaders in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, a U.S.-backed coalition of rebels in Syria — including Syrian Kurdish, Arab and Christian groups — have captured a major dam on the Euphrates River from the Islamic State as part of the coalition’s march on ISIS-held areas in the country’s north.
“It is unprecedented in the history of our Ummah [Islamic nation] that all the world came against it in one battle, as it is happening today. It is the battle of all the disbelievers against all the Muslims,” Baghdadi said.
He said the U.S.-led alliance does “not scare us . . . nor do they scatter our resolve, because we are the victors in any event.”
Baghdadi also taunted the United States for not putting boots on the ground. “They do not dare to come, because their hearts are full of fear from the mujahideen,”or holy warriors, he said.
“America and its allies dream of destroying the caliphate through their proxies and henchmen, and whenever an alliance of theirs fails or a tail is cut, they hasten to establish another, until they recently declared the Salouli [Saudi] alliance that was falsely called Islamic,” Baghdadi added.
In mid-December, Saudi Arabia announced its leadership of the new, 34-member alliance against terrorism. Baghdadi said that if the alliance was truly Islamic, then it would fight the Syrian army and its Russian “masters,” as well as Shiites and Jews.
In the audio, Baghdadi also warned nations taking part in the war against the militant group by saying: “We promise you, God permitting, that whoever participates in the war against the Islamic State will pay the price dearly.”
He also threatened Israel by saying, “we haven’t forgotten you” and “we are getting closer to you” every day. To Israeli Jews, he said that they “will hide behind trees and stones” from the Islamic State. And he urged all Muslims to rise up in support.