The leader of the Islamic State group has called for attacks on Canada and other Western countries in a new audio recording, the first attributed to him in nearly a year.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urged the group’s followers to respond to recent defeats by carrying out bombings, stabbings and vehicular attacks in his purported 55-minute speech titled “Give Glad Tidings to the Steadfast,” which was published by the group’s media wing on Wednesday.
“For the Mujahideen (holy warriors) the scale of victory or defeat is not dependent on a city or town being stolen or subject to that who has aerial superiority, intercontinental missiles or smart bombs,” al-Baghdadi said in the Arabic recording.
The Islamic State, which until last year controlled large swathes of Syria and Iraq, has since been driven into the desert by successive defeats in offensives by international allies in both countries.
But al-Baghdadi called on fighters to “trust in God’s promise and His victory,” stating that “with hardship comes relief and a way out.”
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He also suggested that the group was behind recent attacks in Canada and Europe, and congratulated who he described as the “striking lions” who carried them out.
ISIS previously claimed responsibility for the July 22 shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, which left two dead and 13 wounded. Canadian police said they haven’t found any evidence to suggest a terror link in the mass shooting.
The group first called for terrorist attacks in Canada in September 2014, in a statement by spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.
The following month, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was killed in a shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, while warrant officer Patrice Vincent died from injuries sustained in a vehicle ramming attack in Saint-Jean-sur-Richeliu, Que.
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In the Wednesday recording, al-Baghdadi urged Islamic State supporters to “carry out the kind of strikes that terrorize the hearts and send the brains flying,” encouraging them to use guns, knives and bombs while reminding them to “not ignore running over people on the roads,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
He also instructed Islamic State fighters around the world — from Somalia, Libya and Yemen to Kashmir and the Caucasus — to focus on their battles rather than quarrel over leadership.
Also in his crosshairs were the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan, with al-Baghdadi calling on the citizens of those countries to rise up and overthrow their rulers.
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A-Baghdadi also used the recording to congratulate Muslims on the occasion of the Islamic holiday of Eid-al-Adha, and mentioned recent events including U.S. tariffs on Turkey and the row between Istanbul and Washington over the release of imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson.
He also addressed Russia, North Korea and Iran pushing back against U.S. sanctions, which he said was “an intended expression of disrespect based on what they observe as weakness,” according to the MEMRI translation.
The timing of those events means that reports of al-Baghdadi’s death would be disproven if the voice on the recording is confirmed to be his.
The reclusive cleric has frequently been reported killed since 2014, when he declared himself the leader of all Muslims after the Islamic State’s capture of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
In May last year, the Russian military said it was looking into whether he was killed in an airstrike targeting a meeting of top Islamic State figures near Raqqa, the Syrian city that the Islamic State claimed as its capital.
However, Russia admitted it was unable to confirm al-Baghdadi’s death.
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The Iraq-born extremist leader hasn’t been seen in public since a 2014 speech in Mosul, but is believed to be hiding in the Iraqi-Syrian border region after losing all the cities and towns of his self-proclaimed caliphate.
His son was killed by Russian airstrikes in Syria in July according to the Islamic State’s news channel.
Wednesday’s recording was al-Baghdadi’s first since Sept. 28, 2017.
Its title appears to be borrowed from a verse in the Qur’an which states that the Prophet Muhammad “gives glad tidings” to those who persevere in the face of difficulties, according to the book An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur’an.
— With files from Reuters
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