ISIS announces campaign to avenge the death of its former leader and spokesman

Overview
  • On April 17, 2022, ISIS’s spokesman released an audiotape by several media outlets, calling on all Muslims around the world to launch a campaign of vengeance for the death of ISIS’s former leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi and spokesman Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, who were killed in Syria in February 2022.
  • The spokesman further calls on the organization’s supporters to carry out “lone wolf” attacks in the West. He praises the perpetrators of the attack in the Israeli city of Hadera and calls on ISIS’s supporters and operatives around the world, especially in the West and in Israel, to operate in a similar way against the Jews and Christians, while drawing on the Hadera attack as a “model and example.”
The text preceding the recording: “Al-Furqan [Media Foundation], ‘Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands,’ a recording of the Islamic State’s official spokesman, sheikh and jihad fighter Abu Omar al-Muhajer, may Allah protect him” (Telegram, April 17, 2022)
The text preceding the recording: “Al-Furqan [Media Foundation], ‘Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands,’ a recording of the Islamic State’s official spokesman, sheikh and jihad fighter Abu Omar al-Muhajer, may Allah protect him” (Telegram, April 17, 2022)
The content of the tape
  • On April 17, 2022, ISIS’s Al-Furqan Media Foundation released a 33-minute audiotape of the organization’s spokesman Abu Omar al-Muhajer, entitled “Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands”[1] (Telegram, April 17, 2022).
  • Speaking in the recording, the spokesman announces a “campaign of vengeance for [the death of] the two sheikhs”[2], implying a campaign to avenge the death of ISIS’s former leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, who was killed on February 3, 2022, during a commando operation by US forces in the rebel enclave in Idlib, Syria, and the organization’s former spokesman Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, who was killed around that time (possibly in the same incident, although the circumstances of his death were not disclosed). The spokesman calls on all Muslims around the world to avenge the death of the two men.
  • At the beginning of the tape, the spokesman greets all Muslims on the occasion of the month of Ramadan, describing it as the month of raids, conquests and acts of heroism, and calls on jihad fighters (the organization’s operatives and supporters) to redouble their efforts at this time to act in the spirit of jihad for the sake of Allah.
  • The spokesman sends the new leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Qurashi’s regards to ISIS’s operatives and praises them for their jihad and pledge of allegiance to the new leader. He calls on them to carry on with their path “from East Asia and Khorasan (Afghanistan) until West Africa, and from Europe until Yemen.” He also praises ISIS’s media personnel and supporters for their activity. He offers special words of praise for the activity of ISIS’s West Africa Province, noteworthy for its recent attacks, mainly in northeastern Nigeria. He calls on ISIS’s operatives to stand firm, advising them to adhere to Allah’s faith and be patient.
  • He calls on Muslims in the countries of Islam to struggle against their “tyrant” rulers who hold meetings and make agreements with the Jews. He notes that Jerusalem will only be conquered by the jihad fighters, rather than by the tyrant rulers who act in their own interests. He criticizes the concept of the “Abrahamic religions,” according to which the Jews, Christians and Muslims are the sons of one father, Abraham, who connects them under the monotheistic conception, calling it a “new religion.” On the other hand, he says ISIS distinguishes between the believers and the infidels, stressing that the organization will continue to fight against the infidels and anyone who fights against it so that Allah’s word will prevail (until everyone converts to Islam and accepts ISIS’s perceptions or until the end of days).
  • He further says that he who cannot reach the arenas of jihad and who lives in Europe, the USA, or the West in general should attack the “infidels” by ramming, stabbing, or beating to death. He praises the perpetrators of the attacks in Israel, who operated on behalf of ISIS, noting that they can serve as role models for the others.[3] According to him, they demonstrated the obvious difference between those who fight for the sake of Allah and those who fight for fake national slogans. He calls on the others to act in the same way against the Jews and Christians, while meticulously selecting their targets, carrying out surveillance and preliminary observations, for there are many such targets, and the organization’s operatives and supporters are called upon to choose those that can hurt Jews and Christians the most.
  • Now, he says, there is a special opportunity for the operatives around the world, as the European superpowers and the USA are dragged into fighting against Russia in Ukraine and are engaged in it. He expresses the hope that the war in Ukraine, between Christians and themselves, will not stop until the Christian “Crusaders” wear down each other.
  • The spokesman addresses ISIS’s operatives held prisoner around the globe, declaring that ISIS is obligated to liberate them by paying for them or sacrificing lives and that the organization’s operatives should act towards that end. In addition, he calls on ISIS operatives who deserted the organization to return.
Summary and significance
  • The announcement of the campaign of vengeance is intended to expand the scope of ISIS’s attacks around the globe, raise the morale of the operatives, and prove that ISIS is strong and capable of operating on a large scale under the new leader, who seeks to establish his position by expanding the scope of attacks and possibly also their magnitude. Based on past experience with previous campaigns, the campaign in question is likely to take one week to 10 days, during which dozens of attacks will take place. The choice of the timing, the month of Ramadan, is not accidental, since this is a period in which ISIS’s activity is on the rise anyhow, as was the case also in the past year.
  • The current campaign is reminiscent of ISIS’s past campaign under the name of “raids of vengeance,” following the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the organization’s spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajer, a campaign that began on December 22, 2019, and ended after a week. In that campaign, most of the attacks were carried out in Syria and Iraq, ISIS’s core countries, but there was also a rise in ISIS’s activity in Nigeria and Burkina Faso. In total, about 100 attacks were carried out as part of the campaign, taking routine forms, without any extraordinary showcase attacks.
  • In the ITIC’s assessment, the call on ISIS’s operatives and supporters to act against the Jews and particularly in Israel is due to ISIS’s wish to leverage the attacks in Israel on behalf of the organization or under its inspiration for the organization’s purposes. However, it should be pointed out that the threats against Israel are not new, and Israel is not at the center of ISIS’s attention but is targeted alongside ISIS’s struggle against the “Crusader” West and the “tyrants” of the Islamic countries (the leaders of the Arab countries).[4] In the case in question, ISIS is probably seizing an opportunity for its propaganda needs.
  • The issue of liberating ISIS’s prisoners occupies a leading position in the organization’s messages, and its importance has likely increased in light of the liberation of ISIS’s prisoners from the Al-Hasakah prison in Syria (January 20, 2022).
  • ISIS’s attempt to seek the return of operatives who deserted it indicates that operatives have been leaving the organization and that it apparently suffers from a lack of manpower, particularly in Syria and Iraq.

[1] From the Quran, Surat al-Tawbah, 9:14 (Sahih International translation).
[2] The campaign is called in Arabic “Ghazwat al-Ta’r lil-Shaykhayn.”
[3] This is particularly addressed to the terrorists who perpetrated the attack in Hadera, for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
[4] Previous threats made by ISIS against Israel: (a) On June 21, 2021, ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurashi called on the Palestinians to adopt the path of jihad while renouncing Hamas, which he described as a proxy of Iran (Telegram, June 22, 2021); (b) On January 27, 2020, ISIS’s spokesman called on Muslims around the world to foil US President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”. He called on ISIS operatives in Sinai and Syria to attack Israeli communities and turn them into a proving ground for ISIS’s weapons. In addition, he called on Muslims in “Palestine” and throughout the world to spearhead the campaign to thwart the “Deal of the Century.” This was an unusual statement which, in the ITIC's assessment, indicates a special interest on the part of ISIS to instigate attacks against Israel and the Jewish people in order to portray the organization as carrying out a leading role in the campaign to thwart President Trump's plan.