Al-Baghdadi in the previous videotape: he sounded rather exhausted at the time (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, April 29, 2019)
- On September 16, 2019, ISIS’s Al-Furqan media arm released an audio recording of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi entitled “And Say, Do”. The audiotape is about 30 minutes long. Al-Baghdadi tries to raise his operatives’ morale by mentioning ISIS attacks in the various fighting zones (Africa, Afghanistan, and the Far East). He points out that ISIS is getting stronger around the world and calls on ISIS operatives to redouble their efforts in the military sphere (carrying out jihad operations) and propaganda used for the battle for hearts and minds. His emphasis on the battle for hearts and minds indicates the great importance which he attaches to it, both as a means to raise morale and to recruit new supporters and operatives.
Slide of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s audio recording (Telegram, September 16, 2019)
- Upon comparing Al-Baghdadi’s current appeal to his operatives and supporters to his previous appeal by a videotape (April 29, 2019), the ITIC is of the impression that his morale has increased. This is probably due to ISIS’s success in resuming its activity in Syria and Iraq and expanding the activity of its provinces around the world:
- The previous videotape was distributed when ISIS was defeated in Al-Baghouz, in the Euphrates Valley, and many of its operatives were captured. At the time, it was important to Al-Baghdadi to encourage his supporters and convey the message that he was alive, refuting the rumors that he had been killed. Another message was that ISIS was not defeated; instead, it was experiencing difficulties in the prolonged way of jihad.
- In the previous tape, Al-Baghdadi sounded tired and rather exhausted. He spoke more quietly and less enthusiastically. In the current audiotape, Al-Baghdadi sounds far more confident. In the ITIC’s assessment, the increased level of self-confidence which he displays is due to ISIS’s success, since the fall of Al-Baghouz, to restore some of its activity in Syria and Iraq and even increase and expand it to other regions around the world, mainly West Africa, Yemen, and Afghanistan.
- One of the main messages in the previous tape was a call to avenge the death of the ISIS operatives in Al-Baghouz. This time, in contrast, a key issue was the battle for hearts and minds and a call to operate by force for the release of ISIS’s prisoners. These messages may indicate Al-Baghdadi’s increasing self-confidence and his aspiration to increase offensive initiatives while recruiting additional supporters and operatives for ISIS.
- As in the previous tape, Al-Baghdadi calls on Muslims to adhere to the path of jihad against the tyrant Muslim rulers and the “infidels.” In the previous tape, he praised the unity of ISIS’s operatives in the various provinces around the world for carrying out “The Campaign of Vengeance for the Blessed Al-Sham Province.” In the current tape, he brings to extreme the meaning of campaigns of coordinated attacks carried out by ISIS around the world and glorifies them as first of their kind in the history of modern jihad.
Key topics mentioned by Al-Baghdadi
- Following are the main points made by Al-Baghdadi in the audiotape (Telegram, September 16, 2019):
- Al-Baghdadi begins by calling on his supporters to maintain steadfastness and persevere in jihad against the infidels. He praises the adherence of ISIS’s operatives to the Islamic Caliphate, stressing that half a decade passed since the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate and the operatives are still fighting for it. He emphasizes that those loyal to the caliphate around the world have renewed their pledge of allegiance, and claims that even the enemies of the Caliphate acknowledge that the Islamic State continues to become strong and expand and cannot be subdued.
- Al-Baghdadi mentions the three coordinated campaigns of raids of vengeance and attrition (April, May, August 2019). He claims [with much exaggeration] that these coordinated operations were the first of their kind in the history of modern jihad and they are the result of Muslims joining forces. According to him, these raids, which have caused ISIS’s enemies to sustain hundreds of casualties around the world, successfully targeted the United States and its “agents” in the various arenas.
- In this context, Al-Baghdadi mentions the fighting in the African sub-Saharan countries (the Sahel), into which, according to his claim, the United States was dragged as well. He adds that attacks carried out by his organization on a daily basis throughout the world continue and increase in number. In relation to that, he mentions Khorasan (Afghanistan / Pakistan), Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Central and Western Africa, North Africa (Tunisia, Libya) and the Far East.
- Al-Baghdadi lashes out against the rulers of the Islamic states who maintain relations with the West, first and foremost the Saudi royal family. He also attacks the rulers of the Sahel countries (sub-Saharan countries) for their collaboration with the Western countries and for deviating, according to him, from true Islam.
- He recommends to his operatives to embrace those who have repented [Note: In the ITIC’s assessment, this is due to Al-Baghdadi’s understanding that ISIS’s harsh attitude against operatives who misbehaved is detrimental to the organization and therefore it is preferable to bring them back to the straight and narrow and accept their repentance rather than execute or punish them severely. All this reflects the intention of recruiting new supporters and operatives in order to increase ISIS’s power].
- At the practical level, Al-Baghdadi calls upon his operatives to redouble their military and propaganda activity, pointing out that the situation will improve in the future and that this is a “test for the believers.” He laments the loss of the path of many Muslims around the world and attacks the weak Muslim leaders in Egypt, Palestine, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and elsewhere. These leaders, according to Al-Baghdadi, act on the basis of principles of nationalism and democracy, rather than adhering to the oneness of Allah, and jihad.
- It should be noted that ISIS “specialized” at the time in releasing prisoners from jails. The culmination of the prisoner release campaigns was the mass liberation campaign of jihadi operatives which was carried out by ISIS in Iraq (2013). During this campaign, ISIS released about 500 operatives from Abu Ghraib Prison. The operatives who were released from Abu Ghraib Prison, having a substantial terrorist-operational record, represented the addition of a major force to ISIS at the time and helped in its successes in the years after the civil war in Syria had broken out (for details, see appendix).
Mass release of jihadi operatives by ISIS from Abu Ghraib Prison
- In the years that passed since the American forces had left Iraq (2012-2014), ISIS conducted a terror and guerrilla campaign against the Iraqi central government and the Shiite population, a campaign which grew fiercer. The culmination of ISIS’s attacks against the institutions of the Iraqi regime during 2013 was the breaking into Abu Ghraib Prison, near Baghdad. This jail, the biggest and most secure in Iraq, notorious as long ago as during Saddam Hussein’s regime, was used to incarcerate the rebels who fought against the US army while it was deployed in Iraq. After the withdrawal of the US army, the Iraqi government held hundreds of jihadi operatives there.
- The Abu Ghraib Prison breaking was carried out on July 21, 2013, as planned by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It started with artillery softening-up at the prison. Afterwards, the prison walls were destroyed by two car bombs placed nearby. About 50 ISIS operatives, armed with machine guns and hand grenades, entered the prison, opened the prisoner cells and released about 500 jihadi operatives. The operation, which lasted for about an hour, proceeded without significant resistance on the part of the Iraqi guards, who fled the scene upon the beginning of the artillery softening-up phase. The operatives were taken into ISIS’s vehicles awaiting them and escaped (YouTube.com; Lisireport.worldpress.com; alsharqiya.com). The released operatives, who had a substantial terrorist-operational record, represented an addition of major force to ISIS and helped in its successes in the years after the release.
Right: Abu Ghraib Prison (alsharqiya.com). Left: Photo from a video showing ISIS vehicles waiting for the evacuation of the escaping prisoners outside Abu Ghraib Prison.
 A Quranic verse in which Allah instructs the Prophet Muhammad to urge those who hesitate to join in jihad to adhere to the will of Allah and work even harder for the sake of jihad (Quran 9:105). ↑
 See the ITIC's Information Bulletin, “Spotlight on Global Jihad” from May 30 – June 4, 2019; June 5 – 12, 2019; and August 8 – 14, 2019. ↑