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Islamic State Terrorist Group Showing No Signs of Panic as Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Calls for ‘Total War’

Even civilians who have been rescued from IS say there are few signs the terror group is ready to fall apart

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FILE - Image taken from video shows a man purported to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State militant group, delivering a sermon. In an audio recording released late Tuesday, he called on IS fighters in Mosul not to retreat in the face of approaching Iraqi and Kurdish forces. VOA

Fewer than 5,000 Islamic State fighters trying to hold onto the Iraqi city of Mosul are being urged to fight to the death.

“Know that holding your ground with honour is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame,” the terror group’s leader and self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi exhorted in an audio recording released via social media late Tuesday.

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“Do not retreat,” he said. “This total war and the great jihad only increased our firm belief, God willing, and our conviction that this is all a prelude to victory.”

The message from Baghdadi is the first since last December and comes nearly three weeks into the Iraqi and Kurdish campaign to retake Mosul, which has been under IS control for two years.

U.S. intelligence sources say there is no reason to doubt the audio’s authenticity and agree, based on the content of the remarks, it was likely made recently.

U.S. defense officials say it appears Islamic State Terrorist Group is picking its fights carefully. Click To Tweet

IS command and control

A U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said officials there were not yet ready to verify that the voice on the recording was that of the IS leader but acknowledged the message was clearly “an effort to rally the troops.”

Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants in southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA
Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants in southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA

“This is the type of thing that a leader who’s losing command and control and ability to keep everybody on the same page says,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, Col. John Dorrian told reporters via a video conference from Baghdad.

“We don’t believe that it’s going to work,” he added.

But intelligence officials believe the recording may also be intended to dispel any notions or rumors the reclusive Baghdadi has been killed.

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Some analysts examining the pacing and the rhetoric in the audio message think the significance of the recording could be even greater, suggesting a key shift in the way IS has been fighting up until now.

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s statement is the fastest in tempo and strongest among his speeches,” according to a Tweet by Hassan Hassan, a resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy who has written extensively about IS.

“The new tone/message tells us clearly that ISIS wants the remaining strongholds to be a big show,” Hassan added in another tweet. “It won’t withdraw as it did before.”

Choosing their fights

There are indications that IS fighters are prepared to make such a stand in spite of overwhelming odds.

“They don’t seem to be panicking,” a U.S. official told VOA.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said despite the faster than expected advance of Iraqi and Kurdish forces, IS fighters in and around Mosul were showing no signs of abandoning their training or giving up their well-known tactics.

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U.S. defense officials also say it appears IS is picking its fights carefully.

“In some villages, they slice through them like butter, and there’s very little resistance at all, and ISIL up and leaves,” Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis said Wednesday when asked about the type of resistance Iraqi and Kurdish forces were encountering around Mosul.

“There are others that put up quite a fight,” he added.

Iraqis fleeing the conflict in Kokjali are seen on the road east of Mosul, Iraq Nov. 3, 2016. VOA
Iraqis fleeing the conflict in Kokjali are seen on the road east of Mosul, Iraq Nov. 3, 2016. VOA

Even civilians who have been rescued from IS say there are few signs the terror group is ready to fall apart.

“I spoke to this large group of civilians who had been marched by ISIS north,” said Human Rights Watch senior Iraq researcher Belkis Wille after visiting with civilians at Jeddah camp, near Qayyarah airfield south of Mosul.

“They made it sound fairly organized,” she said. “ISIS came door to door, knocked on each door, told people they had to leave. They had vehicles kind of patrolling the group as they were walking.”

How long?

The question is just how long the group will be able to maintain that type of coherence, with the toughest and bloodiest fighting still ahead.

And while in the past IS fighters have often fled in the face of overwhelming force, that may not be the case for those forces left in Mosul.

“If they’re still in Mosul, given that they’ve known there’s a massive buildup of troops in that area, that means they probably want to fight till the end,” said former CIA analyst Aki Peritz, now with George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security.

And with the number of likely escape routes shrinking, IS fighters may not have much of a choice. (VOA)

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Syrian Militia: End Is Near for Islamic State in Raqqa

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Syria ISIS
Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an airstrike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, Syria. voa

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists Saturday or Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters Saturday.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said around 100 of the jihadist group’s fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been “removed from the city,” but it still expected difficult fighting “in the days ahead.”

It did not say how the fighters had been removed or where the fighters had been taken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said remaining Islamic State fighters were being transported out of Raqqa by bus under a deal between Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG. There was no immediate comment on that report from the coalition or the SDF.

Fighting since June

Civilians who escaped from Islamic State
Civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria. voa

The SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes and special forces, has been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa city, formerly its de facto capital in Syria and a base of operations where it planned attacks against the West.

The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (Islamic State) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters by telephone.

In emailed comments to Reuters, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said about 100 Islamic State fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and were “removed from the city,” without giving further details.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said, adding that around 85 percent of Raqqa had been liberated as of Oct. 13.

Some civilians escape

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Omar Alloush, a member of a civilian council set up to run Raqqa, told Reuters late Friday that efforts were under way to secure the release of civilians and “a possible way to expel terrorist elements from Raqqa province,” without giving further details.

An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page Saturday that dozens of buses had entered Raqqa city overnight, having traveled from the northern Raqqa countryside.

The Observatory said Syrian Islamic State fighters and their families had left the city, and buses had arrived to evacuate remaining foreign fighters and their families. It did not say where they would be taken.

During the more than six-year Syrian war, the arrival of buses in a conflict zone has often signaled an evacuation of combatants and civilians.

The campaign against Islamic State in Syria is now focused on its last major foothold in the country, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which neighbors Iraq.
Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other. (VOA)

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Will the Latest Message From Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Provoke New Attacks in the West?

IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses in United States and Europe

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Islamic State
This image taken from a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (VOA)

Washington, September 30, 2017 : U.S. intelligence officials examining the latest audio statement claiming to be from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi say, so far, they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

However, there are questions as to whether the message from the leader of the collapsing, self-declared caliphate will cause IS operatives to spring into action. Some analysts see Baghdadi’s continued call to arms as almost a shot in the dark, aimed at rekindling interest despite the terror group’s fading fortunes in Syria and Iraq.

The still-early U.S. intelligence assessment comes just a day after the Islamic State’s al-Furqan media wing issued the 46-minute audio recording featuring Baghdadi, in which he calls on followers to “fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner.”

“Continue your jihad and your blessed operations and do not let the crusaders rest in their homes and enjoy life and stability while your brethren are being shelled and killed,” he says.

islamic state
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighter takes cover behind a wall on a street where they fight against Islamic State militants, on the front line on the western side of Raqqa, Syria (VOA)

Despite such threats, U.S. officials say the release of the latest audio message is not changing Washington’s approach.

“We are aware of the tape,” a National Security Council spokesman said Friday. “But whether it’s al-Baghdadi or any member of ISIS, the Trump administration’s policy is destroying ISIS in Iraq, Syria and around the globe.” ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

Still, intelligence and counterterror officials, both in the United States and in Europe, warn that IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses on the ground.

“We do not think battlefield losses alone will be sufficient to degrade its terrorism capabilities,” the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, warned in written testimony to U.S. lawmakers earlier this week, calling IS’s reach on social media “unprecedented.”

And while Western counterterror officials say the expected wave of returning IS foreign fighters has yet to materialize, the experience and skill sets of the operatives who have made it back home are ample reasons to worry.

But some caution the new Baghdadi audio message may have more to do with the terror group’s long-term strategy than its desire to carry out attacks in the near term.

“The broadcast boosts morale by contextualizing the hardships facing the group as their losses accumulate by reminding Islamic State militants and their supporters that day-to-day actions are part of a broader struggle, and metrics of progress shouldn’t be assessed in a vacuum,” according to Jade Parker, a senior research associate at the Terror Asymmetrics Project (TAPSTRI).

ALSO READ  intelligence officials , Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Furqan, war, enemies, threats, US officials, raqqa, National Security Council, isis, Iraq, Syria, U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, terrorism, Terror Asymmetrics Project ,

Parker also believes that while it is “extremely unlikely” the latest Baghdadi audio will spark or accelerate any IS plots, it might prevent fraying within the organization’s ranks.

“Baghdadi’s silence during the final days of IS’s battle for Mosul was a sore point for many IS fighters and supporters who felt confused and abandoned by their leader,” she added. “This statement was likely released in part to avoid that sentiment with respect to the fight to retain ground in Raqqa.” (VOA)

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Islamic State Flag saying “The Caliphate is coming”, Sighted in Pakistan

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ISIS flag
Pakistani officials acknowledged that at least one IS flag was recently displayed on a billboard in Islamabad.(source: VOA)

Islamabad September 25: An Islamic State (IS), the flag was seen displayed near Islamabad which read “The Caliphate is coming,” slogan written on the flag, and was put up over a billboard Sunday on a major expressway in Islamabad.

Pakistan Interior Ministry authorities told that committee has been formed to investigate the incident. Pakistan authorities deny that IS may have established a foothold in the country.

Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia: Report

“The group does not have an organized presence, resources or structure to be able to operate in the area,” Talal Choudhry, State Minister for Interior Affairs told VOA’s Urdu Service.

The IS terror group has taken roots in the mountain regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan since early 2015. It brands itself as the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), a title that distinguishes the militant group in the region from its main branch in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State threat in Pakistan follows recent media reports and activities by local IS affiliates in various regions that indicate the group has been making inroads in the country.(VOA)