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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.

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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)

Next Story

New Survey Indicates, Indians Worry About Terrorism, Unemployment And Corruption The Most

"At least 73 per cent Indians are optimistic that as a nation we are headed in the right direction. The global average paints a dismal image, where the majority (58 per cent) feels that they are headed in the wrong direction," the findings showed.

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The "What Worries the World Global Survey" by global market research firm Ipsos showed that 45 per cent of Indians are most worried about terrorism, 44 per cent about unemployment and jobs and 42 per cent about financial and political corruption. Pixabay

 As the country entered the seven-phase voting from April 11, a new survey said on Monday that Indians are most worried about terrorism, followed by unemployment and corruption.

The “What Worries the World Global Survey” by global market research firm Ipsos showed that 45 per cent of Indians are most worried about terrorism, 44 per cent about unemployment and jobs and 42 per cent about financial and political corruption.

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India, however, bucked the global trend of pessimism where 22 countries out of the total of the 28 markets covered in the survey felt their country is on the wrong track. Pixabay

Apart from these issues, a significant number of Indians are also concerned about crime and violence (33 per cent) and poverty and social inequality (29 per cent).

“Pulwama terror strike has propelled terrorism to the fore. It was way down in the pecking order in the past waves. Terrorism is bothering Indians most. Likewise, lack of jobs is weighing on the minds of Indians and government,” said Parijat Chakraborty, Service Line Leader, Ipsos Public Affairs, Customer Experience and Corporate Reputation.

“Similarly, more concrete steps are needed for tackling corruption. While strategies are being formulated by the government to address them, our survey shows that Indians are preoccupied with concerns around these macro issues and will like them to be mitigated,” Chakraborty added.

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Meanwhile China (94 per cent) inspires the most confidence about its national direction as 9 in 10 Chinese citizens say that the country is moving in the right direction. Pixabay

India, however, bucked the global trend of pessimism where 22 countries out of the total of the 28 markets covered in the survey felt their country is on the wrong track.

“At least 73 per cent Indians are optimistic that as a nation we are headed in the right direction. The global average paints a dismal image, where the majority (58 per cent) feels that they are headed in the wrong direction,” the findings showed.

Meanwhile China (94 per cent) inspires the most confidence about its national direction as 9 in 10 Chinese citizens say that the country is moving in the right direction.

Also Read: Ex-Afghanistan Warlord Claims, ‘No Doubt’ Pakistan ‘Supports’ Taliban
Saudi Arabia is in the second place (84 per cent), followed by India (73 per cent) and Malaysia (57 per cent).

The survey was conducted in 28 countries where 20,019 interviews were conducted between February 22-March 8. (IANS)