BEIRUT — The leader of the Islamic State group released a new alleged audio recording Monday calling on members of the extremist group to do all they can to free ISIS detainees and women held in jails and camps.
The purported audio by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he also said that his group is carrying out attacks in different countries, was his first public statement since April, when the shadowy leader appeared in a video for the first time in five years.
In the 30-minute recording released by a media arm of the group, Al-Furqan, al-Baghdadi asked: “How can a Muslim enjoy life?” when Muslim women are held in camps he called “prisons of humiliation run by Crusaders and their Shiite followers.”
No longer burdened by territory and administration, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi outlined the new path forward for his group: Widen your reach, connect with far-flung militant groups and exhaust your enemies with a “war of attrition.”
With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man, responsible for steering his chillingly violent organization into mass slaughter of opponents and directing and inspiring terror attacks across continents and in the heart of Europe.
ISIS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, while in Syria, it lost its last territory in March, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate.
Despite these battlefield defeats, ISIS sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in both Iraq and Syria.
The Islamic State group has lost all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, but its shadowy leader and self-proclaimed “caliph” is still at large.
Al-Baghdadi said in the new recording that militants should target interrogators and judges who are questioning ISIS members.
He also urged detainees and women held in camps to be patient. One of the largest camps is al-Hol camp in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province. It’s home to some 73,000 people, many of them families of ISIS who emerged from the group’s last bastion in Syria. Tens of thousands of fighters and other members of the group are held in detention centers across northern Syria and in Iraq.
In Syria, the centers are controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which spearheaded the fight against ISIS in eastern Syria.