Besieged Islamic State terrorists in eastern Syria on Wednesday called on jihadists around the world in general – and Europe in particular – to carry out attacks to avenge their devastating losses.
The once mighty group tried to define itself for the future ahead of the end of its once vaunted “caliphate”, depicting its crumbling domain as the one place ruled by “God’s law” and promising it would one day be victorious.
The exhortation came in an audio recording and video released online by militants said to be inside the village of Baghouz, where they have been besieged for weeks and, in the past few days, under stepped up assault and bombardment by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
In one minute and a half long message, an unidentified Islamic State militant calls on Muslim “brothers, in Europe and in the whole world” to “rise against the Crusaders and … take revenge for your religion.” As the man speaks, cracks of gunfire can be heard in the background, apparently meant to suggest that he is in Baghouz. He said men, women and children in Baghouz are being subjected to a “holocaust by the Crusaders,” which is militant jargon for the U.S.-led coalition against IS.
In another video, a militant identified only as Abu Abdul-Azim talks the camera as he and his comrades eat soup — likely intended to show that the fighters still have food. A young boy sits next to him.
By the “standards of this world,” IS may seem to have been defeated, Abu Abdul-Azim says. “If we used to hold thousands of kilometers and now only a few kilometers remain, it is said that we lost. That is by the standards of this world. But the standards of the Other World and Almighty God are different,” he says.
“What is our crime? Why are we bombarded by war planes? Why has the entire world of infidels come together to fight us? …It is because we wanted to implement God’s Law,” he says with a smile. “There is no group in the world that ruled by the Quran and Sunna except this select group. That is victory. .. So we are patient. Victory and endurance means sticking to what God Almighty loves.”
Contrary to claims of its terrorist backers, Islamic State has suffered devastating losses in Syria under U.S. President Donald Trump that have decimated the group’s territorial caliphate, ultimately squeezing the jihadists into ever-shrinking pockets of land in Syria.
During its four year reign, the Islamic terror group became notorious for its atrocities, including massacres of opponents, enslavement and rape of Yazidi women and beheadings and vicious killings of those who violated its rules. For its supporters, the brutality was confirmation that the group would not compromise in its vision.
That is now in the past.
The Islamic State domain has been reduced to a tiny patch of land hardly a mile (1.6 kilometers) across. Several hundred fighters are believed to remain inside along with an unknown number of civilians, running out of food and ammunition among blasted houses and burned tents, cornered between the Euphrates River and a desert cliff near the Iraqi border.
Those who could escape, have. They are thought to be on the move and part of the giant diaspora seeking havens in sympathetic countries in the Middle East or moving in the human flow of “refugees” trying to get to Europe.
AP contributed to this report