Islamic State leader claims ‘caliphate’ has expanded in new audio message

The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that currently controls large portions of Iraq and Syria, has released a new audio message from its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The Islamic State’s emir is defiant in the recording, saying his group will continue its fight against all of its enemies.

Baghdadi was rumored to have been killed in airstrikes that took place sometime on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8. Some Iraqi officials claimed Baghdadi had been mortally wounded. But no firm evidence emerged to back up those claims. And Baghdadi references events that took place since those airstrikes, thereby demonstrating that he is alive.

On Nov. 10, jihadists in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen swore allegiance to Baghdadi and the Islamic State’s caliphate. In the newly-released audio recording, Baghdadi accepts their oaths of allegiance and praises the jihadists who made them.

Baghdadi gives glad tidings and announces “the expansion of the Islamic State to new lands, to the lands of al Haramain [meaning Saudi Arabia] and [to] Yemen, and to Egypt, Libya and Algeria.”

Baghdadi accepts “the bayat (oath of allegiance) from those who gave us bayat in those lands,” pronounces “the nullification of the groups therein,” and announces the creation of “new wilayah [provinces] for the Islamic State, and the appointment of wali [provincial leaders] for them.”

The Islamic State’s emir calls on “every” Muslim to “join the closest wilayah to him, and to hear and obey the wali appointed by us for it.”

Baghdadi’s statement is deliberately provocative as he is saying that all other jihadist groups, especially those that have not pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, are nullified. The Islamic State’s ideologues have argued that, with the reestablishment of an Islamic caliphate, all other jihadist groups owe their allegiance to Baghdadi as the caliphate expands into their lands.

The Islamic State made this argument in late June, when its leaders announced that the group was now a caliphate. “The legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of the [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas,” the Islamic State’s founding statement reads.

The swearing of bayat from jihadists in several countries on Nov. 10 was, therefore, intended to legitimize the Islamic State’s right to rule over the jihadists’ affairs within those nations. Long established jihadist groups operating in those countries, including al Qaeda’s official branches, obviously do not agree, as they have not sworn allegiance to Baghdadi.

Indeed, in three of the five cases (Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen), the announcements of allegiance to Baghdadi came from unidentified jihadists who do not represent any well-known jihadist groups. In Algeria, the announcement came from a group of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) veterans who have broken away from their parent organization and are now known as Jund al Khilafa. The Algerian-based jihadists had already sworn allegiance to Baghdadi earlier this year.

The announcement from Egypt was made by an anonymous jihadist representing a faction of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), or Ansar Jerusalem, in the Sinai.

Baghdadi praises the jihadists in the Sinai specifically, offering them his congratulations because they “have carried out the obligation of jihad” and “terrified the Jews.”

It appears that ABM is already marketing itself as the Islamic State’s “wilayah,” or province, in the Sinai, as that is how the group refers to itself on its official Twitter feed. ABM’s Twitter page has been taken down repeatedly over the past several months. The latest iteration was posted online in the past few days.

The Islamic State leader rails against the “Crusaders” and the “Jews,” whom he blames for conspiring to launch the airstrikes against the jihadists.

Baghdadi also references President Obama’s decision to send 1,500 additional military advisors to Iraq, claiming that this demonstrates the coalition has been unable to stall the Islamic State’s advances with airstrikes alone. The Obama administration announced the president’s decision to deploy additional forces on Nov. 7, shortly before Baghdadi was supposedly hit in an airstrike.

Baghdadi concludes by calling on the soldiers of the Islamic State to cause “volcanoes” of jihad to “erupt” everywhere.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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