The Islamic State’s Furqan Media Foundation has released an audio message from the group’s new spokesman, Abu al Hassan al Muhajir. Abu Muhammad al Adnani served as the organization’s top propagandist for years until he was killed in an American airstrike in August. The Islamic State had not named a successor since then, meaning no jihadist had served in quite the same role as Adnani for more than three months.
However, Muhajir picks up where Adnani left off, defiantly calling upon the Islamic State’s members and supporters to fight on. He argues that the so-called caliphate’s struggles are merely part of a divine test, which will separate the true believers from all others. Muhajir also threatens Turkey and Iran, while encouraging more terrorist attacks around the globe.
The SITE Intelligence Group has translated Muhajir’s audio message, which was released via social media sites earlier today.
Muhajir claims that all of his organization’s many enemies are united in their desire to destroy the jihadists’ caliphate. “Here are Crusader America and Europe, Communist Russia, and Magian Iran, with secular Turkey, atheist Kurds, Rawafidh [Shiites], Nusayris [a reference to Bashar al Assad’s regime], Awakenings, militias, and the tyrants of the Arabs and their soldiers,” Muhajir says, according to SITE’s translation.
The Islamic State’s new spokesman briefly discusses the battle raging around Mosul, pointing specifically to Tal Afar, which is west of the Iraqi city. Iranian-backed militias operating as part of the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) are leading the charge in Tal Afar and the surrounding area. Muhajir highlights this sectarian aspect of the fight, saying the “Rawafidh [Shiites] have come with their horses and men to the land of Tal Afar, full of hatred and vengeance towards the houses of Islam, to take them and get the Sunni people in them.” He goes on to claim that these Shiites have been “herded by the worshippers of the Cross,” meaning the West, to fight the Sunnis of Iraq.
Muhajir’s narrative with respect to Iraq is similar to the one offered by the Islamic State’s rivals in al Qaeda, with one key difference. Both al Qaeda and the Islamic State portray the war in Iraq as part of a conspiracy against the country’s Sunnis. However, Muhajir argues that only the Islamic State can shield Iraq’s Sunni population, a claim that al Qaeda would never make. “The Sunni has become either a shackled idle one or a humiliated submissive one, and it will not have any deterrent among the Muslims after Allah except for the Islamic State,” Muhajir says, according to SITE’s translation.
Muhajir claims that the Islamic State is fighting on behalf of Sunnis everywhere “from Baghdad to Beirut, from Aleppo to Damascus, and from Khorasan [a region encompassing Afghanistan and Pakistan] to Sana’a.” Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Shiite forces attack Sunni “mujahideen” under the cover of the “shelling of the Crusaders.” In other words, Muhajir accuses the West and Iran of conspiring against Sunni Muslims throughout the region.
In early November, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi called on his followers to strike inside Turkey. Just hours later, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a car bombing in southeastern Turkey. This was the group’s first high-profile claim of responsibility for a terrorist operation inside the country. Turkish authorities quickly blamed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a US-designated terrorist organization, for the explosion. And it is possible that Kurdish terrorists did carry out the attack. Still, the Islamic State’s claim was important because it signaled a new, public willingness to lash out at Turkey. While the Islamic State is suspected of launching other operations inside Turkey, the group’s propaganda organs had never claimed responsibility for any of them.
Muhajir continues with Baghdadi’s theme, blasting Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, as a “beggar before the doors of Crusader Europe” and a “Brotherhood apostate.” With these words, Muhajir points to Erdoğan’s reported ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that the Islamic State accuses of deviating from the true path of jihad.
Erdoğan “thought that he and his government were in control and safe” even after launching an assault against the Islamic State in northern Syria earlier this year, Muhajir says. But the caliphate’s mouthpiece says this isn’t so. Muhajir says his group’s followers should “target the joints of the secular, apostate Turkish government everywhere – the security, the military, the economic, and the media – indeed every embassy and consulate that represents it in the countries all over the world,” according to SITE’s translation.
Prior to his demise, Adnani stressed the importance of striking inside the West. Adnani repeatedly told supporters that their terror over here, in the West, was more valuable for the cause than waging jihad inside the lands of the caliphate. Similarly, Muhajir implores would-be recruits to “redouble” their efforts. The new spokesman wants followers to attack in the “homes, markets, roads, and clubs” of civilians in the nations opposed to the jihadists’ state.
Abu Muhammad al Adnani was not just the Islamic State’s spokesman. He wore multiple hats within Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s enterprise, including overseeing external operations, or plots in the West. Therefore, it is possible that Abu Hassan al Muhajir is more than the group’s chief propagandist. However, there is no publicly-available information on the scope of Muhajir’s responsibilities at this time.