Jihadists in the Caucasus, Philippines renew allegiance to Baghdadi

The Islamic State has continued to produce videos depicting small bands of jihadists renewing their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The latest such video was released yesterday (June 26), and featured jihadists from the Caucasus region. Just days earlier, the Islamic State’s so-called Caucasus province carried out a small-scale attack outside the home of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in Grozny.

On June 22, the Islamic State released a short production from its East Asia province, which has fighters in the Philippines.

The videos are part of the Islamic State’s “And the Best Outcome is for the Righteous” series, in which jihadists around the globe reiterate their fealty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group previously released similar footage from West Africa and the Sinai. The short clips are clearly part of an orchestrated campaign designed to reinforce the Islamic State’s global presence, especially in the wake of the group’s loss of its territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Each of the videos, including the ones produced for the Philippines and Caucasus region, open with text emphasizing that the jihadists remain committed to their “pledge” to fight the infidels who “claim to have destroyed the caliphate.” The text reads: “We renew our pledge [of allegiance] to the caliph of Muslims, the Mujahid Shaykh Abu-Bakr al-Husayni al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi, may Allah protect him.”

A pair of jihadists in the Caucasus

The main speaker in the video from the Caucasus is identified as Sheikh Abu Abdallah al-Qawqazi. After making some brief remarks in Arabic, he switches to Russian, and his talk is translated into Arabic text at the bottom of the screen.

Abu Abdallah al-Qawqazi (right) does much of the speaking in the video from the Caucasus.

Abu Abdallah says that he and the other “mujahideen of the Islamic State in Russia” give their glad tidings to “our mujahideen brothers” elsewhere. The “ordeals” they’ve faced are part of a divine test, he explains, as Allah “purges” the mujahideen’s ranks of the “hypocrites,” apostates and cowards. Only after this will Allah’s “promise” be “fulfilled.”

The Islamic State and other jihadists have made this argument before, claiming that the so-called caliphate’s setbacks are part of a winnowing out process by which only the true believers are left standing. They apparently have not realized that by this logic, many of their own fallen comrades, men who were supposedly members of the chosen, were not really true believers at all.

Abu Abdallah cites Koranic verses to emphasize his claim that only after various trials and tribulations can one enter paradise, so patience and perseverance are necessary. He also says that he and his men haven’t “forgotten the blood of our Muslim brothers,” who will be avenged, as evidenced by various attacks in Chechnya.

Abu Abdallah awarns Russia and its allies, asking if they think they have defeated the Islamic State by bombing women, children and the elderly. He also threatens Russia’s leaders, as footage of Vladimir Putin, Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plays on screen.

These jihadists do not take part in the oath renewal ceremony in the Caucasus, but they are briefly pictured on screen.

In addition to Abu Abdallah and his comrade, the video’s editor includes a brief clip of about a dozen jihadists dressed in camouflage fatigues and assembled in a wooded area. Curiously, unlike the other allegiance videos released by the Islamic State, the Caucasus jihadists did not convene to repeat their vow. It may be the case that the security environment currently prohibits such a meeting, as Russian authorities are hunting the caliphate’s representatives.

At the end of the video, only Abu Abdallah and his fellow Islamic State loyalist clasp hands, reciting the bayat (oath of allegiance). 

Abu Abdallah and his fellow believer cite the oath renewal together, without a band of their comrades from the Caucasus present. The other videos in the series show small gatherings — not just two men.

Islamic State in East Asia

The video recorded in the Philippines features a larger collection of Islamic State oath keepers gathered in a wooded area.

Another Abu Abdallah (who is difficult to see) leads the oath renewal in the Philippines.

They are led by another man known as Abu Abdallah, who organizes their pledge ceremony. Abu Abdallah’s words are translated at the bottom of the screen in Arabic. He calls on Muslims around the world to pledge their own fealty to Baghdadi.

The end of the production includes brief scenes of the jihadists fighting the Philippine Army. As in other Islamic State videos, the jihadists show the identification cards for various foes presumably killed in battle, along with other spoils. 

A small group of jihadists in the Philippines joins Abu Abdallah in reciting the oath to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

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

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