In a new audio message released online, the Islamic State’s official spokesman, Abu Hudhayfah al-Ansari, announced a new global campaign to the world. Entitled “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them,” taken after Surat Al-Baqarah’s infamous ayah, the campaign comes during a historic nadir in the group’s propaganda output.
As of the time of publishing, the Islamic State has claimed at least 30 operations around the world as part of this campaign. These attacks stretch from Iraq and Syria, to Mali, Nigeria, the Congo, Mozambique, Afghanistan, and the Philippines. It is likely more countries will be represented in the coming days. This thus marks the most active 24 hours for the Islamic State’s once powerful propaganda apparatus in over a year.
The campaign, which is nominally in support of Palestine, was also timed for the Islamic State to officially take credit for the recent double explosions inside Iran. Claiming them as suicide bombings, the blasts killed around 100 people in Kerman, Iran. According to the Islamic State, these blasts kicked off this campaign, which is in part ‘revenge’ for Iran’s actions vis-a-vis the war in Gaza.
For instance, in Al-Ansari’s speech, he makes the group’s animosity towards Iran, as well as various Palestinian factions, very clear. “The true nature of this war is that it’s one of an imaginary axis, and Iran has created this in service of its projects, and the first and only goal of it is to involve all Palestinian factions as a proxy of Iran, and not the other way,” al-Ansari states.
He goes on to say that as a result, “this is what happened, so Iran and its parties were saved from the fierce battle, which Gaza is enduring alone from the blood of its children and women.”
Al-Ansari also chastises various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, for straying from Islam during their fight. For example, he speaks directly to Palestinian militants and states that “killing Jews is not an indication of being on the correct path. Before you, the communists, patriots, and nationalist fighters all fought the Jews. But did their fighting result in the upholding of God’s command?”
The spokesman blames the failures of the Palestinian militants on being too nationalist and willing to engage in democratic systems. Instead, to be victorious they must seek to establish an Islamic state and implement Shari’a, according to Al-Ansari.
He then relays a purported message from the Islamic State’s fifth and current caliph, Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, which implores the group’s members and supporters around the world to rally behind the campaign and commit acts of terror to support the Palestinians.
The Islamic State is known to promote global campaigns for its affiliates in order to boost activity, morale, and overall propaganda. In prior years, it has also launched several “Battles of Attrition,” “Revenge of the Two Sheikhs,” and has a standing directive to conduct prison breaks under “Breaking the Walls.”
These campaigns are typically related to events unfolding around the Islamic State’s central nodes in Iraq and Syria. For example, the “Battles of Attrition” came in 2019 and 2020 after the group lost its territorial caliphate and reverted back to a traditional insurgency.
Whereas “Revenge of the Two Sheikhs” came after the killings of its former caliph and spokesman, Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi and Abu Hamza al-Quraishi, respectively, in the spring of 2022 in Syria.
And “Breaking the Walls” first dates back to 2012 during the Islamic State’s resurgence in Iraq at the time, wherein it conducted massive jailbreaks throughout the country.
The campaigns, though intrinsically propagandistic, do have real world impacts on the ground. For instance, global affiliates are typically more active during these campaigns, seeking to fulfill the directives of the central leadership by conducting more lower level attacks.
On occasion, however, various affiliates, such as its Central Africa Province in Congo, have perpetrated higher-profile operations in the name of such campaigns. The Islamic State’s recent bombings in Iran are also illustrative of this.
With the Islamic State weathering a bad year in terms of global operational activity in 2023, as well as severe leadership loss in Iraq and Syria, it is now hoping to galvanize its members and supporters to breathe new life into the organization. Though it’s too early to tell how successful this new global campaign will be at this goal, prior global campaigns have indeed acted as a boon to the group’s global morale and activity.