Baghdadi's purported audio message: IS targets Arab governments

Baghdadi's purported audio message: IS targets Arab governments
2 min read
14 November, 2014
Audio message released by the Islamic State group's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is heavy on threats against a number of Arab governments, including the Saudi ruling family.
Baghdadi's last appearance was in Mosul in July [Getty]
The Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) released what it claimed was a new audio recording of its leader, the self-styled caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The recording, released on Thursday, called for IS supporters in Arab countries, and specifically Saudi Arabia, to rise up against local rulers and declare allegiance to IS.

In the audio message, Baghdadi launches a scathing attack on Saudi Arabia's ruling family, labelling them "the serpent's head". 

He went on to tell supporters to prioritise attacking Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslim minority and the Saudi government and security forces over attacking Western forces.

The message urged Muslims to pledge allegiance to IS, and made specific reference to Sinai, where the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, which has carried out numerous attacks against the Egyptian military and security forces, officially pledged allegiance to IS on Monday. 

The release of the  17-minute recording appears to be a response to rumours that Baghdadi had been killed in a US airstrike, even though the message did not specifically allude to this.

The recording refers to Ansar Beit al-Maqdis' pledge of allegiance, and to other developments such as President Barack Obama's plans to increase the number of US military personnel in Iraq. Analysts said this seems to indicate that the messaged was recorded recently.

The authenticity of the recording could not be immediately and independently verified.

If the recording is confirmed to be genuine, it would be his first message since IS released a video of a him in July giving a sermon in the Iraqi city of Mosul, shortly after IS proclaimed its "caliphate". 

Anti-IS air strikes

The US-led coalition against IS launched airstrikes targeting the groups' leaders around Mosul on Friday, leading to speculation that Baghdadi had been wounded or killed.

Other reports spoke of an alleged strike near Iraq's border with Syria, saying Baghdadi was hit there instead.

However, officials in both Iraq and the United States have made clear that no one is yet certain about Baghdadi's fate.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said on Monday that "the bottom line from our perspective is we simply cannot confirm his current status".

Senior Iraqi officials from the interior and defence ministries and the intelligence service could also not confirm or deny that Baghdadi had been hit. 

The death of the IS leader would be a propaganda victory for the US-led coalition, but the group is likely to be able to continue operations without Baghdadi.

Rumours of Baghdadi's death have surfaced before and the absence of video in Thursday's release by the IS group's media arm is likely to further fuel speculation he was indeed wounded.

With additional reporting by AFP.