CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State (IS) said the coronavirus pandemic was divine punishment for its enemies, according to an audio broadcast on Thursday, where the jihadists also vowed more attacks.
The person on the tape, which was posted on one of the militants’ websites but could not be verified by Reuters, identified himself as IS spokesman Abu Hamzah al-Quraishi.
“God, by his will, sent a punishment to tyrants of this time and their followers ... which can’t be seen by the naked eye,” he said, in an allusion to the COVID-19 disease.
“Today we are pleased for this punishment of God for you.”
It was the Sunni Muslim group’s third such tape since appointing Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as new leader following the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by U.S. special forces in northwestern Syria late last year.
Quraishi urged IS fighters “everywhere to prepare whatever strength they could and be as hard as they could on the enemies of God and to raid their places,” according to the tape. “Don’t let a single day pass without making their lives awful.”
He gave no specific targets but mentioned countries where the group is active such as Syria and Iraq as well as western Africa.
IS has struggled to regroup and develop new strategy since the killing of Baghdadi. It lost its last significant piece of territory in Syria last year after already being defeated in Iraq.
The SITE Intelligence Group monitoring website said the tape looked authentic. “IS spokesman echoes jihadi sentiment of COVID-19 being divine punishment,” it said.
Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek, Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.