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Islamic State urges jihad against Russians, Americans: audio

Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State (IS) while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in this June 30, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State called on Muslims to launch a “holy war” against Russians and Americans over what it called their “crusaders’ war” in the Middle East, an audio message distributed by supporters of the ultra hardline group said on Tuesday.

“Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims,” the speech by Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said.

The United States and Russia are carrying separate airstrike campaigns in Syria, which they say are targeting Islamic State.

Washington says Moscow’s campaign has mainly targeted other insurgent groups including those that have fought Islamic State, a charge Russia denies.

The United States is also carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, where Russia has also become separately involved. A senior Iraqi parliamentarian said on Tuesday that Russian officials were part of a new Iraq-based intelligence center with staff from Iran and Syria.

The audio message also confirmed the death of Abu Mutaz Qurashi, which the SITE monitoring service said was a reference to a senior Islamic State official killed in an airstrike in Iraq in August and referred to then as Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali.

The White House said at the time that a U.S. air strike in Iraq had killed Hayali, whom it described as the second-in-command of the group which has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

The audio made no specific mention of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose health and whereabouts became a subject of speculation earlier this week when an Islamic State convoy was hit in Iraq.

Eight senior figures from Islamic State were killed in the Iraqi air strike while meeting in an Iraqi town on Sunday, but Baghdadi did not appear to be among them, residents of the town and hospital sources said.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Sylvia Westall; Editing by Richard Balmforth