The spokesman of the Islamic State (IS), Abu Umar al-Muhajir, gave his second speech on 17 April 2022, about a month after his first, in the middle of Ramadan, the month of “raids, conquests, and heroic deeds”, by his reckoning. The main message of Abu Umar’s thirty-three-minute speech, entitled, “Fight Them, and God Will Punish Them At Your Hands”, is the announcement of a new “Battle of Revenge for the Two Shaykhs” (Ghazwa al-Tha’r lil-Shaykhayn), referring to the former IS leader, Amir Muhammad al-Mawla (Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi), who was killed in early February, and his spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, killed around the same time. Abu Umar instructs IS’s operatives in the various theatres across the world to escalate their attacks, giving West Africa as a model, and incites rebellion within the Arab world and domestic terrorism in the West. There is also messaging relating to Israel.
INSTRUCTIONS TO THE TROOPS
Having announced the “blessed campaign to take revenge” for the last leader, Abu Umar itemises five messages, the first directed towards IS’s own members, telling them that the new caliph, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, sends them greetings and thanks them for the swift reissuing of bay’ats (oaths of allegiances) to the new leader from the wilayats (provinces), extending “from East Asia and Khorasan [Afghanistan-Pakistan] to West Africa, and from Europe in the north to Yemen in the south”. Abu Umar praises IS’s media officials and, unusually, the unofficial propagandists online who “fill the world with news of the Islamic State”, enraging the disbelievers.
Notably, Abu Umar singles out the “lions of West Africa” for special praise, particularly their war against local Christians, continuing a focus on the Sahel that IS has had for some time. Abu Umar asks that the IS jihadists in Africa stand firm and continue their belief in God to guarantee their ongoing progress against “the Crusaders and apostates”. Other wilayats are encouraged to follow suit.
Within hours of this call by Abu Umar, IS had launched attacks in Syria and Uzbekistan (where it has not attacked before), followed over the next few days by attacks in Libya, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. Indeed, “In the first three days of the campaign, 42 attacks were reported in nine countries.” And it has continued. On 29 April in Afghanistan, one of IS’s most active zones, the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) blew up a Shi’a mosque in Mazari-i-Sharif, massacring at least fifty people.
An important part of Abu Umar’s internal message to IS was about imprisoned jihadists, above all the women. To the prisoners themselves, Abu Umar says, “You are not forgotten” and assures them that the “debt” the group owes them is always in mind. To IS’s members on the outside, Abu Umar says it is a “duty” to free prisoners, and to make it dangerous for prison guards and others involved in keeping jihadists imprisoned. “Let no day pass that you are not planning … to free them from captivity, either using weapons or through ransom”, says Abu Umar.
Prison breaks have always been an important ideological and strategic focus for IS; they were a key component in the revival of the group before the caliphate declaration in June 2014. IS has been engaged in a renewed “Breaking the Walls” campaign since at least October 2020, and in January 2022 launched a massive raid on the prison holding some of its most battle-hardened operatives in the Ghwayran area of Hasaka city in northern Syria, a pitched battle that lasted ten days and released 300 and perhaps more jihadists. IS’s willingness to trade hostages or money to free its own captives, on the other hand, had been something of a taboo, but since the public admission in Al-Naba 246 in August 2020, the taboo seems to have been set aside.
The second message was also to IS’s “own”, or more precisely those who had been: Abu Umar addresses IS defectors—those who “walked the path of jihad and tasted its sweetness”, before “abandon[ing] the umma (Muslim community)”. In a very familiar message, Abu Umar tells these backsliders that they will be welcomed back into the fold if—and only if—they repent and “return to the ranks of the mujahideen” before IS catches up with them; if IS reaches them before they have repented, they will be gruesomely killed as an example to others. Abu Umar is quick to insist that this call for former members to return is nothing to do with IS lacking manpower: the offer to take them back is an act of cosmic charity, offered in pity to those who have wandered from God, giving them a chance to cease living in fear of IS’s assassins in the temporal world and to help them avoid eternal punishment in the hereafter.
ADDRESS TO THE MUSLIM WORLD
The third message is addressed to Muslims in general and those in the Arab world specifically.
Of late, IS’s messaging has been more focused on Israel than it usually is, but this is contingent: IS has recently carried out terrorist attack(s) in Israel, and the group has remained stern in its doctrinal outlook that Israel is a lost piece of Muslim territory that must be returned to Islamic rule, but that it is no more and no less important than Spain, which was reconquered by Christendom in the fifteenth century.
Abu Umar, speaking at a time of heightened tensions at the Jewish Temple Mount over which the Aqsa Mosque was built, uses this backdrop to his advantage by reminding his audience that numerous Arab governments have overtly made peace with Israel through the “Abraham Accords”, saying that this proves these tawagheet are mere “puppets in the hands of the Crusaders and Jews”: there had always been secret “collaboration with the Jews” and now they no longer hide this partnership and even pretend to care about Palestine. “Jerusalem will only be liberated by the monotheists”, i.e. IS, says Abu Umar.
The speech then veers into a paranoid section against what the Iranian Revolution’s leaders called “Westoxification”. By Abu Umar’s account, the Abraham Accords are the gateway to the imposition of a non-denominational Abrahamic faith on the Arab world, with attendant horrors that are already being imposed by the Arab rulers at the behest of the West and supported by “nationalists and patriots”, such as trying to create sectarian harmony between Sunnis and Shi’is and “legislation about women … which deprive[s] you of guardianship over them”, a probable indirect attack on Saudi Arabia, IS’s great rival for the leadership of “Sunnidom”, where the end of the male guardianship system is clearly one of the reforms being eyed by de facto ruler Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS).
Abu Umar concludes his appeal to the Muslim masses by encouraging them to cast off their shame by launching rebellions that install jihadist regimes across the region, following in the footsteps of the Arab conquerors of the seventh century who “rejected oppression and humiliation and broke Khosrow and Caesar”, referring to the last notable Persian King, Khosrow II (r. 591-628), before Iran was swallowed up by the Arab invaders, and the Roman/Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius (r. 610-41), who lost the richest provinces of his Empire to the Arabs whose descendants would construct Islam.
THREATS TO THE INFIDEL WORLD
The fourth message is to the “unbelievers, mushrikun [idolaters, polytheists], atheists, and apostates” who oppose IS, or, in Abu Umar’s words, “wage war on God and His Prophet” by opposing “His slaves, the muwahideen [strict monotheists, i.e. IS], and fight against the Muslims’ State”. Abu Umar is plain that IS’s grievances are not to do with earthly matters like territory or wealth; the issue is theological and IS’s war will continue until the filth of shirk is swept away and the world makes the profession of Islamic faith: “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His messenger”. Abu Umar says God will enable IS to “restore the rule of Islamic shari’a to all lands from which mujahideen have withdrawn”. IS’s preferred way out of this war is that the unbelievers see sense and embrace Islam before they are exterminated, says Abu Umar, but IS is quite prepared for the alternative, of fighting and dying until the infidels get the point.
The fifth and final message is to “those who have been absent from the arena of jihad for a while”: IS’s supporters in the West. Abu Umar encourages them, as IS did shortly after it announced its caliphate, to attack Western civilians in any way they can, with knives, cars, and whatever else is to hand so that Western states are once again “filled with terror”. “Follow in their path”, Abu Umar urges, “choose your targets with care … Look for those which will hurt the crusaders and Jews the most”. Those who die in the attempt to murder Western civilians will attain the “highest levels of paradise”, says Abu Umar.
The IS spokesman says that, at the present moment, “the opportunity is ripe for you” because the West is distracted as “the Crusaders are fighting each other”, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The West is “slowly” being forced further into this war to confront a Russian government hellbent on a program to “restore the glory of the Soviet Union”, says Abu Umar. “We ask that God not allow this war’s fire to be extinguished, and that its flame not die out, until it burns up the worshippers of the Cross”, Abu Umar goes on: “We cannot say for certain that this is a Great War, but the signs [that it is] are clearly visible”. Unlike some other jihadist groups, who have tended to be pro-Ukraine—more precisely, anti-Russia—IS has taken a may-both-sides-lose line over the Russia-Ukraine War.
It is interesting that these threats from Abu Umar have not caused panic in the West, as such things used to. Doubtless this is because IS no longer has its caliphate and a stream of thousands of Western citizens joining its ranks, acquiring militant training they can bring home; and because the Russian war on Ukraine has brought a measure of perspective, with Russian fatalities in less than two months dwarfing those suffered by West forces in the two decades they were present in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It might also be added that what Abu Umar says is merely a reiteration of the status quo: it is not as if IS has ever stopped trying to launch attacks in the West, nor is it the case that these attacks in fact stopped. The last IS claimed attack in the West was in Austria in November 2020, but there was an IS attack in New Zealand in September 2021 and Britain has had a spate of attacks by terrorists who were at a minimum inspired by IS: the February 2020 knife attack in Streatham, the June 2020 stabbing spree in Reading, the assassination of MP David Amess in October 2021, and the bombing in Liverpool in November 2021. Then there are the March 2022 attacks in Israel, which the Israeli government has been keen to portray as “lone wolf” attacks, but at least one of which shows every sign of being coordinated by IS.
Returning to the subject of Israel, Abu Umar reiterates that IS is the only legitimate vehicle for eradicating the Jewish state. Without naming HAMAS or the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Abu Umar condemns them as fighting for unworthy causes. IS “pained the Jews” with the attacks in March, says Abu Umar, and there is “every difference between one who fights and is killed for the sake of God and … one who fights and is killed for the sake of false nationalistic slogans”.
Abu Umar concluded in traditional fashion by asking that God grant Islam (read: IS) victory and destroy the enemies of the faith.
 Ramadan in 2022 was between 1 April and 1 May (with variations in certain states).
 The title is from Qur’an 9:14 and can be variously translated as: “Fight Them; God Will Punish Them By Your Hands” or “Fight Them, and God Will Chastise Them At Your Hands”
 In Al-Naba 336, released on 29 April 2022, IS claimed that ISKP was in first place for casualties, having inflicted 147 in the week leading up to that issue of the newsletter, and its eleven “operations” in the same time period put it in fourth place by that metric.