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ISIS is back: Terror group has more troops, Baghdadi speech emerges

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ISIS
A
new recording that purportedly features a speech from ISIS leader
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has emerged not long after reports revealed
the group has more fighters than previously
thought.

Reuters

  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State
    terrorist group, also known as ISIS, has reportedly released
    his first recorded speech in roughly a year and is calling on
    followers to wage “jihad,”
    Reuters reported on Wednesday
    .
  • Meanwhile, ISIS reportedly has far more fighters in
    Iraq and Syria than previously thought, according to recent
    reports. 
  • A recent United Nations report suggests ISIS has
    between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters in the region, nearly as
    many as it had at the height of its power in
    2015. 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist
group, has reportedly released his first recorded speech in
roughly a year and is calling on followers to wage “jihad,”

Reuters reported on Wednesday
.

This comes amid reports the Islamic State, also known as ISIS,
still has thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria despite the
collapse of its physical caliphate. Pentagon has also warned that
the terrorist group is “well-positioned to rebuild.”

Baghdadi has been reported killed or wounded on a number of
occasions but is now believed to be in hiding in
the Iraqi-Syrian border region. 

It’s difficult to verify whether the voice on the newly released
recording is indeed Baghdadi’s, but in it he purportedly stated,
“For the Mujahideen (holy warriors) the scale of victory or
defeat is not dependent on a city or town being stolen or subject
to that who has aerial superiority, intercontinental missiles or
smart bombs.”

This purported speech from Baghdadi urges ISIS followers to
persevere after a year full of major losses for the terror
group. 

Baghdadi’s last audio recording came in September. He urged his
followers to target “media centers of the infidels” and burn
their enemies.

It’s estimated ISIS has almost as many fighters as it did at the
height of its power

ISIS once controlled a large swath of territory across Iraq
and Syria that was
roughly the size of the state of Maryland
, but suffered major
loses over the past year or so fighting against the US-led
coalition and has retreated into the desert. 

With that said,
multiple recent reports
show ISIS has far more fighters than
previously thought. 

A report from Voice of America based on Pentagon data
released earlier this month suggests there are still 28,600 to
31,600 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. A separate report from a
United Nations panel of experts concluded that ISIS has
between 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in the region. 

To put this into perspective, ISIS had roughly 33,000
fighters at the height of its power in 2015 when it still
controlled a significant portion of territory and was a
self-styled caliphate. 

What’s more, a report from the Soufan Center released
in early July warned that ISIS was attempting to make a comeback
by employing a tactic it relied upon before its rise to power in
2014 –
the targeted assassinations of Iraqi security
personnel
.

‘ISIS remains a threat’

President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that his
administration had more or less defeated ISIS. In April, for
example, Trump
tweeted
, “the United States, under my Administration, has
done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our
‘Thank you America?'”

But such assertions appear to have been premature based on these
new revelations and recent comments made by US military
officials. 

Defense Secretary James Mattis in late June, for example, said
there’s still
“hard fighting ahead”
against the terror group. 

More recently, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson in
mid-August
told VOA
that ISIS is “well-positioned to rebuild and work on
enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge.”

“ISIS probably is still more capable than al-Qaida in Iraq at its
peak in 2006-2007, when the group had declared an Islamic State
and operated under the name Islamic State of Iraq,” Robertson
added. “ISIS remains a threat, and even one ISIS fighter is one
too many.”

ISIS is also active in Africa and Afghanistan 

ISIS has also established a footprint in Africa, and according to
recent data from the UN and researchers at the Combating
Terrorism Center at West Point, has as many as 9,000
fighters across the continent

Additionally, ISIS has become a serious threat in Afghanistan,
killing 34
students
in an attack on an educational center in Kabul just
last week. 

In short, despite significant coalition victories against the
terror organization over the past year, the fight against ISIS is
apparently far from over. 

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