CAIRO (AP) — An Islamic State group spokesman has urged sympathizers in Europe and the U.S. to launch attacks on civilians there if they are unable to travel to the group's self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
In a 31-minute audio message released late Saturday by the IS media arm al-Furqan, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani told his followers that, "the tiniest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer to us than the biggest action by us ... there are no innocents in the heart of the lands of the Crusaders."
He encouraged lone wolf attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to start early next month, "to win the great award of martyrdom."
Al-Adnani also said the U.S.-led war against the group was doomed to failure and that America "fell in the swamp of perdition."
The speech may have been aimed at boosting morale after the group suffered a string of military setbacks and lost territory in both Iraq and Syria.
Last week, Brett McGurk, the U.S. presidential envoy to the 66-country anti-IS coalition, said that "this perverse caliphate is shrinking."
Addressing these losses, al-Adnani said that even if it was pushed out of its strongholds such as Raqqa and Mosul this would not count as defeat because "defeat is the loss of will and the desire to fight."
His mention of the possible loss of the Syrian city of Raqqa coincided with a secret trip to Syria on Saturday by army Gen. Joseph Votel, the new commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East. The U.S. is trying to develop credible Arab fighters to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State's self-declared capital.
Mosques in Raqqa broadcast an announcement that civilians would be allowed to leave the city, after earlier this week planes thought to belong to the international coalition dropped flyers on the city instructing residents to leave ahead of an offensive.
Al-Adnani cited Omar al-Shishani as one of the current leaders of the Islamic State group, indirectly denying a Pentagon report that in March an airstrike in Syria killed al-Shishani, described as the IS "minister of war."
Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report from Beirut.