04:43 GMT04 July 2020
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    Daesh has ramped up attacks on both security forces and civilians in remote rural areas of Iraq while the local government is focusing its efforts on tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

    Daesh* has published a new tape praising the COVID-19 pandemic as God's "punishment" for its foes.

    The authenticity of the 39-minute speech has yet to be verified, although it came from the Sunni terrorist group's main media arm, which publishes its propaganda, including video messages.

    The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist online activity, also said the tape looked authentic.

    The voice on the time is purportedly of Daesh spokesperson Abu Hamzah Al-Qurashi, who last spoke on 27 January, mocking the Iraqi government and threatening Israel.

    "God, by his will, sent a punishment to tyrants of this time and their followers ... which can't be seen by the naked eye," the speaker said in the newly-released tape, according to a Reuters translation. "Today, we are pleased for this punishment of God for you."

    The voice also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has distracted the West from Daesh and urged the group's militants "everywhere to prepare whatever strength they could and be as hard as they could on the enemies of God and to raid their places".

    The speech went on to attack the Afghan militant group Taliban for reaching a deal with the United States and criticised Muslim countries for shutting down mosques to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    As journalist and co-author of 'ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror' Hassan Hassan points out, Daesh did not mention Saudi Arabia for the first time and instead put "unprecedented" focus on Qatar for financing US-backed tribal militia that fought al-Qaeda in Iraq and welcoming the country's new Shia government.

    Daesh has struggled to regroup since it was all but eradicated in Iraq in 2017 and lost its last stronghold in Syria last year. In addition, the group's longtime leader al-Baghdadi was killed in a US raid in Syria in October 2019. However, the terrorists ramped up their attacks in remote rural areas of Iraq in the past month as the local government is absorbed in combating the pandemic.

    "The Islamic State group has been moving the fighting from Syria to Iraq ... (and) is strengthening, both financially and militarily,” the head of Norway’s forces in Iraq said this month.

    The broadcast was released just days after the group's head of Iraq operations was killed in a airstrike in Syria.

    *Daesh, aka IS/ISIS/Islamic State, is a terror organisation outlawed by Russia, the United States and numerous other countries.

    Tags:
    attack, Sunnis, terrorist, coronavirus, COVID-19, Daesh
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