ISIS calls Covid-19 God's punishment for foes in audio tape

A man wearing a protective mask walks along a market street in Qamishli in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on March 22, 2020.
A man wearing a protective mask walks along a market street in Qamishli in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on March 22, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

CAIRO (REUTERS) - Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said the coronavirus pandemic was divine punishment for its enemies, according to an audio broadcast on Thursday (May 28), in which the militants also vowed more attacks.

The person on the tape, which was posted on one of the militants' websites but could not be verified by Reuters, identified himself as ISIS spokesman Abu Hamzah al-Quraishi.

"God, by his will, sent a punishment to tyrants of this time and their followers... which can't be seen by the naked eye," he said, in an allusion to the Covid-19 disease.

"Today, we are pleased for this punishment of God for you."

It was the Sunni Muslim group's third such tape since appointing Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as new leader following the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by US special forces in northwestern Syria late last year.

Quraishi urged ISIS fighters "everywhere to prepare whatever strength they could and be as hard as they could on the enemies of God and to raid their places," according to the tape.

"Don't let a single day pass without making their lives awful."

He gave no specific targets but mentioned countries where the group is active such as Syria and Iraq as well as western Africa.

ISIS has struggled to regroup and develop new strategy since the killing of Baghdadi. It lost its last significant piece of territory in Syria last year after already being defeated in Iraq.

The Sits Intelligence Group monitoring website said the tape looked authentic.

"ISIS spokesman echoes jihadi sentiment of Covid-19 being divine punishment," it said.