A ten-minute audio tape attributed to the Taliban’s Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada appeared on 30 October, the first such communication since the jihadist takeover of Afghanistan in August. Hailed as Akhundzada’s “first public appearance” or his decision to step into “the limelight”, the reality is more complicated. Continue reading
Almost exactly a year ago, the British government announced the first lockdown to counter the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and around the same time such measures were adopted in almost every other country. With Britain having now vaccinated nearly half the country, including all of the most vulnerable, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson having set out a timetable for the lifting of restrictions, it is possible to think of the post-COVID 19 situation and to wonder about how or if it will be different to what came before. Continue reading
After trailing the release yesterday, an audio statement from the Islamic State (IS) spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, was published by Al-Furqan Foundation today. It is entitled, “And the Disbelievers Will Know Who Gets the Good End”, i.e. heaven. The title is taken from a sura of the Qur’an [Ra’d (13):42]. The speech gloated about the damage the coronavirus has done to the West, presenting it as God’s revenge for the Coalition dislodging IS from the cities it had occupied in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere. There is the usual focus on anti-IS Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, who are warned that the U.S. is pulling back, thus those who bet on the U.S. for protection need to reassess or they will be killed. The two most significant parts of the speech are: (1) its focus on IS’s expansion in Africa, a visible fact for some time now, and the competition with Al-Qaeda in that area; and (2) the closing few minutes where Abu Hamza agitates against Qatar, a state that IS has never bothered with before in its messaging.