Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urges his followers to "do their utmost" to free detainees in a purported new message from the ISIS leader. In the 30-minute audio recording released by Al-Furqan, the group's media branch, al-Baghadi asks how Muslims can enjoy life when Muslim women are being held in "prisons of humiliation run by Crusaders and their Shiite followers," the AP reports. Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and their families are being held in camps in Syria and Iraq. "Do not hesitate to pay ransom if you cannot free them by force, and attack their butchers," al-Baghdadi said, per the Washington Post. It's not clear when the message was recorded, but al-Baghdadi referred to an ISIS campaign carried out last month, according to the SITE Intelligence monitoring group.
The ISIS leader, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, is believed to be hiding out in the deserts of eastern Syria. This is the first alleged message from him since a video was released in April. In the message released Monday, he praised the group's actions in numerous countries and told followers to redouble their efforts, "whether in preaching or media or military or security." Hassan Hassan, director of the Nonstate Actors Program at the Center for Global Policy, tells the Wall Street Journal that al-Baghdadi made little mention of the West in his latest message. "This suggests that ISIS, like al-Qaeda and its offshoots since 2011, will increasingly focus on countries in the Middle East and the wider region, rather than on conducting attacks on the West," he says. (Read more ISIS stories.)