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BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group's spokesman said its fighters are ready to battle a U.S.-led military coalition, casting it as a historic clash between Muslims and their enemies and calling for attacks at home and abroad.
Abu Mohammed al-Adnani's 42-minute audio statement, which appeared to be a rallying cry, was the group's latest response to efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama to form a global coalition against it.
He said the group welcomed the possibility of a ground war with the U.S., and he called on Muslims worldwide to kill civilians of nations that join the coalition.
"Oh, believer, do not let this battle pass you by wherever you may be. You must strike the soldiers, patrons and troops of the tyrants. Strike their police, security and intelligence members," al-Adnani said in the statement released Sunday.
"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be."
Militants in Algeria seized a French citizen on Sunday and later issued a statement saying it was in response to al-Adnani's appeal. In a video that appeared on social media, a masked member of an al-Qaida splinter organization calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, said he would kill his captive within 24 hours if France did not withdraw from the coalition seeking to destroy the Islamic State group.
While Islamic State loyalists frequently warn that their Western fighters will one day return to wreak havoc in their own countries, they do not typically call for militant attacks abroad, preferring to focus on expanding the territory under their control in Iraq and Syria.
Despite the abduction in Algeria, it was unlikely that all but a few Muslim extremists would heed al-Adnani's call. Most Muslims do not follow the extreme interpretation of Islam that the militant group advocates.
American and French warplanes have been carrying airstrikes against the group in Iraq since August, and Washington says some 40 countries will take part in the alliance. The U.S. is also planning to train up to 5,000 Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia to be used in conjunction with potential U.S. airstrikes in Syria.
Perhaps tapping into fears among Americans of the mission broadening, al-Adnani vowed the U.S. would be "drawn and dragged" into a ground war. "It will come down to the ground and it will be led to its death, grave, and destruction. ... Know that our knife is sharp and hard. It cuts off the hands and strikes the necks."
Al-Adnani promised that the expected battle against the U.S. alliance would be the final chapter of a war that he cast as centuries old, dating to the Medieval Crusades. He also appeared to try tap into regional anger toward Israel by claiming that the alliance was formed only to protect Jews.
Islamic State fighters appear to have readied for airstrikes on their self-declared capital in the northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa, melting among civilians and sending away their wives and children. But they have also openly defied the threat of airstrikes by launching an attack on the Kurdish area of Kobani in northern Syria, forcing the flight of tens of thousands of Kurds.
The statement was released in Arabic by the Islamic State group's media arm, Al-Furqan, and appeared on militant sites used by the group. The speaker sounded like that of previous recordings attributed to al-Adnani.
Al-Adnani is the nom de guerre of a senior Islamic State group leader born as Taha Sobhi Falaha in Syria.
In late June, al-Adnani formally declared the establishment of a caliphate, or Islamic state, under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide. His July 30 call for Muslims to flock to the self-declared Islamic State has gone mostly unheeded.
The latest audio recording is part of the Islamic State's relentless outreach to potential followers, as it combines the harshness of a puritan state with modern trappings. The group produces slickly made videos of beheadings and mass killings — but also a family-style glossy magazine in English that says only trained doctors are used to cut off the hands of thieves.
Youssef reported from Cairo. Bassem Mroue contributed reporting from Beirut and Adam Schreck from Cairo.
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