The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
On October 27, 2019, following media reports that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), was killed in a raid by U.S. forces, supporters of the organization on social media express skepticism, stress the need to rely only on official ISIS outlets, and defiantly declare that jihad will continue, even if the news is true.
Following are examples of the reactions:
ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as filmed in his most recent video appearance, August 2019.
ISIS Followers Urged Not To Believe Reports
The pro-ISIS Quraysh Media outlet posted a notice urging followers not to trust any news source other than the official ISIS media outlets, while using the honorific "May Allah preserve him," when referring to Al-Baghdadi – which indicates that they believe that he is still alive. Their statement reads: "Arab and international media agencies have circulated 'news' about issues which concern the Islamic State. There have been widespread discussions confirming or rejecting this news.
"We emphasize that the commander of the believers – may Allah preserve him [Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi] – ordered to stick to news issued by the official organs of the State of the Caliphate and avoid anything else. The obligation to adhere to 'official' [ISIS media] was stressed repeatedly in Al-Naba' and Al-Bayyan Radio.
"We remind the brothers that these matters concern the State's leaders, not its general public. There must be confirmation. No information or statements that might help the enemy should be shared. We pray to Allah to humiliate the Crusaders and those who are in their camp."
The above notice was published by Quraysh Media.
A prominent media operative in the pro-ISIS online community, Khayr Al-Din Barbarosa, wrote: "A message to the new supporters, especially those confused about the truth of the martyrdom of the commander of the believers: Even if it is true, this is the main reason all of the jihad fighters set out for – martyrdom. The Messenger of Allah, may the blessing of Allah be upon him – died. So did Osama bin Laden, Abu Mus'ab [Al-Zarqawi], and Abu Omar [Al-Baghdadi]. The jihad will not stop when a certain person dies, even if he was the caliph himself. The important thing is that we verify the [truth of the] news before spreading it, and that we do not rely on the news of the infidels, who seek to spread false rumors in the hearts of the monotheists [ISIS followers] by any means. Verifyfirst of all.”
A pro-ISIS channel on Telegram wrote that the enemies of ISIS are wrong if they think that jihad is dependent on one man: "What the impure Crusaders do not understand with regard to the Muslims' creed, especially that of the jihad fighters, is that jihad in its entirety is not founded on men, but on creed. The creed does not die with the death or killing of men. If indeed Al-Baghdadi was killed – we pray to Allah to protect him – then the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing be upon him, died, and the Companions after him, yet Islam remained and its banner is still raised, and jihad shall continue until Judgment Day. The Islamic State shall remain, it shall disturb the lives of the infidels and punish the apostates..."
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Post by Khayr Al-Din Barbarosa
ISIS Supporter: If Al-Baghdadi Did Die, "Then He Achieved What He Hoped For"
Another ISIS supporter, Omar Al-Asir Al-Salafi expressed the defiant message that ISIS shall remain, regardless of whether Al-Baghdadi was in fact killed or not: "We say, and even if the news of the sheikh [Al-Baghdadi]'s martyrdom is true, will the jihad stop? Will the State come apart? Does ISIS fight for the sake of Al-Baghdadi, or [Abu Al-Hassan] Al-Muhajir or any other commander? Didn't sheikh [Abu Mus'ab] Al-Zarqawi, and Abu Omar [Al-Baghdadi] attain martyrdom? And [Abu Hamzah] Al-Muhajir and Abu Anas [Al-Shami]? Didn't [Omar] Al-Shishani, [Turki] Al-Bin'ali and [Abu Muhammad] Al-'Adnani attain martyrdom? Did ISIS come apart and did its sun set? Absolutely not, [I swear] by the Lord of Muhammad.
"If Abu Bakr [Al-Baghdadi] did attain martyrdom in the path of Allah, then he has achieved what he hoped for. Good for him! What a fine commander, worshipper, jihad fighter, pronouncer of monotheism he is. He did not fear the blame of blamers, suffice it for him that he did not accept any humiliation with regard to Allah's religion. If the sheikh has indeed attained martyrdom, then the Merciful One will appoint a commander like him for the Islamic State, may the Merciful One glorify and protect it and establish its soldiers firmly. To hell with all the apostate-vetted groups [militant Sunni groups in Syria], the infidel Crusaders, and the unbelieving atheists [the Kurdish forces]. The Islamic State was founded in the name of Allah, for the sake of Allah, to raise the banner of 'there is no God but Allah,' to instate the law of the Lord, and with the Merciful One's help it shall remain and expand as long as it sticks to the truth."
English-Speaking Outlets Reiterate Defiant Message
These defiant messages were reiterated for the benefit of English-speaking ISIS followers as well. For example, on October 27, 2019, a pro-ISIS English language Telegram channel called "Virtual Dawa," released a post stating that the strength of supporters does not rely on the individuals but on their faith in Allah alone, downplaying the importance of the Muslim leaders in contrast to the Muslim faith. The post compares the situation to the death of the prophet Muhammad. It should be noted, however, that the post doesn't explicitly mention Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The message reads: "The manifestation and continuation of this religion does not reside on the shoulders of people, not now, nor in the past. This even applies to the person of the prophet Muhammad. [...] We worship Allah alone! Our struggle is for His pleasure, we will remain on this path even if we are alone! Even if the strongest of winds blows it will not shake us, as our feet are well rooted in this religious methodology. As for those who are wishy-washy, rely on men and phases, and not on certainty and sure knowledge, their colors will soon show; never were they firm to begin with, they were nothing but worshipers of new trends. So we remain with the belief of the Prophets and Messengers."
Post by Virtual Dawah, pro-ISIS group on Telegram
Another pro-ISIS Telegram channel, which mostly publishes news items in English and French, released a short post warning supporters not to rush to conclusions regarding rumors of Al-Baghdadi's death, adding that sources in the area which reported on the raid did not mention Al-Baghdadi. The message reads: "I wouldn't rush to conclusion when it comes to the news of Al-Baghdadi killing. A lot of times these announcements are untrue. Multiple sources indicate that the raid targeted the house of Abu Muhammad Salaama in Barisha village in Idlib. No mention of Al-Baghdadi. ISIS will not deny, if indeed Al-Baghdadi was killed, the news of Prominent figure Al-Adnani's killing was reported through ISIS's official media at the time when it happened." In a later post, the same channel shared a message which also downplayed the importance of the news, stating that if Al-Baghdadi had indeed been killed it still would not change the situation on the ground. The message reads: "Let's say Al-Baghdadi was killed... Will that change the situation in the ground? Probably not. Al-Baghdadi although influential is but one person, the term Caliphate that ISIS promotes is not a temporary idea whereby if one person dies the whole term or ideology ends. Al-Baghdadi is not the first Jihadi leader to be killed if the news is verified, before him influential figures such as Bin Laden, Al-Zarqawi, Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi, Al-Muhajir, Al-Adnani, Al-Shishani were all killed, it didn't stop anything neither it changed the situation in the ground."
Several jihadi Telegram channels, including a pro-Al-Qaeda Telegram channel reporting on jihad in Syria, warned against following "rumors from the unbelievers," stating that it is currently "still not clear, who was targeted!" Along the same lines, an ISIS media operative shared a post and an image which imply that ISIS supporters should only follow official sources. The message reads: "The real supporter of the Caliphate state: The supporters of the Caliphate amplify the preaching of the Caliphate, having adopted the messages put out by its OFFICIAL MEDIA (NOT crusaders Media) and Strives to disseminate it far and wide."
Message urging ISIS followers not to trust media reports regarding Al-Baghdadi's death
 Last week, ISIS officially responded to recent developments in Syria and to president Trump’s remark regarding “endless wars.” See MEMRI JTTM reports In Response To President Trump's 'Endless Wars' Remark, Article In ISIS Weekly Says Fighters' Awareness Of Temporal, Spatial Dimensions Of Their Struggle Drives Their Enemies To Despair, October 27, 2019.
 Telegram.me/ Quraysh, October 27, 2019.
 Telegram.me/ Khayr Al-Din Barbarosa, October 27, 2019.
 Telegram.me/ Usoud Al-Khilafa, October 27, 2019.
 Telegram.me/ Usoud Al-Khilafa, October 27, 2019.
 Telegram, Virtual Dawa, October 27, 2019.
 Telegram, Freedom (independent), October 27, 2019.
 Telegram, Shaam Witness, October 27, 2019.
 Telegram, Kamikaze, October 27, 2019.