The Islamic State (ISIS) group vowed on Tuesday to attack Russia and defeat it, as Moscow announced it had intensified its air campaign against jihadists in Syria.
“Russia will be defeated,” ISIS spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani said in a recording posted online and quoted by AFP, calling on “Muslims everywhere to launch jihad against the Russians and the Americans.”
ISIS seeks not only to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad but is also vying with Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front for jihadist supremacy in the country.
The comments on Tuesday came a day after the head of Al-Nusra also threatened Moscow, saying its air war would have dire consequences.
Russia said earlier on Tuesday its air force had hit 86 “terrorist” targets in Syria in the past 24 hours — the highest one-day tally since it launched its bombing campaign on September 30.
Among them, it said, were several ISIS targets.
In his statement, Adnani said the United States is weak and is using Russia and Assad’s other ally Iran to strengthen its position in Syria, claiming Washington is willing “to forge an alliance with the devil”.
In contrast, he said “the Islamic State is today stronger than ever”.
Using modern jets and older Soviet aircraft, Russia conducted its first airstrikes in Syria last week, and later ramped up its war by unleashing cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea.
Western governments say the vast majority of Russian strikes have targeted rebel groups other than ISIS in an attempt to defend President Bashar Al-Assad’s rule, despite claims from Russia it is targeting only ISIS.
After the first Russian strikes against the Homs and Hama districts of the country, an unnamed American official said the targets were “moderate” rebel groups fighting ISIS.