Many Islamic State (ISIS) fighters have publicly pledged allegiance to the new caliphate. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), on November 30, 2022, the Islamic State (ISIS) spokesman Abu’ Umar Al-Muhajir announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Al-Hasan Al-Hashemi Al-Qurashi in battle and the appointment of a new leader, fourth since the inception of the organization, known as Abu Al-Husayn Al-Husayni Al-Qurashi.
Following the ISIS spokesman’s announcement that a new caliph had been appointed and his call for all Muslims to immediately swear allegiance to him, ISIS’s official media began to publish photos showing operatives in its various “provinces” gathering to perform the bay’ah (oath of allegiance) to the new caliph.
As of November 6, ISIS has released photo sets from the Islamic State’s Provinces of West Africa (ISWAP), Khorasan (ISIS-K), Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Sahel, Somalia, and Central Africa (ISCAP). ISWAP released three different photo sets from its areas of Al-Buhayrah, Al-Faruq, and central Nigeria. There also has been a series of photos showing fighters of ISIS performing the pledge of allegiance from Syria, Mozambique and Pakistan.
ISIS fighters in Pakistan
On December 6, ISIS released 14 photos of fighters in Pakistan armed with rifles and RPGs, performing the bay’ah in front of an ISIS banner in a mountainous area. The different groups are of various sizes and strengths of force; some consist of as few as two operatives gathered in bunkers or outdoors, while one large group numbers about 14 fighters.
According to counterterrorism experts, the ISIS base in Pakistan is “most possibly” located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), wherefrom seeds of jihad are being spread beyond Pakistan’s bordering nations, including India. Pakistani base of the Islamic State also maintains connections with ISIS franchises in Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
On December 5, ISIS’s Syria Province released 20 photos documenting bay’ahs pledged by its fighters to new ISIS leader Abu Al-Husayn Al-Husayni Al-Qurashi. The images show several groups, varying in size, presumably across the country, gathered outdoors or indoors, performing the oath of allegiance and congratulating one another afterwards.
Two particular photos show a group of five men, all masked and with faces digitally blurred, performing the oath. They all wear an explosive-laden belt, usually carried by top-tier leadership, reportedly to be used when capture is imminent.
ISIS’s Mozambique Province released six photos on December 6, showing one group of about 50 to 60 fighters, armed with rifles, in an outdoor area performing the bay’ah. The fighters appear in a large circle as a commander stands in the center to lead the oath of allegiance. An ISIS flag is placed in the Centre of the process.
Islamic State in Pakistan
The Islamic State: Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP) is an affiliate of the Islamic State militancy outfit in South Asian and Central Asia. Some media sources also use the terms ISK, ISISK, IS-KP, Daesh-Khorasan or Daesh-K in referring to the group. ISIS-KP has been active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Chinese Xinxiang Province, where they claimed attacks.
The group was created in January 2015 by the disaffected Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, although its membership includes individuals from various countries, notably Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. Its initial leaders, Hafiz Saeed Khan and Abdul Rauf Aliza, were killed by US forces in July 2016 and February 2015, respectively. Subsequent leaders have also been killed; its leader Abdullah Orokzai was captured in April 2020 by Afghanistan’s intelligence service. It is believed that the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) is maintaining deeper ties with ISIS-KP alongside other militancy outfits.
Around September 2014, ISIS sent representatives to Pakistan to meet with local jihadists, including some Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) factions, following months of discussions. At the same time, leaflets, flags and propaganda materials in support of ISIS began being distributed in parts of Pakistan, including PoK, pamphlets written in Pashto and Dari that called on all Muslims to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The leaflets were believed to have been printed and distributed from across the border in Afghanistan. In October 2014, former Taliban commander Abdur Rauf Khadim visited Iraq. Later, he returned to Afghanistan, recruiting followers in Helmand and Farah provinces. In the same month, 6 Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commanders, Hafiz Khan Saeed, official spokesman Shahidullah Shahid and TTP commanders of Khurram and Khyber tribal regions and Peshawar and Hangu districts had publicly defected from the TTP and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
On January 10 2015, these six individuals appeared in a video where they again pledged allegiance to Al-Baghdadi and nominated Hafiz Saeed Khan as the leader of their group. They were joined by other mid-level militant commanders, including representatives from Afghanistan’s Logar and Kunar Province and Pakistan’s Lakki Marwat. Shahidullah Shahid claimed that other jihadists from both countries supported the pledge of allegiance but could not attend the meeting in person. The members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian militants later joined the newly formed group.
As a “Province” of the core Islamic State, the group aims to take control of Central Asia and South Asia under the Khorasan Province banner of the self-declared caliphate. A map published by ISIS propaganda shows the Khorasan area stretching from Kazakhstan in the north to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the south and from eastern Iran in the west to western China in the east.