04/30/2019, 00.00
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Card Sako: Baghdadi trying to fuel wars and tensions

After months of silence, the leader of the Islamic State group issued a video message yesterday, praising attacks the Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka and pledging to continue the jihad in the Middle East and Africa. For the Chaldean Patriarch, Muslim authorities have the task and responsibility to defeat this ideology.

Baghdad. (AsiaNews) – This kind of message comes "in general in conjunction with the Ramadan period", the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer. In all likelihood, the goal is to fuel "wars and tensions in the region,” said Chaldean Patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako speaking to AsiaNews. With the West increasingly "secular and ever less attentive to spiritual and moral values,” this is an attempt to "sow terror everywhere".

The head of Iraq’s Chaldean Church was reacting to a message by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq. In the video, posted by IS-linked media, Baghdadi, the self-styled caliph swore to exact vengeance after losing his territorial base in Syria and Iraq over the past two years.

For the cardinal, Islamic radicals are sending the message that "no one can guarantee the safety of places of worship and people". In fact, whilst “IS might have been defeat militarily, armed gangs and affiliates will continue everywhere, driven by an ideology that has certainly not been eradicated. One person alone is enough to kill many others."

After a rapid rise in the second half of 2014 and in 2105 in Syria and Iraq, conquering large swathes of their territories, which it ruled committing serious crimes against humanity, IS progressively lost ground. Today the group controls a small area along the border between the two countries; however, their ideology is alive and well, and military defeat has not erased the threat it poses.

A 25-million-dollar bounty hangs over Baghdadi. More than once, he was thought dead or wounded. In the video, posted on IS’s al-Furqan media network, the IS leader admits defeat in Baghuz. He also claims that the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka are retaliation for the fall of IS’s last stronghold in Syria.

The clip was apparently shot this month, but nothing can confirm the date. US analysts and experts are working to ascertain its veracity.

The video also shows Baghdadi says he’s received pledges of allegiance from militants in Burkina Faso and Mali, and talks about the protests in Sudan and Algeria - claiming that jihad is the only solution to "tyrants". His image disappears towards the end of the video and an audio recording of him discussing the Sri Lanka attacks is played.

For Card Sako, "The Islamic radical ideology is still widespread and enjoys the support, even financial, from different people. The jihadist vision is infused with revenge and denies spiritual values.”

The extremists' way of thinking is based "on 7th century texts rather than on the status quo" and, in this context, places of worship become a privileged target.

“Muslim authorities have the task and the responsibility to defeat this ideology, which is based on a rigid interpretation of Islamic law and imposes violence everywhere."

Conversely, for the Chaldean prelate, "A culture of respect, freedom and dialogue must be promoted. It is necessary to respect life and the common good, the full development of the people and groups that make up society."

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