By Michael S. Smith II

On 15 February 2015, Islamic State propagandists circulated via Twitter links to a gruesome, 5-minute video, titled “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”

The message is delivered in English, with Arabic subtitles, by a terrorist who claims to be sending it from Libya. In it, after a large group of prisoners are beheaded, he asserts, “we will conquer Rome.”

Rush transcript:

On screen text advises the video is filmed on “The Coast of Wilayat Tarabulus by the Mediterranean Sea.”

A long line of prisoners donning orange jumpsuits are paraded along the shoreline on a beach by masked men dressed in black.

The men are forced to kneel. The following text is then run with footage of them kneeling:

“The people of the cross, the followers of the hostile Egyptian Church.”

Standing with his back to the sea, the only terrorist in different dress — a khaki military uniform similar to those worn by the terrorists filmed murdering Jordanian pilot Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh — delivers the following message:

All praise is due to Allah, the strong and mighty. And may blessings and peace be upon the ones sent by the sword as a mercy for the worlds.

O people, recently you’ve seen us on the hills of al-Sham, and on that of [inaudible], chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross delusion for a long time, filled with spite against Islam and Muslims. And today, we’re on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message:

O Crusaders, safety for you will be only wishes, especially when you’re fighting us all together. Therefore, we will fight you all together, until the war lays down its burdens, and Jesus, peace be upon him, will descend, breaking the cross, killing the swine and abolishing jiziyah. And the sea you’ve hidden Sheikh Usama bin Laden’s body in, we swore to Allah we will mix it with your blood.

The following footage highlights the beheadings of the prisoners.

Onscreen text states:

“They supplicate what they worship and die upon their paganism.”

“This filthy blood is just some of what awaits you, in revenge for Camelia and her sisters.”

Turning toward the sea with his knife raised, the masked jihadi wearing a khaki uniform concludes the message:

And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him.

Video concludes with blood flowing into the waves.

There are several key themes which IS Libya propagandists are utilizing to appeal to jihadis in Libya and beyond:

Hatred of the Italians for their “occupation” of Libya and for one of their political figures mocking the Prophet in 2006. As became clear during the Libyan Revolution, both in the rants of Ayman al-Zawahiri and in the messages of jihadis active inside Libya, the decade-long jihad waged against Italian colonialists by the so-called “Lion of the Desert,” Sidi Umar al-Mukhtar, one of the Sanusiyya’s military commanders who was hanged on 18 September 1931, features prominently in the minds of Libyan jihadis and the jihadist ideologues who are trying to influence them. Also, during the Libyan Revolution, protesters designated February 17 a “day of rage.” It is the anniversary of the 2006 clashes in Benghazi in which Qadhafi’s security forces killed protestors who attacked the consulate of former colonial power Italy after the Italian cabinet minister donned a T-shirt featuring recently published Danish cartoons of the founder of Islam. The date was also commemorated with the naming of the Benghazi-based February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade militia.

Like the recent attack in Tripoli, which was referred to by IS as a battle in the name of deceased al-Qa’ida operative Abu Anas al-Libi, this material is intended to appeal to jihadis who laud the legacies of al-Qa’ida figures. In this material, the message notes that IS Libya operatives will achieve revenge for the killing of bin Laden. In effect, IS Libya is trying to portray itself as the defender of the legacies of major Global Jihad figures as a means to attract support from other jihadis in the country, and beyond.

Finally, for jihadis, the importance of defending the faith by erasing the influence of other faiths from “historically Muslim lands” — and the world. Essentially, IS Libya is conveying that, although Christian leaders have spoken out against those who have mocked the Prophet, this is anathema to their concerns. Accordingly, Christians are practicing “paganism.” And they are thereby legitimate targets for the group’s aggression — or what they may call their “defensive jihad” against the “Zionist Crusaders.”

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