The ISIS terrorist group has warned its operatives to avoid traveling to Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite previously urging supporters to attack European cities, The Sunday Times reported.
The latest ISIS-produced al-Naba newsletter contains quotes by the Prophet Muhammad and “sharia directives” urging its healthy members not to enter “the land of the epidemic” to avoid becoming infected and urging “the afflicted” not to “exit from it.”
The newsletter describes COVID-19 as a “plague” and a “torment sent by God on whomsoever he wills,” adding, “Illnesses do not strike by themselves but by the command and decree of God.”
It also instructs followers to “cover their mouths when yawning and sneezing” and to wash their hands regularly, and advises jihadists to flee from a person infected with the coronavirus “as you flee from the lion.”
The militant group based in Iraq asked its followers to have faith in God and fulfill the holy “obligation of taking up the causes of protection from illnesses and avoiding them.”
Ten people have died from the coronavirus in Iraq, where most of the surviving fragments of the group remain, while 124 cases have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the pandemic.
On Sunday, the Iraqi government imposed a week-long curfew in the capital Baghdad, which includes a suspension of all flights to and from Baghdad airport, and lasts from March 17 to 24, Reuters reported.
In Syria, where the terror group also remains active, officials have delayed parliamentary elections, shut schools, and canceled most public events to stop the spread of the virus. No cases of the virus have been reported in the country, which has been embroiled in civil war for nine years.
However, Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian doctors detected cases of the virus in Damascus and at least three other provinces but were under orders to keep it quiet, Reuters reported. Education minister Imad al-Azab has denied this.
“There are some saying that there are infections being hidden, but no government nor the ministry of health can cover up a disease,” he said. “If a disease is somewhere it wants to spread, so it’s very hard to hide it.”
The al-Naba newsletter has covered the coronavirus outbreak since its inception, and previously called it divine punishment for China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and insisted that the “the infidel government of China” is unable to cure or contain the virus.
“The real numbers for the dead and the ill are many times what they announced,” a previous ISIS news brief said, adding that China was “claiming the recovery and discharge of some patients with the disease… to reassure people, and to reduce the catastrophic effects.”
Italy has become the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe in recent weeks, with health officials reporting 368 new deaths from the coronavirus on March 15, raising the total to 1,809.
The country’s emergency agency said that more than 27,700 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the Wuhan coronavirus, have been confirmed so far. That figure includes people who have recovered, state-run ANSA reported.