The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”) is the latest group to urge its followers to steer clear of coronavirus-hit Europe. In the latest issue of its al-Naba newsletter, the terror group issued a travel advisory to avoid Europe, described as “the land of the epidemic.”
"The healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it…” the group urged its operatives. "The real numbers for the dead and the ill are many times what they announced," the advisory continued.
The newsletter also contained a set of “religious directives” advising how to avoid spreading the coronavirus. The list included advice similar to that being issued by the World Health Organization (“WHO”), instructing followers to “wash your hands before eating,” and to “cover their mouths when yawning and sneezing.”
The newsletter advised readers to flee from a person infected with the coronavirus “as you flee from the lion.” It also referred to coronavirus as a “plague” which is a “torment sent by God on whomsoever He wills,” adding: “Illnesses do not strike by themselves but by the command and decree of God.”
The January arrival of coronavirus in China was initially celebrated by ISIS. The terrorist group claimed that the "death and terror" befalling China was punishment for that nation’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in prison camps.
A propaganda poster distributed by ISIS-linked media organization Quraysh was titled: "China: coronavirus.” It read, "A promise is a debt we must not forget."
In the last month, however, the terror group began to change its rhetoric. In the February edition of al-Naba, it said that while "many Muslims rushed to confirm that this epidemic is a punishment,” the world is "interconnected" and admitted coronavirus was a threat to its followers.
Now, in its latest newsletter, the extremist Islamic group is urging followers to "seek help from God Almighty to avoid illness and keep it away from their countries.”
It says "the counsel to put trust in God and seek refuge in Him from illnesses" and "the obligation of taking up the causes of protection from illnesses and avoiding them" should be particularly noted in preventing infection.
Although ISIS has nearly lost control of its entire area of influence, it remains active in Iraq and Syria. As of Sunday morning, Iraq has 110 reported coronavirus cases, ten of them fatal, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the contagion.
Syria has not reported any cases of coronavirus. However, with its healthcare system in ruins after years of civil war, it is possible that cases are going undetected.
Iran is the worst-affected country in the region, with at least 14,000 reported coronavirus cases and 724 of them fatal. Recently-revealed satellite images suggest mass graves are being dug in the city of Qom, to house the bodies of victims.
Europe, however, is the epicenter of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Italy has reported 24,747 infections, second highest in the world after China. On Sunday, the nation reported 2,547 new infections and 368 deaths, the highest number of deaths in a single day since the outbreak began.
In Spain, the number of coronavirus infections have reached 7,753, half of them in Madrid. France has reported 5,499 infections.
To date, the United States has reported 3,244 coronavirus infections and 62 deaths related to the outbreak.