Coronavirus: ISIS urges terrorists to steer clear of Europe

Islamic State (IS) is urging its followers to steer clear of coronavirus-stricken Europe - a continent it has dubbed "the land of the epidemic".

The terrorist organisation, which initially claimed COVID-19’s rise was "a punishment from God Almighty", is now worried that it poses a threat to their supporters.

"The healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it," IS urged members in its latest issue of weekly newsletter al-Naba.

"The real numbers for the dead and the ill are many times what they announced."

The January arrival of coronavirus in China was celebrated enthusiastically by IS. The terrorist group claimed the "death and terror" on the rise there was punishment for the Asian nation’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in prison camps.

"China: coronavirus," a propaganda poster disseminated by IS-linked media organisation Quraysh read. "A promise is a debt we must not forget."

However last month, IS started to change its tune. Writing in a 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.

While IS members may be steering clear of Europe, they are still operating in a number of areas known to be infected with coronavirus.

Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Egypt, and the Philippines have all reported cases of COVID-19. Syria and Yemen, two areas with IS bases, are yet to have seen an outbreak.