Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain and Lionel Messi of Barcelona have been threatened by Islamic State (ISIS) in a new propaganda photo.
The latest threat includes a photoshopped image of Neymar awaiting execution by a jihadist. Messi can be seen lying on the ground next to an ISIS flag. The caption on the image reads “you will not enjoy security until we live it in Muslim countries.”
The image which is the latest in a line of threats made against the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia was made and distributed by the pro-IS Wafa Media Foundation.
Neymar and Messi are both set to be two of the stars of the tournament, having qualified with Brazil and Argentina, respectively.
The threats against Messi have been taken seriously by the Argentina FootballAssociation, as the organisation’s president, Claudio Tapia, has met with the Russian ambassador to discuss safety measures for the tournament, according to the Daily Mirror. Tapia is worried about any potential threat to the team and their star player Messi.
ISIS in their shocking campaign had last week posted an image showing the World Cup symbol next to a masked man holding a submachine with the text ‘Wait for Us’.
They have swamped social media with an image of the rifle-carrying Jihadi and a bomb bearing the regime’s infamous black flag.
It stands in front of Volgograd Arena in Southern Russia football stadium. It appears to show a Russian jihadist, with many active in large swathes of Chechnya.
An official symbol of the finals is also included in the alarming promise to bring mayhem to the tournament. Another promises a massacre, saying: “Oh, enemies of Allah in Russia, I swear that the fire of the mujahideen (soldiers in the holy war) will burn them, just wait,”.
The competition is set to start on June 14 next summer and run until July 15, when the final will be held in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium. There are 11 host cities in Russia, with matches to be played at 12 different stadiums.
Argentina is just one of the countries set to take part in the finals next year, along with England. Tens of thousands of England fans are expected to base themselves in St Petersburg for the month-long finals.
Russia’s second largest city was the scene of a horrific ISIS attack when a briefcase bomb detonated on the underground in April, killing 14 people.
The blast was in retaliation for Russia’s airstrikes in Syria that have helped bring the regime to its knees.
Last week ISIS released another propaganda image featuring bullet-ridden photos of President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, inviting its followers to stage more attacks on the group’s two leading foes abroad.
The image, shared throughout pro-ISIS channels on the encrypted messaging application Telegram, featured an excerpt of a Quranic verse manipulated by the ISIS followers to urge fellow jihadis to take every opportunity to conduct deadly attacks in the U.S. and Russia.
Despite the jihadis suffering severe territorial losses to military campaigns sponsored by Moscow and Washington, the image also claimed that ISIS would overcome its enemies on the battlefield.
“Lie in wait for them at every chance to ambush,” the text reads beneath photos of Trump and Putin pasted to gun target practice sheets. “The Levant is the graveyard of the Russians and Americans.”
Thousands of Russians from mainly central Asia have travelled to the Middle East to fight for ISIS. Experts in Moscow believe around 2,400 joined the regime in 2015 alone.
Islamic extremism is a concern for Putin, said Ian Brzezinski, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
“Despite his government’s defence doctrines stating that the US and NATO is Russia’s greatest threat, I have always felt that Putin regards Islamic extremism to be the most immediate threat,” Brzezinski said.
“Putin cut his teeth destroying the Chechens.
“He regarded their rebellion as a manifestation of Islamic extremism.
“He also bolstered his own personal popularity in Russia by demonising the Chechens as Islamic terrorists and by brutally crushing them.”