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ISIS leader releases rare audio message as Iraqi troops enter Mosul

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02:18 - Source: CNN
ISIS leader releases rare audio message (2016)

Story highlights

New tape, purportedly from ISIS leader, references recent events and urges fighters not to retreat

US military official says recording shows ISIS is losing ability to communicate with fighters

CNN —  

ISIS has released a rare audio message purportedly from leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, attempting to rally the terror group’s fighters as Iraqi troops enter the key city of Mosul.

Addressing the estimated 5,000 ISIS members holed up in the city, Baghdadi says that “holding your ground in honor is a thousand times better than retreating in disgrace.”

The tape, the first recording of Baghdadi released since late 2015, features the ISIS leader claiming to be “confident of victory” in Mosul, the group’s Iraqi stronghold, despite being vastly outnumbered by the approaching troops.

Battle for Mosul: Shia units cut off ISIS escape route

Released by ISIS’ media wing al-Furqan, the message has a vicious sectarian tone, with the animosity toward Shia Muslims and other, non-Muslim groups more pronounced than in previous recordings.

The voice, which CNN cannot independently verify as being that of Baghdadi, says that “God’s enemies from the Jews, Christians, atheists, Shiites, apostates and all of the world’s infidels have dedicated their media, money, army and munitions to fight Muslims and jihadists in the State of Nineveh after they witnessed it become one of the bases of Islam and one of its minarets under the Caliphate.”

Nineveh is an ancient name for the modern-day Mosul region.

The audio, nearly 32 minutes long, references Turkey’s massing of armaments along the Iraq-Turkey border, suggesting that the recording was made very recently.

Along with rallying ISIS-affiliated fighters across the globe, he warns jihadists against “conflict and disagreement.”

A US defense official said the Pentagon hasn’t confirmed the authenticity of the recording.

“But it is quite clearly an effort on the part of (ISIS) to communicate to their fighters,” spokesman Col. John Dorrian said. “This is probably excellent evidence that their command and control and ability to communicate directly with their fighters and control them has been severely reduced.”

US general: Fight for Mosul will get tougher

Previous appearances

The leader of the Islamist group first came into the public eye with a sermon delivered at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul in July 2014.

His whereabouts are unknown, with his location a matter of utmost secrecy for the terror group.

US officials have said that one scenario is that he has moved from one place to another within ISIS’ shrinking so-called caliphate to avoid detection – and that they would attack his location if they knew where he was.

ISIS leader Baghdadi may be on the move

ISIS has lost many figures from among its senior ranks in the past two years, mostly to US airstrikes, including official spokesman Mohammad al-Adnani in August.

The most recent audio message attributed to Baghdadi surfaced online in December 2015, mocking the Western coalition aligned against him, threatening Israel and trying to boost his own forces’ morale.

ISIS leaders may flee Mosul as their ranks are decimated