CAIRO (AP) — The Islamic State group on Thursday released what it said was a new audio recording of its top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he vows to continue fighting and lavishes praise on his jihadis despite their loss of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Mosul was liberated from IS extremist in July after a months-long operation by Iraqi forces, backed by US-led coalition.
The recording by al-Baghdadi was released by the IS-run al-Furqan outlet. The voice in the over 46-minute-long audio sounded much like previous recordings of the reclusive IS leader, who has only appeared in public once.
The last previous purported message from al-Baghdadi was released in November, also an audio recording.
Much controversy surrounds the shadowy cleric who has been running IS since the terror group emerged from al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Russian officials said in June there was a “high probability” that al-Baghdadi had died in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremist group. But US officials later said they believed he was still alive.
IS has suffered a number of major setbacks in Iraq and Syria in recent months. At the peak of its territorial gains, IS controlled about a third of both Syria and Iraq.
“This predicament is a generous gift from God,” he told his followers.
In Thursday’s recording, al-Baghdadi sought to console his followers over their recent defeats, saying the top priority for Muslims is to “satisfy” God.
“Victory against their enemies and the enemy of God comes next,” he said, and lauded what he called his fighters’ valiant defense of Mosul.
He also cited as a sign of continuing effectiveness of the militant group attacks claimed by IS in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.
He also called on IS followers across the world to continue their jihad and urged Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority not to accept the rule of the country’s minority Alawites, whose faith is a branch of Shiite Islam.
Syria’s government forces, their allies and other forces fighting IS, he said, would “not last an hour” without the air cover provided by the Russians and the Americans, he said.