ISIS on Thursday released what it says is 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 ISIS extremist in July after a months-long operation by Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition.
The recording by al-Baghdadi was released by the ISIS-run al-Furqan outlet. The voice in the over 46-minute-long audio sounded much like previous recordings of the reclusive 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 ISIS 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 U.S. officials later said they believed he was still alive.
ISIS has suffered a number of major setbacks in Iraq and Syria in recent months. At the peak of its territorial gains, ISIS controlled about a third of both Syria and Iraq.
“This predicament is a generous gift from God,” the man alleged to be al-Baghdadi told his followers.
Praises attacks in Europe, U.S.
In Thursday’s recording, he 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 defence of Mosul.
He also cited as a sign of continuing effectiveness of the militant group attacks claimed by ISIS in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.
He also called on ISIS 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 Shia Islam.
Syria’s government forces, their allies and other forces fighting ISIS, he said, would “not last an hour” without the air cover provided by the Russians and the Americans, he said.