“Holding your ground with honour is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Isil released an audio message on Thursday morning apparently of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calling for his fighters not to retreat in Mosul, as Iraqi forces prepared to reclaim the city in a final assault.
If confirmed, it would be the first time the Isil leader had been heard from since he was thought to have been severely injured in an air strike on Mosul in March 2015. There were rumours he had been paralysed in that attack.
“Holding your ground with honour is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame,” he said in the message release early on Thursday morning by the Isil-affiliated Al-Furqan media.
“To all the people of Nineveh, especially the fighters, beware of any weakness in facing your enemy.”
He called on Isil supporters to fight the “enemies of God” and for the suicide fighters to “turn the nights of the unbelievers into days, to wreck havoc in their land and make their blood flow as rivers.”
It was widely reported last year after the air strike that the jihadist leader had suffered a bad spinal injury. Isil’s top leadership apparently held talks about who would replace him.
There were even reports – denied by the terror organisation – that he had been killed.
Just over two weeks into the offensive to retake the last Iraqi city under the control of Isil, the country’s forces have fought their way to the eastern outskirts of Mosul.
There were no signs on Wednesday of a major push inside Mosul itself and bad weather appeared to have limited operations, while forces on other fronts were still some distance from the city.
Gunfire echoed across the village of Gogjali on the eastern edge of Mosul on Wednesday as elite Iraqi forces worked to clear the area.
Civilians emerged with tales of brutality under Isil.
“They confiscated my tractor and then threw me in jail for six days. They beat me and when I got out I couldn’t do my work anymore,” Yusef Fariq told AFP.
Tags: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Baghdadi calling for his fighters not to retreat in Mosul, Al-Furqan media, brutality, Daesh, Gogjali, human rights, Iraqi forces, ISIL, ISIS, Islamic state, torture, war crimes