In his first audio message since December, self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told ISIS fighters who have steadily been losing ground since the start of the 17-day-old offensive on Mosul to hang in there as the coalition massing against them is part of their apocalyptic prophecy.
Baghdadi’s half-hour-long recording, titled “This is What Allah and his Messenger Have Promised Us” and released by ISIS’ Al-Furqan media, did not come with any video. It comes as reports have said the ISIS leader is trapped in Mosul and unable to flee the Iraqi army, while others note that ISIS’ supply pipeline to the west — leading to the Islamic State capital, Raqqa — is still open.
In fact, as Iraqi troops entered Mosul this week to find little resistance so far — and their losses have included an Iraqi jet killing dozens of ISIS commanders strategizing at a hotel swimming pool — Baghdadi reminded followers that Mosul isn’t an Islamic State capital, but a “minaret.”
He tells the “soldiers of the caliphate” to “be patient, stand firm against the U.S. Air Force and allies — they will be defeated.” He admonishes the jihadists to “hold the ground” and “don’t fight among yourselves.” Even though the offensive is led by the Iraqi army and Peshmerga, he frames it as an assault by “crusaders” and Jews.
He tried to stoke sectarian conflict in the offensive that has included Shiite militias.
Baghdadi appealed to Saudi Muslims, saying the caliphate is “your only hope” and calling on them to wage attacks against Saudi leaders, the media and police.
Last week, the State Department evacuated family members of those stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, citing “security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.” No other diplomatic posts in Turkey were affected and the consulate remains open.
U.S. citizens were warned to “avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country.”
In his message, Baghdadi noted that Turkey was afraid of being attacked by ISIS — the terror group previously issued warnings to Ankara after the government heeded international calls to crack down on the flow of foreign fighters and supplies crossing the Turkish border — but had now joined “the apostates to fulfill its greediness in Iraq and Syria.” He could have been referring to a controversial map appearing on Turkish TV that showed the country’s borders swallowing Mosul, Aleppo, Irbil and Kirkuk, like in Ottoman times. He also decried Turkey’s participation in the assault on Mosul.
The ISIS leader called on followers to “make it your objective” to “spread fear and terror in Turkey,” and also said they should target Turkish soldiers in Syria as they’re “equivalent to any dog.”
If those wanting to join ISIS can’t make it to Iraq or Syria, he said, they should head to Libya or other ISIS provinces around the globe. Libyan forces, though, have been gradually clearing ISIS’ onetime stronghold of Sirte and are expecting full liberation of the city soon. That has flushed terrorists into the desert.
Baghdadi addresses jihadists in the provinces, including Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Indonesia, Philippines, Sinai, Bangladesh, West Africa and North Africa, as the “base of the caliphate,” and warned that “kuffar [disbelievers] will try to split you.” He tells them to have patience and not be discouraged by the loss of leaders as they can be replaced.
Baghdadi acknowledged the August death of spokesman and Syria commander Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, then added that the caliphate “was not affected” by the loss.