The leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has expressed confidence in victory as Iraqi forces entered the city of Mosul where he declared a “caliphate” two years ago.
“This … total war and the great jihad that the Islamic State is fighting today only increases our firm belief, God willing, and our conviction that all this is a prelude to victory,” said a voice purporting to be that of Baghdadi lreleased early on Thursday by the IS-affiliated Al-Furqan media. “Do not retreat … Holding your ground with honour is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame,” he said in the message, his first since December 2015. “To all the people of Nineveh, especially the fighters, beware of any weakness in facing your enemy,” Baghdadi said, referring to the northern Iraqi province of which Mosul is the capital. The audio message does not refer to Mosul specifically. In his latest message, which is undated but refers to the death of a senior Isis leader, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani who was killed in Syria in August, Baghdadi calls for attacks against Saudi Arabia – a favourite target of his – and Turkey. Ankara has troops stationed at a base just outside Mosul and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s escalating rhetoric has raised fears of a unilateral Turkish intervention in Iraq.