ISIL leader urges followers to keep fighting in new recording

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi tells supporters not to worry about losing cities previously held by armed group in a rare speech.

    ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivers a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance [AP]
    ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivers a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance [AP]

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), called on followers to keep fighting in his first purported message in a year.

    In an audio recording released by ISIL's media outlet al-Furqan Foundation on Wednesday, Baghdadi referred to events that took place this month in the Middle East and elsewhere, including Turkey's dispute with the United States over its detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

    The audio was titled Give Glad Tidings to the Patient.

    "You have no choice. If you want to live in dignity, then you return to your religion and fighting your enemy," the Iraqi said, addressing followers in Syria.

    "It is not only about carrying weapons, but also ... do not accept anything but sharia law and die in order to achieve this," he added in a 55-minute long message.

    He also attacked the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for supporting the fight against his armed group.

    "Supporters of the caliphate everywhere, in the media or in the field, we tell you the state is fine," Baghdadi said, telling supporters not to worry about losing the cities they controlled in Syria and Iraq.

    "America is going through the worst time in its entire existence," he said, adding Russia is competing with the US over regional influence and clout.

    Al Jazeera could not independently verify the authenticity of the message.

    He also criticised the surrenders of rebels in southern Syria to President Bashar al-Assad's forces, calling them traitors.

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    Baghdadi's last speech was released in September 2017.

    In 2014, he proclaimed a "caliphate" in Syria and neighbouring Iraq after his fighters rapidly routed government forces.

    'Absolutely eradicated'

    In recent months, ISIL has suffered military setbacks and lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq, though fighters continue to control pockets in both countries.

    Baghdadi's whereabouts and actual fate remain unknown, with occasional reports suggesting he had been killed. He is believed to be hiding somewhere in the desert that stretches across the Syrian-Iraqi border region.

    His son was reportedly killed while fighting Syrian and Russian troops in central Homs province in July.

    US President Donald Trump recently said ISIL had been "absolutely eradicated", but several reports suggest otherwise.

    "Despite the damage to bureaucratic structures of the so-called 'caliphate', the collective discipline of ISIL is intact," said a July 27 report commissioned by the UN Security Council. "The general security and finance bureaus of ISIL are intact."

    The Pentagon said in a recent report as many as 17,100 ISIL fighters remain in Iraq and 14,000 in Syria.

    The UN estimated of 20,000 to 30,000 ISIL cadres are still in both countries. 

    Is ISIL finished for good?

    Inside Story

    Is ISIL finished for good?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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