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Baghdadi says no Mosul retreat in audio message

‘Holding your ground with honor is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame,’ ISIS leader said in the message

Published: Updated:

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called on his fighters to resist as Iraqi forces were poised to enter the city of Mosul. “Do not retreat,” said a voice presented as belonging to the leader of ISIS in an audio message released early Thursday by the ISIS-affiliated Al-Furqan media.

“Holding your ground with honor is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame,” he said in the message, his first in more than a year. “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.

Rumors have abounded about the leader’s health and movements but his whereabouts are unclear. ISIS control has been shrinking steadily since last year and Iraqi forces earlier this week reached Mosul, the militants’ last major stronghold in Iraq.

The US-led coalition estimates there are 3,000 to 5,000 IS fighters inside the city but the final outcome of the battle appears to be in little doubt. Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces, backed by the US-led coalition and its warplanes, launched a massive offensive on Mosul on October 17.