Islamic State’s leader Baghdadi orders fighters to invade Turkey and hold their ground in Mosul
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called on his fighters to invade Turkey, as well as resist Iraqi forces poised to enter the city of Mosul, where he declared a “caliphate” two years ago.
“Do not retreat,” said a voice presented as belonging to the leader of the Islamic State group in an audio message released early Thursday by the IS-affiliated Al-Furqan media.
“Holding your ground with honour 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.
In a message that will chill Ankara, Baghdadi told Islamic State’s fighters to “unleash the fire of their anger” on Turkish troops fighting them in Syria, and to take the battle into Turkey.
“Turkey today entered your range of action and the aim of your jihad ... invade it and turn its safety into fear.”
Rumours have abounded about the Iraqi jihadist leader’s health and movements but his whereabouts are unclear.
In June 2014, days after jihadist fighters swept across swathes of Iraq, he made a rare public appearance in Mosul and announced the creation of an Islamic “state” straddling Iraq and Syria.
The “caliphate” has been shrinking steadily since last year and Iraqi forces earlier this week reached Mosul, the jihadists’ 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.
In Syria, the Islamic State is fighting Turkish-backed Syrian rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, US-backed Kurdish fighters as well as Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian army units loyal to Assad and foreign Shi’ite militias.
Baghadi told his followers to launch “attack after attack” in Saudi Arabia, targeting security forces, government officials, members of the ruling Al Saud family and media outlets, for “siding with the infidel nations in the war on Islam and the Sunna (Sunni Muslims) in Iraq and Syria.
Islamic State’s leader also said “the caliphate was not affected” by the death of some of its senior commanders, mentioning Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and Abu Muhammad al-Furqan, both killed earlier this year in US airstrikes.
“This raging battle and total war, and the great jihad that the state of Islam is fighting today only increases our firm belief, God willing, and our conviction that all this is a prelude to victory,” he said in the audio message.
Earlier this week, federal Iraqi forces reached the eastern edge of Mosul and on Wednesday were clearing the most recently reconquered areas to set up a breach of the city.
Gunfire echoed across the village of Gogjali on Mosul’s eastern edge as elite Iraqi forces worked to clear the area.
Civilians, who emerged cautiously from their homes, some carrying white flags, told tales of IS brutality.
“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,” said Yusef Fariq.
The 40-year-old farmer, speaking from his home in Gogjali and surrounded by his mother and two sons, still had the long beard IS militants forced him to grow.
“They were killing us, always asking for money, we couldn’t go anywhere. We went through hell,” his mother said.
Additional reporting by Reuters