Islamic State leader speaks in public


Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his first purported speech in nearly a year, called on followers to fight on despite recent defeats, according to an audio recording posted on the group’s media outlet.

In the 55-minute statement, Baghdadi congratulated what he described as the “striking lions” behind recent attacks in Canada and Europe and called on followers to use bombs, knives or cars to carry out attacks.

Baghdadi offered greetings to Muslims for Eid al-Adha, a feast celebrated this week, suggesting the message was recorded recently.
“For the Mujahideen the scale of victory or defeat is not dependant on a city or town being stolen or subject to that who has aerial superiority, inter-continental missiles or smart bombs,” Baghdadi said in a recording in Arabic posted by his al-Furqan media group.
“Oh Caliphate soldiers…. trust in God’s promise and His victory… for with hardship comes relief and a way out,” he added, addressing followers in cities in Syria.

Reuters was unable to verify whether the voice on the recording was Baghdadi’s.

Islamic State, which until last year controlled large areas in Syria and Iraq, has been driven into the desert by defeats in offensives by international allies in both countries.

Baghdadi, who declared himself ruler of all Muslims in 2014 after capturing Iraq’s main northern city Mosul, is now believed to be hiding in the Iraqi-Syrian border region after losing all his self-proclaimed caliphate.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for attacks around the world, including a July 22 shooting in Toronto that left two people dead and 13 wounded. Canadian police had no evidence so far to support the claim.

Baghdadi also called on Iraqi followers to keep up attacks against Shi’ite Muslims and what he described as apostates — a reference to Sunni Muslims fighting against his group.

He called on followers to remain loyal to the leaders of his movement and urged citizens of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan to overthrow their rulers.

The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since leading his fighters on a sweep through northern Iraq. His whereabouts are not known but Wednesday’s message suggests he is alive.

One of his sons was reported killed in Homs in Syria, the group’s news channel reported earlier this year.

Baghdadi warned Idlib province in Syria was about to fall as Russia and Syrian government forces are preparing to invade it. Idlib is in the last swathe of territory still held by rebels opposed to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

In June, the United Nations’ regional humanitarian co-ordinator warned Islamic State and other militant groups were mingled with the population in Idlib, making it a “highly explosive” situation.