Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State has urged his fighters to hold their ground as Iraqi forces closed in on Mosul, the last urban stronghold of the dreaded terrorist group in the country.
It was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's first statement since Iraqi forces launched a massive offensive on October 17 to retake the city, where the IS chief declared the group's "caliphate" two years ago.
"Do not retreat, holding your ground with honour is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame." Baghdadi said in a purported audio message released by an IS-affiliated group.
“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.
If authentic, the recording entitled "This is what God and his messenger have promised us", would be Baghdadi's first since December 2015 and a rare sign of life.
Rumours have swirled about the Iraqi jihadist leader's health and movements but his whereabouts are unclear.
In his latest message, which is undated but makes reference to events that are at most a few weeks old, Baghdadi also calls for attacks against Saudi Arabia - a favourite target - and Turkey.
Baghdadi also said that his followers who could not travel to Syria or Iraq should aim for Libya and urged all IS fighters to remain united in adversity.
(With inputs from PTI)