GOGJALI, Iraq,, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 03rd Nov, 2016 ) - The reclusive leader of the Islamic State group broke a nearly year-long silence as Iraqi forces closed in on Mosul Thursday, urging his jihadists to hold their ground. It was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's first statement since Iraqi forces launched a massive offensive on October 17 to retake Mosul, where the IS chief declared the group's "caliphate" two years ago. "Do not retreat," Baghdadi said in a purported message released by an IS-affiliated outlet.
"Holding your ground with honour is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame." 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 the outskirts of Mosul, the jihadists' last major stronghold in Iraq.
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. IS has fallen back when massively outnumbered in recent battles, giving up some of its emblematic bastions -- such as Fallujah in Iraq and Dabiq in Syria -- without following its own apocalyptic ideology of fighting to the bitter end.