The leader of ISIL Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has expressed confidence in victory in his first message after Iraqi forces started an offensive to retake Mosul from the jihadists.
In a recording purporting to be his voice, Baghdadi urged ISIL militants to fight to the death. He also called for attacks against so-called non believer regimes, naming Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
For audio message purporting to be from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi click here.
Rumours have abounded about the Iraqi jihadist leader’s health and movements but his whereabouts are unclear.
Latest unconfirmed reports say he is still in Mosul where in 2014, after jihadist fighters had swept across swathes of Iraq, Baghdadi declared the creation of an Islamic “state”.
Two years on and Iraqi forces were holding their positions on the eastern outskirts of Mosul as operations continued to take back the city.
Other troops were said to be headed towards the town of Hammam al-Alil, to the south of Mosul where aid groups claim ISIL has executed dozens of prisoners.
The offensive that began on October 17 with air and ground support from a US-led coalition and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters has so far made swift progress.
But retaking new parts remains a challenge as troops are under constant threat from ISIL sniper and mortar fire. Some troops have also been delayed by having to clear a path littered by explosive devices.
Even so as the offensive advances on three main fronts, families who live in the area are finally beginning to emerge from hiding.