Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), called on followers to keep fighting in his first purported message in a year.
In an audio recording released by ISIL’s media outlet al-Furqan Foundation on Wednesday, Baghdadi referred to events that took place this month in the Middle East and elsewhere, including Turkey’s dispute with the United States over its detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
The audio was titled Give Glad Tidings to the Patient.
“You have no choice. If you want to live in dignity, then you return to your religion and fighting your enemy,” the Iraqi said, addressing followers in Syria.
“It is not only about carrying weapons, but also … do not accept anything but sharia law and die in order to achieve this,” he added in a 55-minute long message.
He also attacked the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for supporting the fight against his armed group.
“Supporters of the caliphate everywhere, in the media or in the field, we tell you the state is fine,” Baghdadi said, telling supporters not to worry about losing the cities they controlled in Syria and Iraq.
“America is going through the worst time in its entire existence,” he said, adding Russia is competing with the US over regional influence and clout.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the authenticity of the message.
He also criticised the surrenders of rebels in southern Syria to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, calling them traitors.
Baghdadi’s last speech was released in September 2017.
In 2014, he proclaimed a “caliphate” in Syria and neighbouring Iraq after his fighters rapidly routed government forces.