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A day after Iraq said its forces had re-entered the last ISIS-held city in the country, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi emerged Wednesday with a statement calling on supporters to spread their attacks to other countries.
The 30-minute message, titled "This Is What Allah and His Messenger Had Promised Us," was the first official statement from the terrorist leader since last December.
With Iraqi special forces having advanced Tuesday into Mosul, the only Iraqi city still in ISIS' hands, al-Baghdadi sought to portray gains by the anti-ISIS coalition as a victory, contending that the sheer number of forces opposing ISIS proves just how strong it really is, according to an analysis by Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm and NBC News consultant.
The "comprehensive war" launched by Iraq, the United States and their allies "only increases our solid faith and steadfast certainty, that all of this is but an introduction to the victory and sign of the [future] that Allah has promised His servants," he said, according to Flashpoint.
Flashpoint said the message had been recorded recently, noting that it made reference to two ISIS officials whose deaths were confirmed last month.
Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition supporting the Iraqi operation to retake Mosul, said Thursday that coalition forces had not verified the authenticity of the Baghdadi audiotape, but that it reflected a "severely reduced" line of communication between ISIS commanders and their fighters.
"Baghdadi is saying don't fight amongst yourself," Dorrian said during a televised press conference from Baghdad. "This is the type of thing that a leader who's losing command and control and ability to keep everybody on the same page says."
"We don't believe it's going to work," he added.
Much of al-Baghdadi's message focused on developments outside of Iraq and Syria. He called for attacks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and he cited supporters in other regions, including Libya.
Iraqi government forces entered the outskirts of Mosul on Tuesday for the first time in more than two years. The Associated Press reported that they paused in their advance Wednesday to clear a neighborhood of remaining ISIS militants, at least eight of whom were killed.
Dorrian said Thursday that there were no current plans for coalition forces to enter the city alongside the Iraqis. He added that he did not know the location of Baghdadi.
"If we knew where he was, he would be killed at once," Dorrian said.
As the assault on Mosul continues, the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) and Baghdad-based military coalition continue to prepare for the eventual assault on Raqqa in Syria.
The SDF has the 30,000 to 40,000 forces who will take part in isolating Raqqa trained, according to coalition spokesperson Colonel John Dorrian. The isolation phase involves encircling the city and halting ISIS ability to move supplies and fighters in and out of the city. This phase has for all intents and purposes already begun, but it will intensify in the coming weeks or months.
The next phase, the assault of the city, will be next.
The forces who will be involved in the assault, also called the liberation phase, are still unclear. Dorrian said there is still an "ongoing dialog is about who will liberate the city."
"There may be a role for a variety of forces there, all the options are on the table," he said. He would not speculate on when the assault or liberation phase will begin, or how many forces it will take to wipe out the ISIS presence there.