ISIS leader al-Baghdadi makes rare statement on Mosul offensive

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The Islamic State group is fighting to hold Iraq's second city of Mosul as Iraq forces and allied Kurdish forces advance on the city with US -led coalition support.

Iranian-Kurdish female fighters sit near a sand berm during a battle with ISIS militants in Bashiqa, near Mosul, on Thursday.

The Islamic State group is fighting to hold Mosul as Iraqi forces and allied Kurdish troops squeeze in from all directions with US -led coalition support, mostly from airstrikes and reconnaissance.

Schultz was asked specifically about a recording of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urging followers to obey orders while remaining resilient and steadfast. "Start your actions! Turn the night of the disbelievers into day", he says, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, a USA organization that monitors militant activity online, which reported the al-Baghdadi recording first.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told his followers on Thursday there could be no retreat in a "total war" against the forces arrayed against them, as advancing soldiers battled the militants inside their northern Iraqi stronghold.

IS militants have driven thousands of them deeper into the city's more built-up areas, presumably for use as human shields, while hundreds of others have fled in the past days toward government-controlled territory despite the uncertainty of resettlement in displacement camps. Al-Baghdadi visited the city after the takeover, and from inside Mosul, declared an Islamic caliphate that at one point covered almost a third of Iraq and Syria.

Badr leader Hadi al-Amiri said militias also meant to ultimately cut off the main highway between Mosul and Tal Afar, but said the supply route was the priority as it was the one used by militants since they took over the city two years ago.

In his disturbing recording, Baghdadi said: "Oh you who seek martyrdom!"

Iraqi special forces say they have fired a rocket to destroy an explosives-laden vehicle that sped out of a more central neighborhood of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. "Turn the dark night of the infidels into day, destroy their homes and make rivers of their blood".

The battle that started on October 17 with air and ground support from a US -led coalition is shaping up as the largest in Iraq since the USA -led invasion of 2003.

Fadhil said a second vehicle from the same area, presumably another suicide auto bomber, managed to get away.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Shia forces fighting to cut off an ISIS supply route west of Mosul made progress, but several cars were still able to leave the city, a spokesperson said.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take their position during a battle with Daesh in Bashiqa, near Mosul.

The commander of the Joint Military Operation Command, Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati, told reporters on Thursday that civilians have been fleeing Mosul's Gogjali, al-Karama and al-Samah neighborhoods since Wednesday. They have yet to move into more densely populated areas that could lead to weeks, if not months, of clearing booby-trapped buildings and bloody house-to-house combat.

The recording also encouraged ISIS supporters worldwide to continue fighting and called for attacks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militants on the Internet.

Several explosives-laden vehicles tried to attack the troops but were destroyed, including a bulldozer that was hit by an airstrike from the USA -led coalition supporting the offensive. Men in the area celebrated by shaving the beards they were forced to grow under IS rule.