Caliphate is doing well, IS leader says


Associated Press

BEIRUT

The Islamic State group on Saturday released a new message purportedly from its reclusive leader, claiming that his self-styled “caliphate” is doing well despite an unprecedented alliance against it and criticizing the recently announced Saudi-led Islamic military coalition against terrorism.

In the 24-minute audio, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said airstrikes by the international coalition only increase his group’s determination and resolve. The message was al-Baghdadi’s first since May, and comes amid battlefield setbacks that IS recently has faced.

Meanwhile, a U.S.-backed coalition of rebels in Syria – including Syrian Kurdish, Arab and Christian groups – captured a major dam on the Euphrates River from the Islamic State group as part of the coalition’s march on IS-held areas in northern Syria.

The coalition, known as Syria Democratic Forces, announced earlier this week a new offensive aimed at cutting supply lines between IS strongholds in the country’s north. The SDF said it seized the Tishrin Dam, which supplies much of northern Syria with electricity, on Saturday.

An SDF spokesman told AP earlier this week that his forces are also trying to cut the supply lines between the Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa and the group’s stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria.

The SDF, dominated by the main Kurdish militia in Syria known as YPG, or People’s Protection Units, has become a main force in fighting IS.

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