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    Dec 28, 2015

    ISIS leader vows to get tougher despite strikes


    A NEW message purported to come from the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said air strikes by Russia and the United States-led coalition had failed to weaken the extremist group.

    Instead, the air strikes have increased ISIS' determination and resolve to destroy its enemies, said the 24-minute audio recording, described to be by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

    "Be confident that God will grant victory to those who worship him and hear the good news that our state is doing well," the recording went.

    "The more intense the war against it (ISIS), the purer it becomes and the tougher it gets," it added.

    The authenticity of the message, posted on Saturday on Twitter accounts that have published ISIS statements in the past, could not be verified, reported Reuters.

    But the sound matched that in al-Baghdadi's previous recordings, reported Egypt's Al-Nahar TV.

    The last such online public message said to be by al-Baghdadi was posted in May.

    He has been reported several times, apparently incorrectly, to have been injured or killed in fighting.

    Saturday's message also slammed Saudi Arabia's declaration this month that a coalition of Muslim nations had been set up to fight ISIS.

    "If it was an Islamic coalition, it would have declared itself free from its Jewish and Crusader lords and made killing the Jews and the liberation of Palestine its goal," the message said, calling for an uprising by Saudi citizens against the "apostate regime" of Riyadh.

    According to the message, US and its allies would not dare send ground forces to fight ISIS following their past experiences of being bogged down in lengthy conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bloomberg reported.

    The militant Sunni group controls swathes of Iraq and Syria but has come under intensifying military pressure in recent weeks.

    A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups said it captured a Syrian dam on Saturday from ISIS, cutting a main supply route of the militants across the Euphrates River.

    In Iraq, government troops were pushing deeper into the heart of the last remaining district held by ISIS in the city of Ramadi.