ISIS has released a new audio recording of their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on his followers to “resist the infidels.”
The recording is the first communication released by the ISIS leader in almost year during which the group has lost much of the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in July it had “confirmed information” that al-Baghdadi had been killed. Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman told news agencies he died in Deir az Zor province, about 80 miles southeast of the Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa.
In June, Russia’s military claimed it may have killed al-Baghdadi and other senior commanders in an airstrike in late May on the southern outskirts of Raqqa.
There was never any confirmation of the claims, and previous reports of his death have turned out to be false. Pentagon officials have said they believe al-Baghdadi is alive.
The 46-minute recording was not dated, but al-Baghdadi makes reference to recent North Korean threats against Japan and United States.
“The leaders of the Islamic State and its soldiers have realised that the path to … victory is to be patient and resist the infidels,” he said in the message.
In a statement to the AFP news agency, a US intelligence official suggested the tape could well be real but added that it was still being verified. “While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point,” the official said.
The audio release comes amid growing speculation over the fate of al-Baghdadi, whose last recorded speech was issued in early November 2016, two weeks after the start of the battle for Mosul, when he urged his followers to fight the “unbelievers” and “make their blood flow as rivers.”