An audio recording surfaced online Thursday purporting to be the voice of Islamic State’s self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, urging Muslims worldwide to join the jihadi group.
Baghdadi’s face has not appeared in any IS media since July 2014, when the group conquered the major Iraqi city of Mosul. His last audio message was released in November.
The message, whose title is translated as “March Forth Whether Light or Heavy,” relies heavily on Quranic passages and arcane myths about the end of the world. The leader uses them to argue that “there is no excuse for any Muslim who is capable of performing hijrah [immigration] to the Islamic State, or capable of carrying a weapon where he is.” The English translation used here was released simultaneously by official Islamic State channels. (RELATED: How ISIS And Al-Qaida Benefit From Local Nutjobs)
He goes on to insist to his audience that “Islam was never for a day the religion of peace. Islam is the religion of war.” The translated by official channels as “war,” qitāl, is not the most common Arabic word for war, and more frequently translated as “fighting” or “combat.”
He also denounces “America and its allies from amongst the Jews, Crusaders, Rāfidah (Shiites), secularists, atheists, and apostates,” dismissing as lies the claim that the U.S.-led military campaign against his group “is to aid the weak and oppressed, help the poor, relieve the afflicted, liberate the enslaved, defend the innocent and peaceful, and prevent the shedding of their blood.” Sunni Arab allies of the United States, meanwhile, he calls “guard dogs.”
In recent weeks, rumors have circulated about Baghdadi’s death or incapacitation in the U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the group in Syria and Iraq. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense claims that his deputy, a man named Abu Alaa al-Afri, was killed in recent weeks — a claim the Pentagon denies. (RELATED: Ex-Physics Teacher Reportedly Running ISIS After Caliph Injured)
Analyst Hassan Hassan tweeted upon the recording’s release that it likely dated from late March 2015. While it makes repeated references to the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and other events from that time, it does not allude to any news since then, including IS’ territorial gains or losses.
There was no immediate confirmation that the voice in the 35-minute recording was Baghdadi’s.
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