The Islamic State released an audio recording purportedly of its elusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in what appears to be his first public pronouncement in almost a year.
The 54-minute message, called “Give glad tidings to the patient,” was released Wednesday evening by the militant group’s multimedia branch, the al-Furqan Foundation, The Associated Press reported.
In the recording, al-Baghdadi acknowledges ISIS’s territorial losses and urges the group’s fighters to “persevere” and continue fighting around the world. The authenticity of the recording has not been independently verified, and it remains unclear when or where it was made.
Whether al-Baghdadi is still alive is an open question. Russian officials said in 2017 there was a “high probability” that he was killed in an airstrike near Raqqa, the former capital of the ISIS “caliphate.” U.S. officials later said al-Baghdadi was likely still alive and hiding somewhere in the Iraq-Syria borderlands.
Al-Baghdadi’s last audio message was released in September 2017. In it, he discussed current events, suggesting it had been recorded soon before its release. (RELATED: Still Alive? ISIS Releases Audio Recording Of Leader)
The recording released Wednesday also mentions current news. Al-Baghdadi refers to the ongoing diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Turkey over jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson, and he congratulates followers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Ada, which ended on Aug. 21.
If the voice on the recording is confirmed to be al-Baghdadi’s, it would show he recorded the message this month and disprove the theory that he was killed in 2017. (RELATED: ISIS Leader’s Son Was Reportedly Killed In Syria)
U.S. defense officials have said al-Baghdadi no longer appears to be directing the day-to-day operations of ISIS, which lost nearly all of the territory it controlled at the height of its power. Despite the territorial losses, tens of thousands of ISIS fighters remain scattered across Iraq and Syria and continue to carry out guerrilla-style attacks on security forces and civilians.
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