The Islamic State (ISIS) has issued an audio clip that purports to feature the voice of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. If its authenticity is confirmed, the recording would lay rest to persistent rumors of the hermitic leader’s death.
The last public recording of Baghdadi was released in November, the New York Times reports. In the intervening months ISIS has lost swathes of territory — including Mosul, which was the group’s largest stronghold, and much of its unofficial capital Raqqa — and there have been at least two widely reported claims of the militant group’s self-proclaimed leader’s death.
The Russian military said that a June airstrike near Raqqa might have killed Baghdadi. The following month, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said senior ISIS commanders had confirmed Baghdadi’s death in eastern Syria. In both instances the U.S. cast doubt on the reports and neither could be independently confirmed.
In the latest 46-minute audio recording, Baghdadi praises ISIS fighters in Mosul, who he said, “did not give up except over their skulls and body parts.” He also indirectly referenced recent attacks in London, Barcelona, and Russia.
“Now the Americans, the Russians and the Europeans are living in terror in their countries, fearing the strikes of the mujahedin,” he said, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. Before signing off, Baghdadi mocks coalition fighters and calls for attacks on “disbeliever media centers.”
The recording’s authenticity is yet to be confirmed but ISIS does not have a history of broadcasting fake recordings of Baghdadi. The Pentagon has reportedly said it has “no reason to believe tape is not authentic.”