So-called Islamic State (IS) militants have released a recorded speech of a man who sounds like, and claims to be, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
In the past year, numerous sources – from Turkish officials, to the Russian Defence Ministry, to the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights – claimed Baghdadi had been killed in or near Raqqa, the terror group’s de facto capital.
The 46-minute recording was posted on the al-Furqan outlet, a website affiliated with the Islamic State. (It is no longer publicly available). If the recording is authenticated, it would be the first time Baghdadi has reached out to his supporters since November 2016.
References to North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities make it likely that the audio was recorded after al-Baghdadi’s presumed death.
The Washington Post reports that the speech conveyed a supportive message for Islamic State fighters, who have suffered a string of recent defeats. The speaker went on to encourage his supporters to intensify terror attacks in western countries.
“Never allow the crusaders and apostates [to] enjoy a life of peace and security in their homes at the same time your brothers taste the bitterness of strikes and destruction,” said the recording, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.
While U.S. intelligence officials continue to verify the audio, a Pentagon spokesperson stated that there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the recording.
Breaking: ODNI tells CNN it has “no reason to doubt authenticity” of new audio statement from #ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi
ODNI is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a cabinet level position.
The U.S government continues to offer a $25 million bounty on information that results in finding Baghdadi.