The Islamic State on Thursday released a tape purportedly of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — the first such transmission since Russia claimed an airstrike may have killed the 46-year-old this spring.
The 46-minute audio message sent to supporters on a chat application appears to have been recorded somewhat recently, as Baghdadi mentioned the Islamic State’s losses in Mosul and Raqqa, and indirectly referred to this summer’s terrorist attacks on a London train and in Barcelona.
“The fighters in Mosul refused to surrender the city at the cost of their flesh and blood,” Baghdadi said, according to Britain’s The Guardian. “Only after a year of fighting.”
The tape, Baghdadi’s first since November, also mentioned North Korea’s recent threats against the United States and Japan, as well as Syrian cease-fire discussions between Russia, Turkey and Iran, CNN reported.
“America, Europe and Russia are living in a state of terror,” Baghdadi said, according to a translation from the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization tracking the Islamic State, and provided to The New York Times.
A spokesperson from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence told CNN they hadn’t verified the tape’s veracity, but said “we have no reason to doubt its authenticity.”
A narrator introduced Baghdadi at the start of the message, saying “may Allah protect him.” That leads observers to assume the leader is still alive.
Russia kicked off an investigation in June to determine whether one of its airstrikes in late May killed the Islamic State leader in Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry had said he “was eliminated in the strike.”
Rumblings of Baghdadi’s death have been common in the past few years, and Defense Secretary James Mattis as recently as late July said he believed the leader was still alive.
“We are going after him,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on July 21.
By Sam Howard