ISIS Leader Resurfaces in Purported Audio, First in 11 Months

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
August 23, 2018 Updated: August 23, 2018

The leader of the ISIS terrorist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has allegedly resurfaced on Aug. 22 for the first time in nearly a year, urging his followers to “persevere” and continue fighting the group’s “enemies” in a purported audio recording.

The 54-minute audio was released by the extremist group’s central media arm, al-Furqan Foundation, on the evening of Aug. 22.

The whereabouts of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the question of whether he is dead or alive remains unresolved.

The group has lost around 90 percent of land it once controlled in Iraq and Syria where the group declared a caliphate in June 2014.

Al-Baghdadi’s last audio message was on Sept. 28, 2017.

In the recording released Aug. 22, al-Baghdadi mentioned the occasion of the Muslim al-Ahda feast and made references to current events including Turkey’s row with the U.S. over its detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

If the voice on the audio is confirmed to be that of al-Baghdadi, that would date the message to this month and disprove reports of his death.

Al-Baghdadi said that the US was going through the worst time in its entire existence and said Russia was competing with the U.S. over regional influence and clout.

He also criticizes rebel surrenders in southern Syria to President Bashar Assad’s forces, calling them traitors and urges fighters to join ISIS instead.

He urged continued jihad.

Al-Baghdadi has only appeared in public once in 2014 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

There have been recurring reports of his death or injury, including reports by Russian officials last year who said there was a “high probability” that al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa. U.S. officials later said they believed he was still alive.

Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown but he is believed to be hiding in the desert that stretches in the Syrian-Iraqi border region.