Isis releases new recording of leader following 10-month silence

Islamic State has released an audio recording of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which appears to postdate the latest rumours of his death, in which he accuses the US of wilting in the face of Russia and lacking “the will to fight”

29 September 2017, 9:09am
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a speech at a mosque during a rare appearance (Photo: Fox News)
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a speech at a mosque during a rare appearance (Photo: Fox News)
The 46-minute long tape, which was released on Thursday, was the first from the reclusive Baghdadi in nearly 10 months. The tape gave several clues that suggest Iranian and Russian claims that he was killed in May were completely baseless.

Baghdadi refers to the “nearly year-long fight for Mosul”, in the tape, from which Isis was ousted in August after nearly 10 months of fighting. He also referenced fights for Hama in Syria, where a push in recent weeks by Iranian-led militias has ousted the terror group from much of its stronghold in countryside to the east of Syria’s third city.

He also referred to North Korean “nuclear threats to America” and “Russia taking control” of the Astana peace process between the Syrian opposition and regime.

“The fighters in Mosul refused to surrender the city at the cost of their flesh and blood,” said Baghdadi. “Only after a year of fighting.”

Addressing people in Syria, where an armed opposition has all but lost the civil war against the Iranian- and Russian-backed Assad regime, he said: “What have you benefited from your pact with your supporters other than truces with [Shias]? Turkey and the [Awakening Movement] will give you nothing. If it was not for us, you would be worse off.”

The leaders whereabouts have been the subject of speculation throughout the past three years, during which time Isis rampaged through parts of Iraq and Syria.

He made a public appearance in July of 2014, when he climbed the minbar, or pulpit, of the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to anoint himself as leader.

Isis destroyed the mosque in Mosul’s old city, as Iraqi forces closed in on them in June this year. Around the same time, Russia claimed that one of its airstrikes had killed Baghdadi among a gathering of Isis leaders south of Deir ez-Zor, across the border in Syria. Iran later gave weight to the claims, which were not given credence by western intelligence officials.

Baghdadi was seriously injured in an airstrike near Sharqat in Iraq in February of 2015, after which he spent months recuperating.

The speech appeared to give little instruction to Isis followers in the fast dwindling caliphate. Its fighters have now largely been confined to a small pocket of Raqqa in Syria, and areas south of Deir ez-Zor. However, he did urge members to “intensify one attack after another against the infidels’ information centres and their centres of ideological war”, in an apparent reference to media organisations.