ISIS released a new audio recording on Thursday, claiming it's a message from its reclusive leader and proof that he's still alive.
In the 46-minute-long tape, released by the al-Furqan news organization, the voice — which ISIS says belongs to group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — urges listeners to fight with all their strength and to withstand the "invaders," saying that "jihad is the path of paradise."
Baghdadi has not been seen in public since 2014, and even then, analysts and observers raised questions about whether the person who appeared in Mosul, Iraq, was Baghdadi at all. His last purported recording was back in November 2016.
Baghdadi, or the person speaking as him, discussed news events from recent weeks, such as last weekend's referendum on independence among Iraq's Kurdish population, and North Korea's threats against the US. But the apparent effort to prove that the recording is recent was vague enough that the tape could have been made at a much earlier point.
"The Turkish government is deeply concerned about the Kurds' expansion on their borders, which prompts them to fight them so that the Turkish Kurds will not be tempted to independence, but they don't fight them out of fear of the wrath of their American and European masters," the voice on the tape says. "Their expectations are inevitable but postponed."
Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish groups have been among the primary military forces fighting ISIS on the ground with US support, even as Turkey has expressed its displeasure.
The man on the tape also tried to discourage supporters of ISIS, both in its primary territory in Iraq and Syria and overseas, from retreating or deserting the cause, threatening punishment from those who remain loyal.
He didn't miss any opportunity to taunt the US, even if it meant speaking almost approvingly of Russia, which has been bombing ISIS in Syria since 2015. In the recording, the US is called a weak state in debt and on the verge of collapse, which has allowed Russia to take control of things and let it "control the areas of Sunni Muslims and grant them to the Alawite regime," a reference to the Syrian government.
The US and Russia have both listed Baghdadi as one of their primary targets in the campaign against ISIS, with Moscow claiming in June to have killed him. (The Pentagon was less sure about Baghdadi's death than the Kremlin.)
The full audio message can be heard here:
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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Munzer al-Awad is a journalist based in Istanbul.
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