Though he’s reportedly been killed several times, many suspect that ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive after video footage of him surfaced back in April. Now, WSJ reports that a new audio message, purportedly recorded by Baghdadi himself, is circulating online.
The purported Baghdadi message comes at a time when ISIS has been severely weakened by a five-year military campaign that forced it underground earlier this year. However, the group remains a threat, and it’s believed that al-Baghdadi is hiding out somewhere in the vast desert between Iraq and Syria.
“O soldiers of Allah everywhere, know that what is coming is good…so the efforts must be redoubled and one’s best must be given in all aspects, whether in preaching or media or military or security,” Baghdadi said during a 30-minute recording, according to monitoring group SITE Intelligence.
In the recording, Baghdadi says the US is “drowning in a quagmire” that is “being bled along with its proxies” on battlefields from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, West and Central Africa, East Asia and North Africa.
When the audio was produced isn’t clear, though al-Baghdadi does reference an Islamic State campaign that purportedly took place in August.
Hassan Hassan, director of the Nonstate Actors Program at the Center for Global Policy, said the audio could mark a turning point for ISIS and other extremist groups, as they shift to focusing more on the Middle East region, and less on attacking the West.
“This suggests that ISIS, like al Qaeda and its offshoots since 2011, will increasingly focus on countries in the Middle East and the wider region, rather than on conducting attacks on the West,” he said.
President Trump backed out of completely pulling troops out of Syria, but he only recalled about half. There are still roughly 1,000 US troops on the ground in Syria, and another 5,000 or so in Iraq.