WASHINGTON — The Islamic State group released a 46-minute audio clip of someone purported to be ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The audio message, titled, “Your Lord Suffices as Guide and Helper,” was released by al Furqan media, a propaganda outlet known to publish and distribute messages from key ISIS leaders.
If confirmed, it would be the first message from the reclusive leader since November 2016, and it comes as the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed caliphate is rapidly crumbling.
In the message, Baghdadi told his supporters that ISIS remains steadfast as America grows weary in the conflict, according to analysis by Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute located in Washington D.C.
“A key recurrent message in Al-Baghdadi’s speech is something I’ve frequently highlighted: That IS views its fight as a ceaseless war of attrition to deplete enemies. He cites lack of U.S. appetite to send troops as vindication of a decade-long *stated* strategy,” Hassan wrote on Twitter.
Baghdadi goes on to cite North Korea’s nuclear threats against the U.S. and Japan, as well as Iran’s conflict in Yemen and Syria.
“Al-Baghdadi tells followers he’s ‘certain that bloodshed in Mosul, Raqqa, Sirte, Ramadi and Hama will eventually lead to the downfall of tyrants,’” Hassan wrote on Twitter.
The release of the audio comes as ISIS has lost a significant amount of territory to the U.S.-led coalition.
Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, was liberated in mid-July, and Tal Afar was recaptured by Iraqi forces at the end of August after just over a week of fighting.
Iraqi forces have also seized more than 100 villages near the northern town of Hawija, according to Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.
“The Iraqis have the momentum,” Dillon told reporters at a televised press briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday.
In Syria, U.S.-backed Kurdish forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, have secured more than 75 percent of Raqqa, ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital, according to Dillon. There are still roughly 400 to 800 fighters in the embattled city, Dillon told reporters.
The SDF have also made recent gains in Deir el-Zour province, capturing the Al Suwar region, according to Dilllon.
Over the past year, numerous reports of Baghdadi’s death have surfaced. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — a watchdog group covering Syria — recently claimed the leader was dead. And the Russian defense ministry claimed he was killed in a Russian airstrike outside of Raqqa back in May.
But, Gen. Stephen Townsend, the former commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, told reporters in his last televised briefing that he believed Baghdadi was alive.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive, Gen. Stephen Townsend said.