ISIS releases audio of Baghdadi amid speculation on his fate

Islamic State releases new audio message from leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

ISIS releases recording of leader al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was unheard in a new undated recording from the Islamic State.

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The Islamic State released an audio recording of its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi on Thursday via the Al-Furqan organization that is linked to the jihadi group.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (Isil), has issued his first public statement in nearly a year and urged his fighters to remain steadfast after a series of major defeats across Iraq and Syria.

There is no date given to the 46-minute clip, though the supposed Baghdadi does speak about North Korea and its threats against the United States in between encouraging his followers.

This is al-Baghdadi's first recorded speech since November 2016, and it comes amid growing speculation over his fate.

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Three years after seizing control of swaths of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State fighters have been reduced to defending a shrinking swath of territory from US and Syrian-backed forces.

Russian officials said in June there was a "high probability" that al-Baghdadi had died in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremist group.

"This predicament is a generous gift from God", he said.

Baghdadi's location is unknown and he is considered to be in hiding following the fall of Mosul, the Iraqi city where he declared the establishment of IS in 2014, and the near-total capture of Raqqa, IS's main city in Syria, by the US-backed Arab and Kurdish forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces. According to western diplomats, the Islamic State's most senior leadership are mostly believed to be around the city of Mayadeen in eastern Syria, now a key military target for the USA -led coalition.

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