The Islamic State (IS) has published audio on their website from a speaker claiming to be leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who disappeared a year ago, prompting rumors of his death.
In the audio piece, titled “Give glad tidings to the patient”, the speaker called on his followers to “persevere” and continue to battle “Islam’s enemies”, the Guardian reported.
The audio was released by the extremist group’s central media arm, al-Furqan Foundation, on Wednesday.
The speech carried a note of defeat from IS’s substantial recent losses. “For the Mujahideen [holy warriors] the scale of victory or defeat is not dependent on a city or town being stolen or subject to that who has aerial superiority, intercontinental missiles or smart bombs,” Reuters news agency quoted the speaker as saying.
“Oh Caliphate soldiers… trust in God’s promise and His victory… for with hardship comes relief and a way out,” he added.
“America is going through the worst time in its entire existence,” the speaker added, referring to Russia’s competition with the US over regional dominance, according to The Guardian.
He then moved on to shame southern Syrian rebels for surrendering to Bashar Al-Assad’s army, naming them “traitors”. He implores those fighters to abandon their groups and join IS to continue the path of “Jihad”.
There is no clear confirmation yet on whether the speaker is in fact Al-Baghdadi.
The United Nations published a report last week saying there were between 20,000 and 30,000 IS fighters across Syria and Iraq, including thousands of foreigners.
The group still rules over some parts of the eastern Syrian territory Deir Al-Zour, and its soldiers are still in hiding in regions such as Iraq’s Anbar desert, the Ghadaf valley and Husseiniya.
Al-Baghdadi was born in Iraq in 1971. He claims to be a descendant of Qurayish – the prophet Muhammed’s family – but there is no scientific evidence to support his claim. He was announced leader of IS in 2010 following the leader of his predecessor Abu-Omar al-Baghdadi.
Since then, al-Baghdadi has claimed responsibility for several attacks including the bombing of Umm Al-Kura mosque in 2011 as well as 23 attacks on South Baghdad.
In 2014, he gave a speech declaring himself the Caliphate of Muslims at Mosul – his only ever public appearance. Afterwards, several reports came out announcing he was killed or injured.
Last year, Russian officials claimed there was a “high probability” the jihadist was killed in an airstrike close to Raqqa. US officials later disputed the incident, saying they believed he was still alive.