The Islamic State released an audiotape Thursday allegedly recently recorded by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, despite reports that the caliph had been killed or injured days earlier.
It is supposedly the first speech from al-Baghdadi since his reported death over the weekend. In the speech he calls on fighters to "erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere" and says that the Islamic State will not cease fighting, "even if only one fighter is left." The speaker, whose identity cannot be confirmed as that of the militant group's leader, says that jihad is a duty of each and every Muslim without exception.
Reports that al-Baghdadi had been injured followed US-led air strikes near the Iraqi city of Mosul late last week.
The speaker in the recording makes no direct reference to the air strike, but mentions some developments that have occurred since, including President Barack Obama's decision to deploy an extra 1,500 troops to Iraq.
This decision was announced on November 7, the same day that US airstrikes on Mosul were rumored to have wounded al-Baghdadi. This suggests that the recording, if by al-Baghdadi, is evidence that the IS leader is still alive.
The speech asserts that the US-led airstrikes in Syria and Iraq are failing, despite humanitarian groups asserting that over 700 Islamic State militants have been killed since the offensive began.
The recording states, "the soldiers of the Islamic State today are tougher, stronger and more determined" while "America and its allies [are] stumbling between fear, weakness, inability, and failure."
The speaker in the recording also singled out Saudi Arabia, calling for attacks against the Gulf country. The recording describes Saudi leaders as "the head of the snake."
The 17-minute recording, released via social media, is in Arabic but the Islamic State also released a PDF English translation of the speech that is being shared by many online.
Al-Baghdadi seems to refer to the group's growing influence when he says: "O soldiers of the Islamic State... erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere. Light the earth with fire against all dictators."
The Islamic State has declared a caliphate in the territories it controls, which stretch across Syria and Iraq but the group has also received new pledges of allegiance in recent days from jihadist groups in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen.
At the end of the speech al-Baghdadi concludes by addressing those he describes as believers in a number of Arab states as well as congratulating Islamist factions in Sinai for rising against "the heretics of Egypt," a reference to attacks against the Egyptian military in recent months by Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit al Maqdes, which pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi on November 11.
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