ISIS chief releases audio after death reports

Baghdadi said his self-proclaimed “state” is expanding to countries in the region.

Baghdadi said his self-proclaimed “state” is expanding to countries in the region.

The Islamic State group Thursday released an audio recording it claimed was of chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, days after reports suggested he was wounded or killed in a U.S. air strike.

In the 17-minute message, purported Baghdad made no direct reference to the strike against ISIS leadership but mentioned developments that have occurred since.

For the first time since his increased activity in Iraq and Syria, he said ISIS was expanding across the Arab world, and called for “volcanoes of jihad.”

“Be assured, O Muslims, for your state is good and in the best condition,” he said, according to an English transcript of the message released together with the recording.

He also said the U.S.-led military campaign against his group in Syria and Iraq was failing. Al Arabiya News could not independently confirm the authenticity of the speech, which was carried on jihadist websites.

The audio message was the first of Baghdadi since a video released in July, shortly after ISIS proclaimed a caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria, of the jihadist supremo delivering a Friday sermon in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

The United States said that coalition aircraft launched strikes targeting ISIS leaders near Mosul on Friday, setting off a flurry of speculation that Baghdadi was wounded.

Some reports pointed to another strike near Iraq’s border with Syria, saying Baghdadi was wounded there instead.

In the recording, Baghdadi said that the U.S.-led coalition of dozens of nations contributing to the military effort against ISIS was failing to defeat his group.

“Its march will not stop and it will continue to expand, by Allah’s permission,” he said. “The march of the mujahidin (holy warriors) will continue until they reach Rome.”

 
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