IS reclusive leader rallies followers in purported new audio

CAIRO (AP) — The leader of the Islamic State group urged followers to burn their enemies everywhere and target “media centers of the infidels,” according to an audio recording released Thursday that the extremists said was by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The reclusive leader of IS, who has only appeared in public once, also vowed to continue fighting and lavished praise on his jihadis for their valor in the battlefield — despite the militants’ loss of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July.

The recording was released by the IS-run al-Furqan outlet, which has in the past released messages from al-Baghdadi and other top figures of the extremist group. The voice in the over 46-minute-long audio sounded much like previous recordings of al-Baghdadi. His last previous purported message was released in November, also in an audio recording.

“You soldiers of the caliphate, heroes of Islam and carriers of banners: light a fire against your enemies,” said al-Baghdadi, a shadowy cleric who has been surrounded by controversy since the Sunni terror group emerged from al-Qaida in Iraq, its forerunner.

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 group’s de facto capital. U.S. officials later said they believed he was still alive.

Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown but he is believed to be in IS’ dwindling territory in eastern Syria. The IS-held cities of Raqqa and Deir el-Zour are under siege and likely too dangerous for him to hide in. Some IS leadership is believed to have gone to the nearby town of Mayadeen, and the group still holds a stretch of the Euphrates River from Deir el-Zour to the Iraqi border, as well as remote desert areas along the border.

Read more at AP News.