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IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi 'resurfaces' in audio clip

News of Baghdadi's death would seem to have been greatly exaggerated, if a new recording proves genuine. A purported recording of IS leader issues renewed calls for violence from his followers.

An outlet of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) on Thursday released an audio recording purportedly of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

In June Russia had claimed that Baghdadi was most likely dead following an aistrike outside Raqqa. That was one of several claims that the preacher had died.

In the new 46-minute recording Baghdadi calls on his followers around the world to wage attacks against the West and to keep fighting in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

Read more: Who is the 'Islamic State' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

"Beware of retreat, or the feeling of defeat, beware of negotiations or surrender. Do not lay down your arms," Baghdadi said, referring to followers in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Africa and elsewhere in Africa.

Baghdadi reminded his followers of the rewards of martyrdom, which he said include "72 wives" in paradise and told them to fight against the "Crusaders and the apostates."

The recording date was not entirely clear, but Baghdadi seems to reference recent events such as North Korea's threats against Japan and the US and the recapture of Mosul by US-backed Iraqi forces two months ago.

Read more: 'Islamic State': Will it survive a post-caliphate future?

US working to verify recording

The recording was released by the extremist group's al-Furqan outlet, which has published his messages before.

The US State Department said it was still trying to verify the recording, but suggested it could be real.

"We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it," an intelligence community source said in a statement to AFP news agency.

"While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP: "I have no information about this recording."

The US increased its bounty for the IS leader in December to $25 million (€€21 million) from $10 million.

A senior US general said earlier this month that Baghdadi was probably hiding in the Euphrates River valley that stretches from Syria to Iraq.

Read more: 'Islamic State' chief al-Baghdadi probably still alive: US general

Russian-backed and US-backed forces are waging battle against IS on both sides of the river in Syria.

On Thursday, the US conducted its first airstrikes in Libya since President Donald Trump took over, targeting IS forces camped out in the desert near Sirte. Some militants were wounded and others were arrested and some "materials" seized, Sadiq Al-Sour, head of investigations for the Libyan Attorney General's office, told a news conference in Tripoli.

In Egypt's northern Sinai, an IS affiliate group is still fighting Egyptian military forces.

aw/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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