The Islamic State group released Thursday an audio recording allegedly of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, dispelling rumors that he had been killed in battle.
The 46-minute recording was released by Al-Furqan news organization, marking the first time in nearly a year that Baghdadi’s voice has been broadcast to a public audience.
It is unclear exactly when the recording was made, but there is evidence that the message was recorded recently.
Baghdadi makes reference to recent events, including North Korea’s threats against the U.S. and the taking of Mosul by American-backed Iraqi forces, Reuters reported Thursday.
The recording, which was disseminated in Islamic State group chat rooms, begins with a narrator saying, “May Allah protect him.” This phrase is used as prayer for the living, New York Times correspondent and Islamic State group expert Rukmini Callimachi noted, indicating that Baghdadi was not killed as some previous reports had claimed.
Russian defense officials said earlier this year that Baghdadi might have been killed in an airstrike on Islamic State group commanders near Raqqa, Syria.
U.S. officials could not confirm the death, and Iraqi officials also remained skeptical. There were no photographs or other physical evidence of Baghdadi’s body.
Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of coalition forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, expressed doubts in August that the Russians had killed Baghdadi.
“Do I believe he’s alive? Yes,” he said, according to Fox News.
Baghdadi no longer appears to be directing the day-to-day operations of the Islamic State group as it struggles to hold on to remaining territory in Iraq and Syria, Pentagon officials have said.
The recording appears to be an attempt to boost the morale of the Islamic State group fighters.
U.S.-backed forces drove them out of their stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, last month and the Islamic State group militants are on the verge of losing Raqqa.
A previous version of this story was published on The Daily Caller News Foundation website. (For more from the author of “Still Alive? ISIS Releases Audio Recording of Reclusive Leader” please click HERE)