Washington, Sep 28 (AFP) The United States is still trying to verify a purported recording of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had been rumoured to be dead, but suggested the tape released today could well be real.
The Islamic State's mysterious leader may still alive, according to a new recording from the terrorist group where he speaks about the US conflict with North Korea.
Officials have said they believed it could take years to capture or kill Baghdadi as he is thought to be hiding in thousands of square miles of sparsely-populated desert between Mosul and Raqqa, where drones are easy to spot.
The recording, which has yet to be verified, involved references to recent geopolitical developments, including USA tensions with North Korea, in an apparent attempt to dismiss persistent reports that Baghdadi had been killed on the battlefield.
A new recording released by an ISIS-run media outlet also includes the voice of the 46-year-old is also the first time he has been heard since November 2016, as Iraqi forces backed by the US moved in on the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.
Rumours have abounded about Baghdadi's own health and movements, but his whereabouts remain unclear.
Since Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria in 2014, Iraqi forces have retaken a string of cities in western and northern Iraq including Mosul, where Baghdadi made his announcement from the city's El Nuri mosque.
The jihadists have since lost vast territory in both countries, including in Syria to Russia-backed regime troops and a US-supported Kurdish-Arab alliance.