ISIS' Leader Is Back — Maybe

by Abby Johnston

After reports that he was injured and possibly "incapacitated," ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi allegedly resurfaced on Thursday in a new audio message released by the group. If the recording is authentic, it will be the first time that he has addressed the public in six months. Earlier this month The Guardian reported that the self-proclaimed caliph hadn't resumed control of ISIS since he was injured in a March airstrike. The U.S. attack on March 18 killed three men Baghdadi was traveling with in northwestern Iraq. Baghdadi was allegedly treated for damage to his spine, and there was speculation that he would not be able to resume leadership.

In the half-hour recording, Baghdadi called for Muslims to either travel to join the Islamic State or wage attacks in their home country. AsThe New York Times notes, the recording was translated into English, French, German, Russian, and Turkish, an unusual move that could indicate the group's push for global outreach.

Do not think the war that we are waging is the Islamic State’s war alone. Rather, it is the Muslims’ war altogether. It is the war of every Muslim in every place, and the Islamic State is merely the spearhead in this war. It is but the war of the people of faith against the people of disbelief, so march forth to your war O Muslims. March forth everywhere, for it is an obligation upon every Muslim who is accountable before Allah.

The recording was an apparent attempt to quell rumors that the leader was out of the picture. U.S. officials told The New York Times that they had no reason to doubt that the speaker was Baghdadi, but it isn't apparently clear whenthis recording was made. Baghdadi does reference developments in Yemen and recognizes the bayat — or pledge of allegiance — of supporters in Boko Haram, both of which happened in March.

And I commend the mujāhidīn from the soldiers of the Islamic State in Khorasan and West Africa. We congratulate them on their pledge of allegiance, and we ask Allah to make them firm and grant them victories and consolidation. How good they are!

But if the bulk of the message was about joining the ISIS battlefield wherever you are, it seems strange that Baghdadi wouldn't mention the recent attacks in Garland, Texas, for which ISIS claimed responsibility. The recording is recent, but it could have been done weeks before. So is Baghdadi back? It's still unclear.

Images: Getty Images