> In the audio message obtained by the Site Intelligence Group, Baghdadi refers to recent events.
Islamic State's defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the town of Tal Afar, and parts of the group's capital, Raqqa and Syria. The message also making indirect reference to recent terror attacks in London and Barcelona. And even the nuclear brinkmanship between the US and North Korea. But the most significant message in the recording may be its existence at all, that the leader of Islamic State lives.
The Russian military over the summer suggested it may have killed him in an airstrike near Raqqa. A Syrian human rights group saying it had learned from ISIS commanders that Baghdadi had been killed in the Deir ez-Zor province. But Pentagon officials have said such reports may be premature.>> Despite all of the helpful reports to us from every source imaginable, I'm unable to confirm or deny where he is or whether he is alive or dead.
Let me just say for the record, my fervent hope is it is the latter.>> Baghdadi stepped onto the world stage in 2014 when Islamic state seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. Its fighters gaining notoriety for practicing mass murder, sex slavery, terror attacks abroad, and gruesome hostage videos.
ISIS has lost more than half the territory it once held and is currently fighting to hold off assaults by the Iraqi security forces. The Syrian military backed by Russian warplanes, and US backed Syrian, Arab, and Kurdish militia.