The head of the jihadist terror group known as ISIS or Islamic State says growing tensions between the United States and Turkey over the fate of American pastor Andrew Brunson shows that America's influence and power are diminishing around the world.
In a purported audio recording, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi refers to recent sanctions Washington slapped on Turkey following Ankara's decision not to release the Christian pastor.
Baghdadi reportedly said this shows America is weak despite all the economic threats against Turkey. Meanwhile, the Turkish currency value plunged to a crisis level as the US pushed those sanctions against the Turkish regime.
"America is going through the worst time in its entire existence," Baghdadi reportedly said about ongoing negotiations to set Brunson free.
This is the first time in almost a year that ISIS has released a message from their leader.
In the 54-minute audio titled "Give Glad Tidings to the Patient," Baghdadi promises "dark days" to the group's enemies in Syria and Iraq and urges followers to launch lone-wolf attacks in the West and several Muslim countries, including Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
"This release was likely recorded in recent weeks and shows ISIS' continuous focus on lone wolf attacks in the west," tweeted Rita Katz, who tracks global terrorist groups at the SITE Intel Group.
Katz says despite the terror group's defeat in Syria and Iraq, Baghdadi's speech "is attempting to assure supporters that ISIS persists," adding that he's attempting to frame ISIS' "past military accomplishments as proof of the group's capabilities."
Baghdadi's last audio message was released in September 2017 following the demise of the group's so-called caliphate, headquartered in Raqqa, Syria.
"Well, we can't confirm the authenticity of the tape or if he is (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) alive, we're not even sure if that's his voice yet," Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, said. " He's definitely someone we want to be off the battlefield, although we haven't seen him on the battlefield for quite some time."
According to the Wilson Center:
"At its territorial peak in fall 2014, the Islamic State controlled 41,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria―a territory larger than the size of Indiana―and ruled over eight million people. It attracted more than 40,000 foreign fighters from 120 countries; it also mobilized over 25,000 from inside Syria and Iraq. Economically, it was self-sustaining through oil sales, taxes, looting, smuggling, and extortion. It averaged $81 million a month in revenues in spring 2015."
In the audio recording, Baghdadi purportedly urges his followers to "persevere" and continue "fighting enemies" despite significant territorial losses.
US military officials say it's all the more an indication of the terror group's setbacks on the battlefield.
"From our intelligence on the battlefield, they're (ISIS) badly wounded and they're losing very bad," said Ryan. " Whoever is on that tape admits to, you know, losing on the battlefield, and there's a lot of fear and hunger involved with ISIS fighters, which we're finding to be true as well, we know that they're starving, they're low on supplies, they're low on ammunition."
Al-Baghdadi's whereabouts and the question of whether he is dead or alive remains unresolved.
"He's been very irrelevant for a long time, I mean, he (was) last seen in public (in) 2014, his last audio statement allegedly was almost a year ago," claimed Ryan.