Baghdad, Sept 29 (TNS): Islamic State militants have released what appears to be an audio recording of their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
A speaker who sounds like the IS leader seems to refer to recent North Korean threats against Japan and the US.
He also talks of battles for IS strongholds like Mosul, which was regained by Iraqi forces in July.
Baghdadi, who has a $25m (£19m) US bounty on his head, has not been seen in public since July 2014, leading to much speculation about his fate.
The last time he appeared was to preach at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul after IS overran the city and a “caliphate” was proclaimed.
Asked about the audio, a spokesman for US forces fighting IS, Ryan Dillon, said “without verifiable evidence of his death, we have continued to assume that he is alive”.
Meanwhile, a US intelligence source said they were still working to verify the recording, but said “we have no reason to doubt its authenticity”.
The militant Sunni Muslim group IS, which earned notoriety for its brutal violence towards civilians and prisoners, has been steadily pushed back in Iraq and Syria this year.