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ISIS

ISIS dispels rumors of leader's death with apparent audio statement

The Islamic State has released what appears to be audio of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making his first statement in nearly a year, The New York Times reports. It is not clear when the audio was recorded, although Baghdadi references North Korea's recent threats against the U.S. and Japan, Reuters reports.

Baghdadi's death has been rumored a number of times, most recently in June when the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that a May airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, took out the ISIS leader.

The statement released Thursday is 46 minutes long and, if authentic, would be the first message from the terrorist group's leader to his supporters since last November. Since his last message, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have made significant progress against ISIS, defeating the faction in Mosul. Before the city fell, ISIS blew up the 12th-century mosque where Baghdadi declared the caliphate in 2014.

"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," Reuters writes.