Forensic Voice Analysis Confirms It’s Baghdadi In New Audio From ISIS

May 15, 2015 at 11:49 AM ET

Until recently, it looked like ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was incapacitated. Reports surfaced that the self-proclaimed Caliph had been gravely injured in a US-led airstrike, his legs and spine mangled by shrapnel. But an ISIS audio recording released Thursday suggests that Baghdadi is still alive, and capable of delivering lectures. “O Muslims, Islam was never for a day the religion of peace,” he says in the recording. “Islam is the religion of war.”

Vocativ reached out to voice analysis and counterterrorism experts to verify the identity of the voice in that recording. Our experts were able to confirm with high probability that the voice in this audio file is Baghdadi, and that the lecture was recorded after March 26. (The airstrike that injured Baghdadi occurred in early March, so it is likely that this message was recorded post-airstrike).

“The broadcast was certainly made after 26 March,” says Patrick M. Skinner, a former CIA Case Officer who is now a director at The Soufan Group, a private security intelligence service. “He goes on and on about the Saudi air campaign ‘decisive storm’ which started 26 March. And he mentions the training of rebels by Arab and western trainers, which has been in the news of late.”

Skinner was unable to confirm that the recording was Baghdadi, but he told Vocativ that it sounds like the ISIS leader in both syntax and tone. He also points out that it would be reckless of ISIS to quell rumors of Baghdadi’s injury with a recording that could easily be proven fake.

Kent Gibson, a certified forensic audio examiner who specializes in restoring and authenticating recordings, ran an SIS II voice ID analysis for Vocativ, comparing our questionable audio file to a confirmed Baghdadi recording from earlier this year. Gibson confirmed, with very high probability, that the new recording is indeed Baghdadi.

His analysis focused on three major factors for voice identification, which essentially amount to pronunciation (SF), fundamental frequency (pitch) and statistical modeling (GMM). Gibson’s software works independently of language and text. Here are the results:

In the image above, “FR” represents the probability of error if we assume the confirmed and suspected Baghdadi samples are different. “FA” represents the probability of error if we assume that those two recordings are the same. “LR” is a weighted ratio of these results. A “Match” greater than 60 percent is considered a high probability. The probability of a match between our confirmed and suspected Baghdadi recording is even higher—88 percent.

These two analyses imply that, whether or not Baghdadi was injured in an airstrike, the leader of ISIS is still capable of issuing orders, delivering lectures and rallying troops around the Islamic State.