This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
French police say a man with a knife has killed two people in a suburb of Paris and gravely wounded a third victim.
The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the August 23 attack in the town of Trappes, to the west of Paris.
But the IS group gave no evidence of the claim. Meanwhile, sources in the French Interior Ministry said the two slain victims were the mother and sister of the assailant.
The local prefecture in the Paris suburb confirmed that the attacker was “neutralized and is dead.”
The killings came just hours after the IS group released an audio recording of a man who claimed to be IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In his first purported audio recording in a year, Baghdad urged his followers to keep fighting the group’s enemies around the world, despite recent defeats.
The 54-minute audio was released by the group’s media arm, the Al-Furqan Foundation, late on August 22.
Conflicting reports have emerged on the whereabouts of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and whether he is dead or alive. His group has lost 90 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, where Baghdadi declared a caliphate in June 2014.
Baghdadi’s last audio message in September 2017 called on his followers to kill enemies everywhere using whatever weapons are available, and IS has claimed numerous attacks around the world since then.
In the latest recording, Baghdadi mentions current events, including the Muslim al-Ahda feast and Turkey’s dispute with the United States over its detention of an American pastor. If the voice on the audio is confirmed to be that of Baghdadi, that would disprove reports of his death.
Baghdadi says “America is going through the worse time in its entire existence” and says Russia is competing with the United States for influence in the Middle East.
He also criticizes rebel surrenders in southern Syria to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, calling them traitors and urging fighters to join his group instead. He warns that Syria’s Idlib Province — the last stronghold of rebel forces — is about to fall to an invasion by Russian and Syrian forces.
Baghdadi has only appeared in public once — in 2014 in the Iraqi city of Mosul. There have been recurring reports of his death, but U.S. military officials have said they believe he is still alive.
Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown but he is believed to be hiding in the desert along the Syrian-Iraqi border.