The Islamic State released a new video said to feature its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which, if true, would mark the first time he has been seen in footage since 2014.
“In the video — released by ISIS’s propaganda arm al-Furqan and obtained by SITE Intelligence Group — Baghdadi reportedly claims that his followers died fighting to the end in territories and cities that have been routed by U.S.-backed coalition forces,” Fox News reported on Monday.
“He also claims that the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka were retaliation for ISIS being defeated in their Baghouz, their last stronghold in Syria, and refers to the recent oustings of leaders in Algeria and Sudan, meaning that the video must have been shot within the last week.”
Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence, tweeted an image of al-Baghdadi from the video.
1) BREAKING: #ISIS’ Furqan issues new video showing leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, marking the first time he is shown in a video since his July 2014 sermon at the Great Mosque in #Mosul pic.twitter.com/cDgOmx7Mhn
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) April 29, 2019
According to Katz, the last time the ISIS leader had been seen in video was July 2014 in a sermon he gave at the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq.
ISIS had taken control of Mosul the previous month. The northern Iraqi city of 2 million people became a prominent part of the terrorist group’s so-called caliphate, Reuters reported.
The city was liberated by the Iraqi Army, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, in July 2017.
U.S. Army Col. Scott Rawlinson with Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, tasked with defeating ISIS, told Fox News regarding the new video: “At this time, we are working to independently corroborate the validity of the video posted today reportedly showing Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.”
“We are continuing to support partner forces in their mission of an enduring defeat of Daesh, which includes the capability to finance their operations, recruit new members, and collaborate to conduct violent extremist attacks.”
Sabah al Namaan, a spokesperson for Iraq’s counterterrorism agency, told Fox regarding al-Baghdadi earlier this month, “Hopefully we will reach him very soon, especially now that ISIS has been defeated in its final place in Baghouz, Syria and they have lost all their land in Iraq.”
The final offensive to liberate land held by the Islamic State ended in Baghouz last month, with victory by the U.S. and its allies.
“Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment but the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over,” Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee earlier in March, before the fall of Baghouz, located near Syria’s border with Iraq.
At that time, the general noted that the organization’s territory has shrunk from 34,000 square miles at the height of its power to an area of less than a square mile in the town of Baghouz.
“What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities by taking their chances in camps for internally displaced persons and going to ground in remote areas and waiting for the right time to resurge,” Votel said.
The Pentagon estimates there are between 10,000 and 20,000 Islamic State fighters left in Iraq and Syria who have gone to ground and are preparing to fight an extended insurgency.
5) There is serious danger not only to the fact that Baghdadi, #ISIS’ so-called Caliph, is still alive–but also that he is able to reemerge to his supporters and reaffirm the group’s us-vs-the-world message after all the progress made against the group. pic.twitter.com/BbqFGM78O8
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) April 29, 2019
In a Twitter post concerning al-Baghdadi, Katz warned, “There is serious danger not only to the fact that Baghdadi, #ISIS’ so-called Caliph, is still alive — but also that he is able to reemerge to his supporters and reaffirm the group’s us-vs-the-world message after all the progress made against the group.”
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