Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, long rumored to have been killed during the collapse of his “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, released a new video on Monday in which he praised the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka as well as jihadis in Burkina Faso and Mali. It was the first confirmed video appearance by Baghdadi since the summer of 2014.
The as-yet unauthenticated video, posted by the Islamic State’s al-Furqan network on the encrypted Telegram service, shows Baghdadi mentioning other recent events besides the Sri Lanka attacks. He made several references to the Islamic State’s defeat last month in its final Syrian redoubt of Baghouz, for example.
Baghdadi said the Sri Lanka bombings, which ISIS has claimed credit for, were intended as acts of revenge for the ISIS defeat in Baghouz. He said the Islamic State has conducted 92 terrorist operations in eight countries as “revenge for their brothers in Sham,” meaning the Syrian territory once held by the terror state.
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
The man alleged to be Baghdadi claimed the fall of his “caliphate” was due to the “savagery” of its Christian enemies.
“Truthfully, the battle of Islam and its people against the cross and its people is a long battle. The battle of Baghouz is over. But it did show the savagery, brutality and ill intentions of the Christians towards the Muslim community,” he said.
Baghdadi referred to pledges of allegiance from jihadis in Mali and Burkina Faso, which just experienced its first deadly attack on a Christian church. A squad of gunmen interrupted services at a church in the town of Silgadji on Sunday and murdered the pastor, two of his sons, and three other congregants.
The UK Guardian on Monday cited intelligence analysts who believe Baghdadi departed Baghouz in haste long before it was recaptured from ISIS due to a violent effort by a dissident faction to overthrow him.
“Officials suggest that a senior ISIS figure, Abu Muhammad al-Husseini al-Hashimi, believed to be a distant cousin of Baghdadi, is instrumental in a move against him. Hashimi recently released a 231-page book calling for an uprising against him, and for allegiance to be pledged to a new leader,” the Guardian reported.