Islamic State leader Baghdadi appears in video for first time in 5 years, says group will endure
AMMAN, Jordan — Islamic State’s long-pursued leader, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, made his first video appearance in almost five years on Monday, vowing to continue the battle against the U.S. and its allies in a propaganda video released to social media.
The 18-minute video, titled “In the Hospitality of the Emir of the Believers,” depicts a slow-speaking Baghdadi addressing a group of what are presumably his lieutenants, with a Kalashnikov rifle and an ammunition belt laid casually at his side.
He begins by congratulating what he described as Islamic State’s holy warriors for holding out in Baghouz, the tiny eastern Syrian hamlet that was the last remnant of Islamic State’s once sprawling caliphate before being overrun by a U.S.-backed offensive last month.
He appears in fine health, despite reports of severe injury. pic.twitter.com/WicynDSTw7
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) April 29, 2019
The fighters there, Baghdadi said, proved Islamic State’s militants would surrender the lands they control only “over their corpses and body parts.”
With the loss of Baghouz, Baghdadi continued, “the battle today is one of attrition,” calling on fighters to “attack their enemies and bleed them,” whether in manpower, military, economic or logistical capabilities.
The speech marks Baghdadi’s first video appearance since 2014, when he first walked up the steps of the Great Nouri Mosque in the city of Mosul, Iraq, and declared himself caliph.
In the months that followed that speech, the group’s fighters would blitz through large swaths of Iraq and Syria and eventually control a full third of each country.
Baghdadi, meanwhile, became arguably the world’s most wanted man: The United States offered a $25-million bounty for information leading to his capture. The various armies pursuing him have make periodic statements that he was killed in an airstrike or wounded or battling health issues.
Yet in the new video he appears to be in good health as he confers with the men around him, and is shown reading what are presumably reports from the various areas where the group maintains a presence.
BREAKING: Video appearing to show Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi emerges.
In the propaganda clip, he praises those behind the Sri Lanka attacks.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 29, 2019
Baghdadi addresses the uprisings in Algeria and Sudan, exhorting people there to return to jihad and that “nothing works with (the dictators) other than the sword.”
Later, in an audio-only addendum to the speech, Baghdadi mentions the recent attacks in Sri Lanka, insisting they were the work of a new Islamic State affiliate in the country.
The attackers were taking out “vengeance for their brothers in Baghouz,” Baghdadi said. He said it was “a part of the vengeance that awaits the Crusaders and their lackeys” — a reference to the U.S.-led coalition and its allies — and rejoiced that among the dead were Americans and Europeans.