For the first time since 2014, the notorious Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has come into the spotlight after releasing an 18 minute long video to the public.
The last time he has been seen was almost five years ago, back when he revealed from Mosul that a ‘caliphate’ was being formed across Iraq and Syria (hence ISIS from ISIL). The last time he was heard from was last summer in an audio recording. It’s currently unclear when or where this video was recorded, but the Islamic State claims it was shot in April. There has been clear signs of aging between now and his last appearance.
The video shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (whose in reality is an Iraqi named Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri) sitting against a barren white wall alongside a weapon. Many rumors were spread, including that the leader’s absence was due to him being wounded or killed. From poisoning to drone strikes he has an aura around him almost Rasputin-esque. Still, he’s not invincible. He’s been meticulous with protecting his location, due to the $25 million dollar bounty on his head. Baghdadi has been one of America’s Most Wanted for years.
But what does he say in the propaganda video? Well, the militant leader discusses the losses that the Islamic State has faced. In an almost twenty minute discussion he faces head on the defeats in specific battles, such as the Battle for Baghuz.
He’s quoted stating “Allah ordered us to lead the jihad, not to win.” With the lack of organization and held ground, ISIS has become desperate and this is a rallying cry. No longer holding territory, remaining foot soldiers have returned to their guerrilla roots. Baghdadi announces to his followers that he’s made alliances with militant groups in Mali and Burkina Faso, also has references the protests in Algeria and Sudan. He claims that jihad is the only solution against ‘tyrants.’
Also, the leader addresses the recent Sri Lanka bombings, which left three churches in ruins and over 250 dead. Baghdadi announces that the attacks were carried out in revenge for the loss of Baghuz. Though they’ve been beaten ISIL isn’t defeated yet. In the video their leader acknowledges this, saying “Our battle today is a battle of attrition, and we will prolong it for the enemy, and they must know that the jihad will continue until Judgment Day.”
Col. Julian Cheater, who oversees Air Force drone operations, made a public statement over this recent release from the Islamic State. “ISIS has morphed into a less pressing force, but it has not completely gone away, while the caliphate has been defeated, we still need to work with our ground partners to make sure that the remaining embers don’t flare up again.”
All of the video footage, as expected, is being scrutinized by American intelligence teams. Even the smallest details, such as the design on his supporters’ headscarves or the embroidery on the pillows near Baghdadi’s feet, are under a watchful eye. Drones and air surveillance have already begun their job in hunting down the volatile leader.
Works Cited: TIME.com, BBC.com, TheGuardian.com, NYTimes.com