Islamic State Chief Resurfaces After 5 Years, Claims Sri Lankan Blasts Were Revenge For Baghouz
April 30th, 2019 / 2:28 PM
Image Credit: Rita Katz/Twitter
In a video released by Al-Furqan channel on Monday, purportedly ISIS’s jihadist chief Abu-Bakr-Al-Baghdadi is seen in conversation with three other people whose faces have been blurred. While it cannot be confirmed when the video was shot or when newer audio bits were added later, it has captured eyeballs around the globe as it is supposedly the first video appearance of the Islamic State leader in the last five years since he declared the rise of his self-declared Islamic Caliphate, in a televised sermon in July 2014 at Al Nuri mosque in Mosul.
The elusive leader was reportedly wounded and even reported dead on many occasions in past. However, he appears in the latest video in good health sporting a greying bread. He also appears to be sitting rather comfortably on cushions with a Kalashnikov rifle and an ammunition belt.
The Independent reported that in the 18 minute video titled “In the Hospitality of the Emir of the Believers” Baghdadi is seen addressing the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and praising the recent terror attacks in Sri Lanka, which targeted churches and hotels and left more than 250 people dead, calling it “revenge” for Baghouz – the small Syrian village where Isis made its last stand. However while this was said, Baghdadi is not in view in the video and it is assumed that the audio clipping was attached later. This goes against the initial assumption that the Sri Lankan blasts were in response to the Christchurch Mosque shoot-out
In a previous video clip released by Amaq news following the Easter Sunday blasts, the supposed suicide bombers with their suspected leader Zaharan Hasim pledged allegiance to the caliphate of the Islamic state and the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant terrorist (ISIL) organisation Abu Bak al-Baghdadi, calling him “emir al-mumineem.”
New York Times’s Rukmini Callimachi also offered a thread of explanations on Twitter following the video release
4. So this is literally only the second video he’s appeared in in more than a decade. Why take the risk now? Perhaps because the terror organization he leads is at an inflection point. He’s taken the enormous risk of showing his current appearance to rally his followers
— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) April 29, 2019
What happened in Baghouz?
Baghouz was the Islamic State’s last stand in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), assisted by American-led coalition airstrikes gained on the strip of land operated by the ISIS on 23rd March, 2019.
While it has been suggested long since that ISIS is merely trying to capitalise on the Sri Lankan Blasts since ISIS claimed the attack with no further proof, Nader Hashemi from the University of Denver who spoke to Al-Jazeera said that the release of this video is a huge embarrassment to Donald Trump’s administration.
“Just a few weeks ago, Trump was claiming, ‘mission accomplished’ and ‘the war is over’. This video clearly sends a message to the Americans – and Trump in particular – that the head of the organisation is very much alive,” Hashemi told Al Jazeera.
In the video Baghdadi is seen saying that ‘the Battle for Baghouz is over’ but he later added that “There will be more to come”.
The timing of the video’s release indicates that the Jihadist leader has survived the Baghouz attack and it can also be seen as an attempt to gain more followers after it crumbled in Baghouz. There are no clues about his location but it is suspected that he is hiding out in the desert of Syria or Iraq.
The Strait Times reported that the United States has vowed on Monday (April 29) that it would track down and defeat surviving leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) movement following the video clip’s release.
Written by : Janani Janarthanan (Intern)
Edited by : Bharat Nayak