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ISIS leader al-Baghdadi appears in first video since 2014

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2004, photographed by the U.S. during his detention at Bucca Camp, near Umm Qasr, Iraq. (Sofia Amara/N0VAPROD/Abaca Press/TNS)
April 29, 2019

New images of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have reportedly surfaced this week for the first time in nearly five years.

ISIS’ al-Furqan propaganda media released a video reportedly showing al-Baghdadi engaging in conversation with other followers, discussing the terror group’s defeat in Syria, and commenting on recent terror attacks, Fox News reported Monday.

“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,” Rita Katz, director of SITEL Intelligence Group, said in a tweet Monday.

“2) The video shows Baghdadi in a casual conversational setting with others (their faces blurred). He talks about war against “Crusaders” and about battles in #Baghouz #Syria being over, indicating that this interview was filmed somewhat recently,” Katz continued.

“3) In the vid, titled “In the Hospitality of the Emir of the Believers,” Baghdadi praises #SriLanka attackers over images of the attackers/attack (though not in the visual interview section; the audio may have thus been added via a later recording)–calling it revenge for Baghouz,” she added.

“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,” Katz concluded.

Intelligence analysts have been speculating Baghdadi’s death for several years, as nothing but audio recordings have released in recent years and he has appeared to be in hiding. He was thought to have gone into hiding to rewrite the terror group’s education plans in order to influence the next generation of jihadists.

In August 2018, al-Furqan also posted an audio message claiming to be from al-Baghdadi, a first since Sept. 2017.

In the audio clip, al-Baghdadi remarked on the dwindling numbers of ISIS, calling it a test from Allah.