In this undated and unlocated tv grab taken from a video released by Al-Furqan media, the chief of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appears for the first time in five years in a propaganda video.
ISIS terror chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is seen for the first time in almost five years in a new video released to prove he’s still alive.
The world’s most wanted terrorist can apparently be heard name-checking the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka and the end of the battle in Baghouz in a speech to his closest followers at his secret hide-out.
The extremist group’s propaganda arm, Al-Furqan, today released a video it called “In the Hospitality of the Emir of the Believers.”
It seems be designed to show al-Baghdadi is alive and still in command of the on-the-run terror group as it plots new atrocities around the world.
The 18-minute video of al-Baghdadi included images of the extremist leader sitting in a white room with three others, assault rifles by their sides. He discussed Sri Lanka in an audio portion of the video, suggesting the April 21 attacks came after they filmed him.
Al-Baghdadi praised the attackers, saying they conducted the bombings as revenge for the fall of Baghouz, Syria, the last territory the extremist group held there or in Iraq.
“As for your brothers in Sri Lanka, they have put joy in the hearts of the monotheists with their immersing operations that struck the homes of the crusaders in their Easter,” al-Baghdadi said, according to a transcript from the US-based SITE Intelligence Group.
He also called on Islamic State-pledged militants in the island nation off the southern tip of India to be “a thorn in the chests of the crusaders.”
Authorities initially blamed the Easter attacks, targeting three hotels and three churches, on a local militant named Mohammed Zahran and his followers. Then the Islamic State group on April 23 released images of Zahran and others pledging their loyalty to al-Baghdadi.
Mystery had surrounded al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts for some time. He was said to have been seriously wounded in an air strike in 2015.
But in the propaganda video he seems to have recovered.
He appears with a bushy grey and red beard, wearing a black robe with a beige vest and is seated on the floor with what appears to be a machine gun propped up next to him.
After the complete collapse of the caliphate last month he was thought to be have gone into hiding in the desert regions of Iraq or Syria.
It is unclear when the video was filmed.
But terror expert Rita Katz, of SITE Intelligence Group, said: “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 in Syria being over, indicating that this interview was filmed somewhat recently.”
The siege at Baghouz lasted 10 weeks and ended in March, marking the complete collapse of the caliphate.
In an audio-only section, he praises the Sri Lanka hotel and church suicide bombers, claiming the massacre was “revenge”.
Terror experts said that part was likely added afterwards to bring it up to date.
The terror chief is believed to have been born in Samarra, north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, in 1971.
He was reportedly a cleric in a mosque when the city was invaded by US-led forces in 2003.
While reports differ on when al-Baghdadi was radicalised, it has been suggested that he was brainwashed in Camp Bucca, a US prison in southern Iraq.
He was previously the leader of extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq which eventually transformed into ISIS in 2010.
Al-Baghdadi’s only known public appearance on video was in 2014 when he delivered a sermon in Mosul, Iraq, annouciing the formation of the ill-fated caliphate.