For the first time in five years, ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi appears in a video, mentions Sri Lanka blasts

In five years, ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi appeared in a video for the first time. the ISIS leader, in the 18-minute video released by Al Furqan Foundation, mentions the Sri Lanka blasts as wells as the end of the ‘war’ in Syrian town of Baghuz, indicating that the video was filmed recently.

The taped message is clearly intended to bolster IS recruits and fighters, and demonstrate the terror group’s capacity to pose a serious security threat to countries across much of the world. In the video, Baghdadi appears to have aged a bit but seems in good health and alert in his address to assembled followers.

Sources in intelligence agencies said the video was credible as it was released by Al Furqan, which is considered to be the core media group of the outfit. Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al Badri, was last seen on video while giving a speech from the Al Nuri mosque in Mosul in 2014. That was his last public appearance as well.

In August last year, Al Furqan had released a 55-minute audio speech purportedly given by Baghdadi in which he asked his followers to keep the fight going in Iraq and Syria. This audio was released after reports indicated that he may have been killed in a Russian air strike in May last year in Syria’s Raqqa.

Foreign intelligence agencies as well as the Indian intelligence network are carefully evaluating Baghdadi’s speech as they say it could have repercussions on global jihad. “This video might act as a booster to the Islamic State which is losing the battle on the ground. The video can be used for radicalisation by splinter and IS-inspired groups in India and abroad,” an intelligence officer said.

The IS took responsibility for the Sri Lanka bombings two days after the attack and released a statement through its mouthpiece Amaq. Four days later, IS published a “special report” on the attacks in the latest issue of its weekly newsletter, Al Naba. The report said the targets were Christians and “Coalition citizens”.

“Every time the crusaders think they have imposed their influence and stolen the abode of Islam, the conquerors appear in another region in a war brought on by the sons of the Khilafah and their leaders. To rival the enemy… frustrate him in every part of the world and drain his energy and capabilities,” the ‘editors’ of the magazine had written.