ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — dropping current events references including the Sri Lanka Easter attacks to put a timestamp on his appearance — surfaced in a new video today for the first time in five years.
The video, released by ISIS’ al-Furqan Media, shows Baghdadi meeting with commanders as he vows to inflict revenge for the defeat of the caliphate’s physical territory in Iraq and Syria.
“The battle of Baghouz is over,” he said, referencing the multisectarian Syrian Democratic Forces’ offensive on ISIS’ last Syrian stronghold that wrapped up in late March. “But it did show the savagery, brutality and ill intentions of the Christians towards the Muslim community.”
Baghdadi released an audio recording in August, but this 18-minute video is the first time he’s been seen on film since declaring the establishment of a caliphate from Mosul in July 2014.
The video doesn’t indicate a location; the scenes showing Baghdadi are interior.
ISIS had teased an upcoming video online on Monday.
In February, it was reported that Baghdadi had survived a coup attempt by some of his fighters. At the end of March, James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS, told reporters, “We don’t know where he is.”
ISIS’ Amaq news agency claimed credit for the April 21 coordinated bombings of several churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, declaring April 23 that “the attack that targeted the citizens of the International Coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka two days ago was carried out by Islamic State fighters.”
They released the kunyas of seven jihadists involved: Abu Mukhtaar, Abu Baraa, Abu Ubaida, Abu Khalil, Abu Abdullah, Abu Hamza, and Abu Muhammad. ISIS said Abu Hamza detonated his explosive at St. Anthony’s Catholic church in Colombo, Abu Khalil attacked St. Sebastian’s Catholic church in Negombo, Abu Muhammad bombed evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa, and Abu Abdullah was named as the suspect who killed three police officers while being arrested in Dematagoda. The others conducted the Shangri-La, Cinnamon and Kingsbury hotel bombings, the terror group said.
Amaq then released a video purportedly showing the masked jihadists praying in team-huddle formation with an unmasked leader before the attacks.