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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Resurfaces: New Video Is First in Five Years

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.

SDF Declares ‘New Phase in the Fight Against Terrorists’ After Caliphate Defeat

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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