Islamic State’s media network on Monday published a threatening video message purporting to come from its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in what would be his first appearance since declaring the jihadists’ now-defunct “caliphate” five years ago.
In the 18-minute video from the Al Furqan network, a bearded man with Baghdadi’s appearance says the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka were IS’s response to losses in its last territorial stronghold of Baghouz in Syria.
The group will seek revenge for jailed and killed members, he says, calling for militants operating in west Africa to multiply attacks against “Crusader France and its allies”.
The authenticity and date of the recording could not be independently verified.
The video would be the first from Baghdadi since he was filmed in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014. More recent speeches have been released as audio recordings.
Introductory script at the start of the video dates it to earlier in April, and he can be seen sitting cross-legged on the floor giving an address to three aides who have their faces blurred.
The speaker appears to be in good health and looks like a slightly older version of Baghdadi than when he was pictured in 2014, addressing followers from a pulpit to declare a caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria.
In the footage released on Monday, he is dressed in black robes and a beige waistcoat, with a long graying beard dyed red at the bottom. A rifle leans against the wall behind him.
“Our battle today is a battle of attrition with the enemy … Jihad continues until judgment day, and God ordered us to jihad, but not to victory,” he said.