ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has appeared in a new video for the first time in nearly five years and has vowed to get revenge for his dead militants.
The leader of the Islamist group gave his last sermon at the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, in July 2014.
He has not appeared in a video since announcing the creation of the so-called caliphate from the pulpit of the Al-Nuri mosque nearly five years ago in a clip played around the world.
The elusive chief appeared for the first time in the propaganda video released today by the jihadist organisation.
It showed the haggard militant, looking gaunt with a greying beard that appeared dyed with henna speaking slowly, often pausing for several seconds in the middle of his sentences, in stark contrast to his black facial hair and confident delivery in 2014.
The 47-year-old recluse sat cross-legged in a black robe with a Kalashnikov rifle resting against the wall near his right arm.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seen in a new video for the first time since 2014 when he announced the existence of ISIS at the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance on July 5, 2014
The Iraqi militant, who suffers from diabetes, has been rumoured to have been wounded or killed several times in the past.
But his whereabouts have never been confirmed and a $25million bounty remains for his scalp.
It is unclear when the footage was filmed, but Baghdadi referred in the past tense to the months-long fight for Baghouz, IS’s final bastion in eastern Syria, which ended last month.
He said in his 40-second address, sitting on a cushion and speaking to three men whose faces have been blurred: ‘The battle for Baghouz is over.’
Baghdadi the added: ‘There will be more to come after this battle’, saying his group is fighting a ‘battle of attrition’.
He blamed the fall of his ‘caliphate’ on the ‘savagery’ of Christians towards Muslims and that the battle of Baghouz demonstrated the ‘barbarism and brutality’ of the West and the ‘courage, steadfastness and resilience of the nation of Islam’.
Baghdadi said: ‘Truthfully, the battle of Islam and its people against the cross and its people is a long battle.
‘The battle of Baghouz is over. But it did show the savagery, brutality and ill intentions of the Christians towards the Muslim community.’
In the clip he also said the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka which killed more than 250 people and for which the group claimed responsibility were in retaliation for ISIS’s defeat in Baghouz.
ISIS leader al-Baghdadi could be seen reading from a piece of paper as declared that ‘the battle for Baghouz is over’
Al-Baghdadi also vowed to take revenge for his dead militants killed as US-backed forces retook territory in Iraq and Syria seized by the Islamist group
Baghdadi sat cross-legged on a cushion in the clip as he addressed three men whose faces have been blurred (pictured)
Baghdadi said: ‘In fact, the battle of Islam and its people against the Crusaders and their followers is a long battle. This steadfastness shocked the hearts of the Crusaders in what increased their rage.’
An image from the new footage published by ISIS media wing al-Furqan on Telegram was shared today by SITE Intel Group – an US company that tracks online activity of white supremacist and jihadist organisations.
As ISIS was driven out of its remaining stronghold last month the whereabouts of its leaders, including Baghdadi, remained unclear.
Syrian Democratic Forces declared a ‘total elimination’ of the jihadist group in March after flushing out suicidal jihadists from the holdout in Baghouz, eastern Syria.
Those who had not been killed or captured in Iraq and Syria as US-backed forces recaptured the militants’ territory dispersed to their countries of origin.
During the terrorist group’s bloody last stand male and female fanatics hid in caves as a barrage of air strikes rained down on their positions.
But the world’s most wanted man – Baghdadi, who declared himself the tyrant of the regime in 2014 – was reportedly not among those holed up in the caves.
A recording thought to be of Baghdadi’s voice surfaced last August addressing his followers. He is pictured in 2014 at the Great Mosque in Mosul
Nicknamed ‘The Ghost’, he has not appeared in public since he delivered a sermon at Mosul’s famed Al-Nuri mosque in 2014 declaring himself ‘caliph’.
His last voice recording to his supporters was released last August, eight months after Iraq announced it had defeated IS and as US-backed forces closed in next door in Syria.
But as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces pressed the ‘final battle’ against IS’s last sliver of territory, a spokesman for the US-backed group said the elusive leader was likely not there.
Last month it was reported that Baghdadi ‘only has three companions’ – his older brother Jumaa, his driver and bodyguard Abdullatif al-Jubury, whom he has known since childhood, and his courier Saud al-Kurdi.
It was thought he was laying low somewhere in Syria’s vast Badia desert, which stretches from the eastern border with Iraq to the sweeping province of Homs.
That is where his son Hudhayfa al-Badri was reportedly killed in July by three Russian guided missiles.
Keeping a low profile – in contrast to slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – has helped Baghdadi survive for years.
Smoke rising from the final stronghold of ISIS in Baghouz, eastern Syria, as US-backed forces pushed ISIS from their last remaining stronghold
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces stand in front of their flag in Baghouz, Syria, after eliminating the jihadist group in the area
Born Ibrahim Awad al-Badri in 1971, the passionate football fan came from modest beginnings in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
His school results prevented him studying law and his poor eyesight stopped him joining the army, so he moved to the Baghdad district of Tobchi to study Islam.
After US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003, he founded his own insurgent organisation but never carried out major attacks.
When he was arrested and held in a US detention facility in southern Iraq in February 2004, he was still very much a lower tier jihadist.
But it was Camp Bucca – later dubbed ‘the University of Jihad’ – where Baghdadi came of age as a jihadist.
He was released at the end of 2004 for lack of evidence. Iraqi security services arrested him twice subsequently, in 2007 and 2012, but let him go because they did not know who he was.
In 2005, the father-of-five from two different wives pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the brutal leader of Iraq’s Al-Qaeda franchise.
Zarqawi was killed by an American drone strike in 2006, and after his successor was also eliminated, Baghdadi took the helm in 2010.
A still from a video released by the Free Burma Rangers in March showing people moving between tents in a makeshift camp in the last ISIS-controlled piece of territory between the advancing Syrian Democratic Forces and the Euphrates River
He revived the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), expanded into Syria in 2013 and declared independence from Al-Qaeda.
In the following years, Baghdadi’s Islamic State group captured swathes of territory, set up a brutal system of government, and inspired thousands to join the ‘caliphate’ from abroad.
Baghdadi was raised in a family divided between a religious clan and officers loyal to Saddam’s secular Baath party.
Years later, his jihadist group incorporated ex-Baathists, capitalising on the bitterness many officers felt after the American move to dissolve the Iraqi army in 2003.
He is thought to have had three wives in total, Iraqi Asma al-Kubaysi, Syrian Isra al-Qaysi and another, more recently, from the Gulf.
The terrorist has been accused of repeatedly raping girls and women he kept as ‘sex slaves’, including a pre-teen Yazidi girl and US aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was subsequently killed.
Baghdadi is among the few senior IS commanders still at large after two years of steady battlefield losses that saw the self-styled ‘caliphate’ shrink from an area the size of Britain to a tiny speck in the Euphrates River valley.
Although largely seen as a symbolic figurehead of the global terror network – he was described as ‘irrelevant for a long time’ by a coalition spokesman in 2017.
Since their defeat and the loss of more than 20,000 fighters as a result of US, French and Russian airstrikes, ISIS leaders have pledged to bring terrorism to the streets of their enemies.