IS leader in first video for five years

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-48098528

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Media captionThe man who appears to be al-Baghdadi speaks about the battle for Baghouz

A man believed to be the leader of the Islamic State group has made a rare camera appearance vowing to seek revenge for its loss of territory.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has not been seen since 2014, when he proclaimed from Mosul the creation of a “caliphate” across parts of Syria and Iraq.

In this new footage, he acknowledges defeat at Baghuz, the group’s last stronghold in the region.

It is not clear when the video was recorded. IS says it was shot in April.

The footage was posted on the militant group’s al-Furqan media network.

What does he say?

According to news agency Reuters, Baghdadi says the Easter Sunday Sri Lanka attacks were carried out as revenge for the fall of the Iraqi town of Baghuz.

He also says that he has had pledges of allegiance from militants in Burkina Faso and Mali, and talks about the protests in Sudan and Algeria – claiming that jihad is the only solution to “tyrants”. Both countries have seen their long-term rulers overthrown this month.

However, Baghdadi’s image disappears towards the end of the video and an audio recording of him discussing the Sri Lanka attacks is played instead, suggesting that this part was recorded after the main video was filmed.

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AFP

Image caption

Baghdadi has not been seen in public since this appearance in Mosul, Iraq in 2014

Baghdadi – an Iraqi whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri – was last heard from in an audio recording last August.

At the time, he appeared to be trying to shift attention away from his group’s crippling losses, BBC Middle East correspondent Martin Patience says.

But this latest 18-minute video addresses the losses head on.

“The battle for Baghuz is over,” he says, before adding: “There will be more to come after this battle.”

He also reportedly says the group is fighting a “battle of attrition”.

What happened to the ‘caliphate’?

At its peak, IS ruled over 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) stretching across the Iraq-Syria border.

But by 2016 it was a group in retreat. The next year, it lost Mosul in Iraq, depriving Baghdadi and his followers of the city where they had declared the caliphate’s creation.

In October, they were driven from Raqqa, in Syria.

They continued to lose territory throughout 2018, culminating in the group retreating to Baghuz.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared they had taken control of the town, announcing the end of the five-year “caliphate” in March 2019.

Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was born in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq.

As a child he is said to have had a passion for Koranic recitation and religious law, chastising members of his own family for falling short of his stringent religious standards.

But it was during his time in graduate school, when he was completing a Master’s and PhD in Koranic Studies at Iraq’s Saddam University for Islamic Studies, that he became involved with hardline Islamist groups.

By the end of 2000 he had embraced Salafist jihadism, and would go on to become involved with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) – from which the Islamic State militant group was born.

Since his 2014 public appearance he has remained silent for long periods, punctuated only by unconfirmed reports of his death and a few unverified audio recordings.

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