For the first time in nearly five years, the Islamic State has released a video of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking. The last time he was seen on camera was in early July 2014, just days after his men declared him the supposed caliph. While the so-called caliphate has produced a small number of audio messages from Baghdadi since then, he hasn’t been pictured.
Unlike his triumphant appearance in Mosul in 2014, Baghdadi is recorded sitting, speaking to his men. He specifically references current events, including the Islamic State’s loss of Baghouz, a location that was considered the last bit of ground under the jihadists’ control.
Baghdadi praises the dozens of operations conducted by his loyalists around the globe as revenge for the loss of Baghouz and other territory in Syria. Toward the end of the production, in a bit of audio that appears to have been recorded after the main video, Baghdadi specifically highlights the bombings in Sri Lanka. Like other Islamic State plots, he portrays the Easter Sunday attacks as a response to his group’s defeats and losses elsewhere.
Baghdadi does not mention the terrorist attack by a white supremacist in Christchurch, New Zealand. Sri Lankan authorities have claimed that the Easter bombings were retaliation for that massacre, but the Islamic State itself has not made this argument.
Other bits of Baghdadi’s message indicate that it was recorded fairly recently. He also praises Abu Walid al Sahrawi, the head of the Islamic State’s arm in the Sahara, and his men for carrying out operations in West Africa.
Note: This article will be updated with specific quotes and other details from Baghdadi’s video.