The Islamic State’s Sinai Wilayah (or “province”) has released a short video in which a small cadre of jihadists renew their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Their ringleader is identified as Abu Jafar al-Ansari, a masked man seen at the center of the screen shot above.
Al-Ansari is defiant, saying that regardless of the losses suffered by the “brothers” in Iraq and Syria, he and his comrades will remain steadfast. He portrays the Islamic State as a source for unity, citing a Koranic verse about holding fast by using the “rope” Allah has provided to believers to avoid internal divisions. The same verse is frequently used by jihadists to emphasize their supposed unity.
Al-Ansari’s speech is spliced together with footage of the group’s members fighting, training and carrying out terrorist attacks. Toward the end of the footage, al-Ansari leads his men in a ceremonial renewal of their bayat (or oath of allegiance) to Baghdadi. Screen shots of the scene are included below.
The Sinai Wilayah’s short video was released four days after a similar production by the Islamic State’s West Africa Wilayah. Indeed, Al-Ansari’s performance mimics that given by Abu Salmah al-Mangawi – the jihadist who led his West African comrades in renewing their oath of fealty to Baghdadi.
The two videos are similar in several respects and are undoubtedly part of a coordinated campaign to show that the Islamic State remains a viable international force, despite the loss of its territory.
Like the video from West Africa, the Sinai jihadists’ footage opens with text saying that they are renewing their “pledge of allegiance” to the so-called “caliph of Muslims,” Abu-Bakr al-Husseini al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi, and remain committed to the fight even though some claim to have “eliminated the caliphate.” Each video features a single, main speaker who then leads his men in the renewal, clasping hands in a circle.
In late April, Baghdadi made a rare appearance on camera, delivering his own talk on the state of the jihad. A masked lieutenant handed him portfolios that supposedly summarized the activities of the organization’s various “provinces” around the globe. This scene was intended to underscore the degree to which the Islamic State’s arms outside of Iraq and Syria will carry on, even if the territorial caliphate was no more.
The videos from West Africa and now the Sinai are intended to reinforce the same message.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.