The video was Mr. al-Baghdadi’s first video message to his followers since 2014, when he mounted the pulpit of the Nuri Mosque within the Iraqi metropolis of Mosul to say his title as caliph, or chief of the world’s Muslims, after the group had declared the caliphate. The Islamic State was then close to the peak of its energy, when it dominated a territory the scale of Britain with a inhabitants of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
The toll of the years since then present on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s face. In the video, he seems to have placed on weight, and grey has unfold all through his beard, its ends dyed auburn with henna.
The video seemed to be an effort to to exhibit that regardless of his group’s great losses, it’s nonetheless lively and he’s paying consideration. He made passing references to the Israeli election and the toppling of longtime strongmen in Sudan and Algeria.
He additionally known as out a quantity of the group’s leaders by title, mentioning fighters and operatives from Belgium, Australia and Saudi Arabia, reflecting the multinational group it has change into.
“He’s exhibiting his ‘humble and modest’ self, unlike his last appearance where he is portrayed in what may be referred to as glorious standing, empowered by his group’s achievements, essentially standing at the top of the world,” stated Laith Alkhouri, senior director of Flashpoint, which tracks international terrorism. “In today’s video, he appears defeated, but for his base he’s uplifting.”
In a portion of the video the place Mr. al-Baghdadi speaks however just isn’t seen, he talked about more moderen occasions than the loss of the group’s territory in Syria: an assault on a safety workplace in Zulfi, Saudi Arabia, and the bombings in Sri Lanka, which his group had already claimed.
He stated the assaults had “put joy in the hearts” of jihadists by hanging “the homes of the crusaders in their Easter in revenge for their brothers in Baghuz.”