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IS Claims Video Shows Reclusive Leader Saying, Terror Group’s Fight Now As A “Battle of Attrition”

"He's obviously the face of ISIS and we hadn't seen him in sometime," he said, using an acronym for the terror group. "Now he's out there saying Sri Lanka, that's what we want — more of it."

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This image made from video posted on a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. VOA

In the video issued Monday, the man claiming to be Baghdadi praised the IS fighters who defended the northeastern Syrian town of Baghuz, the last to remain under IS control, before succumbing to U.S.-backed forces last month seek revenge for the fall of the terror group’s self-declared caliphate In Iraq and Syria.

The more than 18-minute-long video posted to the internet by IS’s al-Furqan media division shows a man, allegedly Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, sitting cross-legged against a white backdrop with a machine gun and a couple of pillows by his side.

The man is seen speaking with other IS members, whose faces are blurred or covered with masks, acknowledging the recent fall of the last IS-held territory in Baghuz, Syria, and praising the Easter Sunday terror attack in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.

FILE - Funeral banners hang across the street in front of St. Anthony's Shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 26, 2019.
Funeral banners hang across the street in front of St. Anthony’s Shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 26, 2019. VOA

​He described the terror group’s fight now as a “battle of attrition” and “stretching the enemy,” and promised IS will seek revenge for the killing and imprisonment of its fighters.

“Jihad continues until judgment day,” he warned.

U.S. reaction

Officials at the Pentagon and the State Department, as well as at U.S. intelligence agencies, said they were aware of the tape but had yet to verify the man in the video is actually the IS leader.

“We are aware of the video that surfaced today,” State Department spokesman Michael Lavallee said. “Analysts will review this recording and we will defer to the intelligence community to confirm its authenticity.”

If confirmed, the video would be the first to show the 48-year-old Baghdadi since the IS leader gave a sermon at the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, in July 2014.

Since then, Baghdadi’s efforts to communicate with a mass audience have been limited to audio recordings posted online in September 2017 and August 2018.

In a 2018 recording, Baghdadi urged followers to persevere even as IS was losing ground to U.S.-backed forces.

“For the mujahedeen, the scale of victory or defeat is not dependent on a city or town being stolen or subject to that who has aerial superiority, intercontinental missiles or smart bombs,” he said at the time.

The lack of public appearances and the sporadic messages have led to speculation about his whereabouts while also sparking numerous rumors of his death. But U.S. military and intelligence officials have long believed Baghdadi is alive, hiding in remote areas of Syria or Iraq where IS remains entrenched, possibly with local support.

Since 2016, the United States has offered a reward of up to $25 million for information that helps bring Baghdadi to justice. Only one other person, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, has a reward that high.

Praised IS fighters

In the video issued Monday, the man claiming to be Baghdadi praised the IS fighters who defended the northeastern Syrian town of Baghuz, the last to remain under IS control, before succumbing to U.S.-backed forces last month.

“The battle of Baghuz had ended and in it the barbarity and savagery of the nation of the Cross towards the Ummah of Islam was clear,” Baghdadi said, according to a translation by SITE Intelligence. “At the same time, the bravery, steadfastness and endurance of the Ummah of Islam was evident.”

Baghdadi also praised IS fighters “in the provinces” for seeking revenge, claiming they had carried out almost 300 operations across eight countries, before addressing the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka.

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In the video issued Monday, the man claiming to be Baghdadi praised the IS fighters who defended the northeastern Syrian town of Baghuz, the last to remain under IS control, before succumbing to U.S.-backed forces last month. Pixabay

“As for your brothers in Sri Lanka, they have put joy in the hearts of the monotheists with their immersing operations that struck the homes of the Crusaders in their Easter, in vengeance for their brothers in Baghuz,” Baghdadi said.

“This is part of the vengeance that awaits the Crusaders and their henchmen, Allah permitting,” he added. “Praise be to Allah, among the dead were Americans and Europeans.”

Baghdadi also praised IS fighters in Libya and welcomed pledges of allegiance from jihadists in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Some former counterterror officials caution the release of the new video is worrisome, as it could serve to lift the spirits of IS supporters.

“It is important because he came out,” said retired Col. Chris Costa, who served as the senior director for counterterrorism at the start of the Trump administration.

“He’s obviously the face of ISIS and we hadn’t seen him in sometime,” he said, using an acronym for the terror group. “Now he’s out there saying Sri Lanka, that’s what we want — more of it.”

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But Costa and others are cautious about giving IS or Baghdadi too much credit, cautioning that even if Baghdadi was to be removed from the battlefield, a difficult fight remains.

“That’s a key piece of dismantling or degrading an organization, but it is not a cure-all,” former National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen said at a conference Monday in Washington. “We still would very much be confronting an ideological narrative that still finds resonance across conflict zones all across the world.” (VOA)

Next Story

India Assists Syria By Rebuilding Brain Power

India silently extends support to Syria by rebuilding brain power

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India helps Syria
India is helping Syria by providing them medicinal and educational support. Wikimedia Commons

BY RANJANA NARAYAN

In the midst of the global focus on Syria with Turkeys latest offensive putting a big question mark on when the war will end, India has been quietly doing its bit to help the Syrian people cope, and also laying the foundation for its bright future.

It’s not just with medicines and food supplies that India has been helping the war-wracked country, but now with education too.

India is providing scholarships to 1,000 Syrian students to study in Indian universities, in undergraduate, post-graduate courses and even PhD.

Behind the move to provide scholarships to students from Syria is a hope that it would in the near future replicate the success stories from the African continent — where several current or former Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents have attended educational or training institutions in India.

Syrian Ambassador to India Riad Abbas thinks so too, and is happy at the move by India.

“India supports Syria in many ways. They support Syrian people with medicine, with food, and this initiative has come from Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) for our students,” Abbas told IANS in an interview.

“Around 1,000 students have come to India to study in different universities and different courses – from Bachelors to Masters to PhD”

“Through this means India is assisting Syria by rebuilding the brain” – here he taps his head with a meaningful smile, “the brain of our people to plant education, science, and peace”.

According to Abbas, it is “the best thing to rebuild humanity and the people”.

Could these students one day become leaders in Syria too?

“Definitely they could become… They will come back to our homeland to rebuild Syria. And maybe they will be in the government in future. They will be like ambassadors of India to Syria and Arab countries,” he said.

Abbas said that all the Syrian students currently studying in India as part of the initiative “are satisfied by the nature of Indian people and the hospitality. They are happy in their universities, and are fully supported by the universities”.

India-Syria
India is providing scholarships to 1,000 Syrian students to study in Indian universities. Wikimedia Commons

The students are in 11 government and private universities across the country.

Abbas hopes the initiative will become a yearly feature. “I hope we make it every year, if it is possible.

“Because we look forward to enhancing our relationship with India, and we want all our students to get their certificates from India, because Indian education is of a higher level, compared to other countries — similar to the UK and US,” he added.

Another important factor is the students “feel at home” in India due to the cultural affinities.

“There are similar traditions between the two countries and because of this they feel at home.

“Most of our students will come back to our homeland to help their families, their people and to rebuild Syria,” he said.

Though the Western world sees Syria as badly battered and bruised, India sees Damascus as a strong country with a powerful military that has been able to determinedly push back the Islamic State militia, which a few years ago had threatened to overrun the country.

While a few years ago the West was loudly calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, today those voices have accepted his rule.

The Syrian envoy agrees. “Since a long time we have been fighting terrorism on behalf of the world. All terror groups came to Syria by Turkey’s support, they (Ankara) opened the border and facilitated their smuggling into Syria to kill our people and destroy our country.

“But now the last bit is left. We will defeat the terror groups on the ground, which get support from America. It is America which leads the army of mercenaries to fight against our army, and our army has defeated them. So now we are faced with the American army on the ground of Syria. This means that America’s project in the Middle East has failed, because of Syria,” the envoy told IANS.

India
Syria has cordial relations with India, since the independence of both countries. Both have similar views in many cases in the international arena. Pixabay

“They (the West and the US in particular) declared in the past, ‘We will change the government of Syria, we will change the president, we will do like this and that’… It was only talking for talking’s sake. Only they destroyed the country, but they couldn’t achieve their aims to change the Syrian government, and Syrian policy.

“And we are proud of our relation with BRICS countries, and especially with India. We highly appreciate India’s position and the Indian people, and we pray for God to save this country and its people.”

On Syria-India relations, he said: “We have cordial relations with India, since the independence of both countries. Both have similar views in many cases in the international arena.”

He praised India’s stand on the Syrian issue – on support for a political solution in Syria put forward by the people themselves, help realise the aspirations of the Syrian people and stand against any external intervention in Syria.

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“Because India has a strong voice in the international arena and many countries follow India’s position. And if all countries are like India, there would be no problem,” he added. (IANS)