Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who purportedly appeared for the first time in five years in an IS propaganda video released Monday, remains the world’s most wanted man, despite the jihadists’ “caliphate” imploding weeks ago. After declaring himself caliph in 2014, Baghdadi held sway over seven million people across swathes of Syria and Iraq, where IS implemented its brutal version of Islamic law.
But that land has been whittled down to disjointed sleeper cells by years of fighting, including a ferocious bombing campaign by a US-led coalition. It is unclear when the footage was filmed, but the man said to be Baghdadi referred to last week’s deadly attack in Sri Lanka and to the months-long fight for IS’s final bastion Baghouz, which ended in late March.
“The battle for Baghouz is over,” he said, sitting cross-legged on a cushion and addressing three men whose faces have been blurred.
“God ordered us to wage ‘jihad.’ He did not order us to win,” he said.