US says to inspect Baghdadi’s first purported video appearance
The US State Department has said that a group of its analysts would inspect a videotape of a man claimed to be the leader of the Islamic State militant group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which was posted on the extremist group’s media network Monday.
The US analysts “will review this recording and we will defer to the intelligence community to confirm its authenticity,” a State Department spokesman said.
If confirmed, it would be Baghdadi’s first video appearance since he proclaimed from Mosul the creation of a “caliphate” across parts of Syria and Iraq.
Regardless of the videotape’s content, the spokesman stressed that his country had dealt a serious blow to the militant group, which appeared on the international scene in 2014, seizing large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS (referring to Islamic State)’s territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria was a crushing strategic and psychological blow as ISIS saw its so-called caliphate crumble, its leaders killed or flee the battlefield, and its savagery exposed,” he said.
In the video, which was posted on the militant group’s al-Furqan media network, Baghdadi acknowledged defeat at Baghuz, the group’s last stronghold in Syria.
“The battle for Baghouz is over,” he said.
Baghdadi also claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks, which left scores of Christians dead and wounded.
It is not clear when the video was recorded but the Islamic State says it was shot in April.
No reports about al-Baghdadi have been heard since September 2017, when he urged supporters to wage attacks against the West and keep fighting in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Al-Baghdadi emerged as leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, one of the groups that later became Islamic State, in 2010. In October 2011, the US officially designated al-Baghdadi as a terrorist. It has offered a reward of up to $25m (£19.6m) for information leading to his capture or death. Source