ISIS Leader Baghdadi Appears in Rare Video

04/30/2019 Iraq (International Christian Concern) –  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), appeared yesterday in a rare video released by the militants’ al-Furqan media network. This is only the second time that Baghdadi has ever appeared directly in a video. The first was in 2014, when he stood in Mosul and proclaimed the creation of an Islamic caliphate across Syria and Iraq.

Such a rare appearance is a significant moment for ISIS, who has perpetrated a genocide against religious minorities across the Middle East. Their final territorial defeat last month in Baghuz (Syria), combined with reports of leadership infighting, led many to doubt whether Baghdadi was still in control, let alone alive. This video puts an end to this doubt. Baghdadi made references to the Sri Lanka Easter attacks, a move which validates the date of the video and asserts his control over ISIS’s global network.

There are many other intricacies of the video worth noting. When Baghdadi appeared in Mosul, he appeared as head of a territorial Islamic caliphate. When Baghdadi appeared in yesterday’s video, he appeared as leader of an insurgency. The gun at his side was a marked reminder of the jihadist history which he views ISIS as inheriting.

Another noteworthy intricacy in the video is that it included scenes of Baghdadi managing the international network of ISIS fighters. In this scene, the camera clearly shows a folder that references Turkey as a Wilayat (Province). This is the first time that ISIS has mentioned Turkey in this manner, although a number of previous reports have indicated that Turkey may have been secretly working in some capacity with ISIS in Syria.

Baghdadi’s video appearance was clearly intended to serve as a morale boost for the territorially defeated Islamic State. It can be considered as a formal declaration of an ISIS insurgency. It is also worth noting that the video has not yet been publically verified by official US sources.

Christians living in areas previously under ISIS control have warned that this would be the next stage of the militants’ development. They continue to express concern over a lack of transitional justice which holds captured militants’ accountable for their genocidal actions. Christians are also worried about the ease of which former ISIS militants have melted back into society. An insurgent ISIS is exactly what Christians have been fearful of, as it foreshadows violence to come.

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