Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s elusive leader, has reappeared for the first time in five years to pledge a long war against Christians in a chilling video.
Baghdadi, who was long rumoured to be dead or seriously injured following US and Russian airstrikes, appeared in the propaganda video praising last month’s Christchurch mosque shootings.
The video, published by the IS-controlled Al Furqan media network on Tuesday (Australia time) comes just weeks after US-backed forces in Syria ousted the remnants of the extremist group from their last stronghold in the war-ravaged country.
In his 40-second address, Baghdadi, sitting cross-legged with a rifle propped next to him, declared that IS is still active and blamed its loss of territory over the last few years and subsequent downfall on the “savagery” of Christians.
“Truthfully, the battle of Islam and its people against the cross and its people is a long battle,” the 47-year-old Iraqi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri, said.
“The battle of Baghouz [Syria] is over. But it did show the savagery, brutality and ill intentions of the Christians towards the Muslim community.”
Baghdadi said the Easter bombing attacks in Sri Lanka were a form of revenge for loss of the Syrian town, and pledged more attacks to follow.
“In fact, the battle of Islam and its people against the crusaders and their followers is a long battle,” Baghdadi said.
“This steadfastness shocked the hearts of the crusaders in what increased their rage,” he added.
“There will be more to come after this battle.”
Baghdadi described the terror group’s current fight as a “battle of attrition”.
Baghdadi was last seen by the West in 2014 when he delivered a sermon at the al-Nuri mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
An audio recording, purporting to be of the shadowy leader, was released in August last year by IS, urging followers to persevere despite heavy losses the terror group had suffered.
US intelligence officials confirm they are aware of the new video but have yet to verify its authenticity.