A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken fr.
(photo credit: REUTERS FILE PHOTOS)
The first video of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in five years shows that “we have not seen the last word on ISIS,” IDC Herzliya’s International Institute of Counter-Terrorism Director and Founder Boaz Ganor told the Jerusalem Post late Monday.
The Islamic State's propaganda outlet al-Furqan released the video on Monday evening.
During the video, al-Baghdadi mentions the Islamic caliphate after the battle for Baghouz - the final ISIS stronghold to have fallen in Syria. He begins the by speech making it clear that he is aware that the battle for Baghouz has ended and also called for revenge following its fall.
Ganor said that “what is happening with ISIS is a transformation.”
“It was a hybrid organization - a terror organization and it also ruled over territory and a population … so it also needed to deal with providing food, water and law enforcement … along with its terror goals,” he said.
“Hybrid terror organizations are usually strong and dangerous, but also vulnerable" because they are operating in the open.
Ganor continued that, “In recent weeks, ISIS lost its last territories and ceased to be a hybrid force and became a classic terror organization operating under the radar. So it is usually weaker, but not less dangerous and maybe more so.”
“Al-Baghdadi is appearing now because he probably succeeded to escape to a safe-house. He put out the video to send a message to his supporters, especially in Africa and Asia … that he is still alive and they should continue with terror operations,” Ganor explained.
Tactically, he said that Al-Baghdadi appears to have pivoted thematically to emphasizing the need for “vengeance over the harm to the Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.”
The ICT founder said that without Syria and Iraq as a platform for ISIS, Al-Baghdadi and ISIS would have to take one of two paths if they wanted to maintain themselves as the world’s premier terror group.
He said they could try to take control of new territorial areas, such as in Thailand, the Philippines, the Sinai, Mali or Libya, or try to maintain ISIS’s primacy and his position as its leader through inspiring terror attacks on social media.
Most of the inspiring of attacks has been directed at the West and encouraging lone wolf attacks.
Ganor said that “Sri Lanka was a surprise because it was not thought of as a big footprint for ISIS,” but that now ISIS could proclaim to the world that “even there it has supporters.”
The recent terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, which targeted churches and hotels, left some 259 people dead and over 500 injured.
Despite the propaganda benefits for ISIS from the Sri Lanka attack, Ganor said that he thought most of ISIS’s followers in Sri Lanka, including the cell’s leader, were killed in the attack.
However, he added that the Sri Lanka attack combined with the Al-Baghdadi video showed that ISIS can still surprise and is still dangerous.
The 47-year-old evasive leader was looking older and grayer, but relatively healthy in the 18-minute video.
The leaders' assault weapon was also purposely visible in the video, while the faces of those ISIS members around him were covered.
In 2015, it was reported that he was seriously wounded during an attack by the US-led coalition, and that he also suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.
Baghdadi was last seen in a viral video in 2014 giving a sermon in the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, in Mosul, Iraq. This came just a month after Mosul fell into the hands of ISIS and the Iraqi army was defeated. Ilanit Chernick contributed to this story.