ISIL remains a potent threat around the world despite reduced capabilities, Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said yesterday, adding its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had made his latest video appearance in a “remote area”.
A video showed a man it said was Baghdadi in what would be his first appearance since he declared the jihadists’ now- defunct “caliphate” five years ago. The authenticity and date of the recording could not be independently verified.
Mr Abdul Mahdi said Baghdadi’s appearance was an attempt to boost militants and Isil would attempt to carry out more attacks.
“Regarding the location of Baghdadi, we can’t give intelligence information right now, but it’s clear from the video he’s in a remote area,” Mr Abdul Mahdi said.
Baghdadi, an Iraqi, is believed to be hiding out in an isolated area of either Iraq or Syria, part of vast desert regions Isil once held and from where it is thought the jihadists are now waging regular insurgent-style attacks against security forces in both countries.
Hisham al-Hashemi, a security adviser to the Iraqi government, said officials had narrowed his whereabouts to four possible locations. “These are in the desert of Iraq’s Anbar (province) or in the (eastern) desert of Homs in Syria,” he said.
Mr Abdul Mahdi said Isil’s capabilities had “greatly reduced”, but that the group still posed a threat.
“Daesh [Isil] is not just a small organisation, it’s widespread and will try to put confidence back in its militants and carry out acts such as those in Sri Lanka,” he said, referring to the Easter Sunday attacks claimed by the group.
In the 18-minute video, a bearded man with Baghdadi’s appearance says the bombings in Sri Lanka were Isil’s response to losses in its last territorial stronghold of Baghouz in Syria.
The video would be the first from Baghdadi since he was filmed in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014. More recent speeches have been released as audio recordings.
Baghdadi vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the West in retaliation for the fall of Baghouz, the town in eastern Syria where his fighters made a last stand to defend Isil-held territory against advancing Kurdish forces.
“Your brothers in Sri Lanka have pleased the hearts of the believers with their [suicide] attacks,” he said. “This is only part of the revenge awaiting the crusaders.”
He said Isil supporters had carried out 92 attacks in eight countries in response to the defeat in Baghouz. He stressed the jihadists had not retreated in the face of overwhelming odds and instead fought to the end.
In reality, hundreds of suspected Isil fighters surrendered to Kurdish forces before Baghouz was captured in late March. Baghdadi acknowledged Isil’s defeat there, but said jihadists would continue “a war of attrition”.