Video pur­port­edly shows ex­trem­ist leader in Iraq

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

BAGH­DAD (AP) — A man pur­port­ing to be the leader of the Sunni ex­trem­ist group that has de­clared an Is­lamic state in ter­ri­tory it con­trols in Iraq and Syria has made what would be his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance, de­liv­er­ing a ser­mon at a mosque in Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city, ac­cord­ing to a video posted on­line Satur­day.

The 21-minute video that is said to show Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, the head of the Is­lamic State group, was re­port­edly filmed on Fri­day at the Great Mosque in the north­ern city of Mo­sul. It was re­leased on at least two web­sites known to be used by the or­ga­ni­za­tion and bore the logo of its me­dia arm, but it was not pos­si­ble to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify whether the per­son shown was in­deed al-Bagh­dadi.

There are only a few known pho­to­graphs of al-Bagh­dadi, an am­bi­tious Iraqi mil­i­tant be­lieved to be in his early 40s with a $10 mil­lion U.S. bounty on his head. Since tak­ing the reins of the group in 2010, he has trans­formed it from a lo­cal branch of al-Qaida into an in­de­pen­dent transna­tional mil­i­tary force, po­si­tion­ing him­self as per­haps the pre­em­i­nent fig­ure in the global ji­hadi com­mu­nity.

Al-Bagh­dadi’s pur­ported ap­pear­ance in Mo­sul, a city of some 2 mil­lion that the mil­i­tants seized last month, came five days af­ter his group de­clared the es­tab­lish­ment of an Is­lamic state, or caliphate, in the ter­ri­to­ries it seized in Iraq and Syria. The group pro­claimed al-Bagh­dadi the leader of its state and de­manded that all Mus­lims pledge al­le­giance to him.

In the video, the man said to be al-Bagh­dadi says that “the mu­ja­hedeen have been re­warded vic­tory by God af­ter years of ji­had, and they were able to achieve their aim and hur­ried to an­nounce the caliphate and choose the Imam,” re­fer­ring to the leader.

“It is a bur­den to ac­cept this re­spon­si­bil­ity to be in charge of you,” he adds. “I am not bet­ter than you or more vir­tu­ous than you. If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, ad­vise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.”

Speak­ing in clas­si­cal Ara­bic with lit­tle emo­tion, he out­lines a vi­sion that em­pha­sizes holy war, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a strict in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lamic law, and the phi­los­o­phy that the es­tab­lish­ment of an Is­lamic caliphate is a duty in­cum­bent on all Mus­lims.

He is dressed in black robes and a black tur­ban — a sign that he claims de­scent from the Prophet Muham­mad. He has dark eyes, thick eye­brows and a full black beard with streaks of gray on the sides.

At the be­gin­ning of the video, the man pur­ported to be al-Bagh­dadi slowly climbs the mosque’s pul­pit one step at a time. Then the call to prayer is made as he cleans his teeth with a mis­wak, a spe­cial type of stick that de­vout Mus­lims use to clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

AP Photo/mil­i­tant video

This im­age made from video posted on a mil­i­tant web­site Satur­day, July 5, 2014, which has been au­then­ti­cated based on its con­tents and other AP reporting, pur­ports to show the leader of the Is­lamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, de­liv­er­ing a ser­mon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted on­line Satur­day pur­ports to show the leader of the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group that has over­run much of Syria and Iraq de­liv­er­ing a ser­mon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - pub­lic ap­pear­ance by the shad­owy mil­i­tant.

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