The enigmatic leader of the Islamic State has allegedly appeared in video. The radical Islamic group, now a self-declared state entity, released a video of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi leading a prayer in one of Iraq’s most famous mosques.
The newly elected caliph of the self-declared Islamic State appears with a full beard and dressed in religious garb. Baghdadi’s appearance is different from the two previously available photographs of him, which showed him shaven and in civilian clothes.
He made his 15-minute speech at a Al-Nouri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq. ISIS captured Mosul in June. He asked worshippers to keep each other and even him in check.
“If you see that I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God in you,” Baghdadi says.
He went on to call the title of caliph a “burden,” and one he did not seek out for himself. He also reiterated establishing an Islamic state, or caliphate, was a duty of Muslims everywhere.
The Iraqi government calls the video “falsified” and a “farce,” Reuters reports. An Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan said the Iraqi military wounded Baghdadi in an airstrike Friday and he left for Syria to get medical treatment. There were even rumors Baghdadi was killed in the airstrike.
An Iraqi expert told the BBC the tape is legitimate.
Here in Baghdad, a top advisor to government confirms to BBC the man in ISIS video is indeed its leader Al-Baghdadi --1st video of him.
â€” Kasra Naji (@BBCKasraNaji) July 5, 2014
Baghdadi was elected caliph on June 29, when ISIS declared the caliphate and changed its name to the Islamic State.
In a separate speech to mark the beginning of the Muslim holy month Ramadan, Baghdadi spoke out against the West, democracy, and Jews, claiming they have “enslaved” Muslims. He urged his followers to take up arms and fight for the caliphate.
“So raise your ambitions, O soldiers of the Islamic State! For your brothers all over the world are waiting for your rescue, and are anticipating your brigades,” Baghdadi said.
Full transcripts of his Ramadan speech are available in Russian, French, German, Albanian, Turkish and Indonesian, and are also available via the AlHayat Media Center:
â€” AlHayat Media Center (@al_hayat_en) July 5, 2014
The United States established a $10 million reward for information on Baghdadi in August 2013. It's the second-highest reward offered by the U.S., following the call for specific information on Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Some say Baghdadi has surpassed Zawahiri in both financial and military power and in clout among Islamists.