05 july 2014
A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria/Levant 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.
The video was released on at least two websites known to be used by the group, but it was not possible to independently verify whether the person shown was indeed the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It bore the logo of al-Furqan, the group’s media arm.
Through brute force and guile, the Islamic State group has seized control of a vast swath of land straddling Syria and Iraq, and has declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in those territories. It proclaimed al-Baghdadi the leader of its state and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.
“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,” he says in the video, 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.”
He is dressed in black robes and a black turban, has dark eyes, thick eyebrows and a full black beard. He speaks eloquent classical Arabic, but with little emotion.
The mosque has several dozen men and boys standing for prayer, and a flag of the black ISIS group is hoisted in the mosque. One man stands guard, with a gun holster under his arm.
At the beginning of the video, the man purported to be al-Baghdadi slowly climbs the pulpit in the great mosque in Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, which al-Baghdadi’s group captured last month. 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.