Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom Al Jazeera refers to as the "elusive chief" of ISIS and the AP calls "shadowy," has appeared in a propaganda video for the first time since 2014. The extremist group's Al Furqan media network published the video message Monday, though it's not clear when it was filmed; in it, al-Baghdadi refers to the fight for Baghouz in eastern Syria, which ended last month; Benjamin Netanyahu's re-election in Israel; the fall of dictators in Algeria and Sudan; and Easter Sunday's bombings in Sri Lanka. "There will be more to come after this battle," al-Baghdadi says in the video, apparently in reference to Baghouz, which had been the group's last stronghold. He acknowledged the group's defeat there, but said the Islamic State's fight against the West is part of a "long battle" and promised the group would "take revenge" for members who have been killed or captured.
"Your brothers in Sri Lanka have healed the hearts of monotheists [ISIS members] with their suicide bombings, which shook the beds of the crusaders during Easter to avenge your brothers in Baghouz," he said in reference to the Sri Lanka attacks, claiming they were carried out as revenge for the Islamic State's loss of territory. The video's authenticity, and al-Baghdadi's identity, could not be independently verified. Al-Baghdadi spoke for 18 minutes, but the portion in which he discusses Sri Lanka is audio-only and may have been recorded after the video was filmed and then added to the end. Al-Baghdadi's last video address was a sermon delivered at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, in Mosul, Iraq, that marked the rise of the group; in it, he "proclaimed ... the creation of a 'caliphate' across parts of Iraq and Syria," per the BBC. (His last audio statement was released in August 2018.)