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Wednesday 27 August 2014

Video 'shows Islamic State leader' delivering sermon

Qassim Abdul-Zahra

Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30

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A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. There had previously been reports on social media that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would make his first public appearance since his Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) changed its name to the Islamic State and declared him caliph. The Iraqi government denied that the video, which carried Friday's date, was credible. It was also not possible to immediately confirm the authenticity of the recording or the date when it was made. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV (IRAQ - Tags: POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT OF THIS VIDEO, WHICH HAS BEEN OBTAINED FROM A SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul.

A video posted online yesterday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermonat a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare — if not the first — public appearance by the shadowy militant.

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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 swathe 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 Islamic State 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.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official said that after an initial analysis the man in the video is believed to indeed be al-Baghdadi.

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