The United States on Monday vowed that it would track down and defeat surviving leaders of the Islamic State movement. This came after IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared to speak in a newly released videotape. “Ensure an enduring defeat of these terrorists and that any leaders who remain are delivered the justice that they deserve,” a State Department spokesman said.
US government analysts “will review this recording and we will defer to the intelligence community to confirm its authenticity,” the State Department spokesman said.
But regardless of the video’s authenticity, the spokesman said that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, had been battered.
“ISIS’s territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria was a crushing strategic and psychological blow as ISIS saw its so-called caliphate crumble, its leaders killed or flee the battlefield, and its savagery exposed,” he said.
Earlier, the chief of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has appeared for the first time in five years in a propaganda video released Monday by the jihadist organisation. It is unclear when the footage was filmed, but Baghdadi referred in the past tense to the months-long fight for Baghouz, ISIS's final bastion in eastern Syria, which ended last month.
"The battle for Baghouz is over," he said, sitting cross-legged on a cushion and addressing three men whose faces have been blurred.
In the 18-minute video, titled "In the Hospitality of the Emir of the Believers," Baghdadi can be seen sitting alongside three other ISIS members whose faces are blurred, next to a rifle and ammunition belt. He praises the recent terror attacks in Sri Lanka, which targeted churches and hotels and left more than 250 people dead, calling it "revenge" for Baghouz — the small Syrian village where Isis made its last stand.
"And as for our brothers in Sri Lanka, I was overjoyed when I heard about the suicide attack, which overthrew the cradles of the Crusaders, and avenged them for our brethren in Baghouz," he said, as the video showed footage from the atrocities and the pledge of allegiance by the attackers.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 253 people.