Beirut, Lebanon — The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has appeared for the first time in five years in a video released by the extremist group's propaganda arm. The video released by Al-Furqan on Monday shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appearing with a bushy grey and red beard, wearing a black robe with a beige vest and seated on the floor with what appears to be a machine gun propped up next to him.
It is his first video appearance since he delivered a sermon at the al-Nuri mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014 and the first message delivered publicly by al-Baghdadi since ISIS released alast August.
The SITE Intelligence group said al-Baghdadi acknowledged in the video the end of the battle in Baghouz, the group's last stronghold in Syria, and discussed thethat killed more than 250 people. Both ISIS and the regional Muslim militant group National Towheed Jamaat have claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Authorities banned National Towheed Jamaat over its ties to Mohammed Zahran, the alleged mastermind of the Easter Sunday bombings. Zahran and masked others had pledged their loyalty to al-Baghdadi before carrying out the attacks, showing the danger the extremist group continues to pose even after losing all its territory in Iraq and Syria.
The attacks have roiled Sri Lanka, with suicide bombers detonating explosives at a militant safe house, killing an additional 15 people over the weekend. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena suspended the chief of police and appointing a new defence secretary on Monday. Church services remain canceled and multiple police and military checkpoints have been set up across roadways in Kalmunai, where the April 21 bombings occurred.