Militant leader in Iraq shown making rare public appearance in video

Pledge comes amid urgent demands for a new government in face of Sunni militant insurgency

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 6:09am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 6:09am


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 sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant.

The hitherto elusive Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is apparently shown delivering a sermon at a mosque in Mosul for Friday prayers, in which he orders Muslims to "obey" him and calls for global "jihad, or holy war".

The IS-led onslaught has alarmed world leaders, displaced hundreds of thousands and piled pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he seeks a third term in office.

A video posted on social media yesterday showed a portly man clad in a long black robe and a black turban with a long greying beard addressing worshippers at weekly prayers at a mosque in central Mosul.

"I am the wali (leader) who presides over you, though I am not the best of you, so if you see I am right, assist me," said the man, purportedly Baghdadi. "If you see I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God."

Text superimposed on the video identified the man as "Caliph Ibrahim", the name Baghdadi has gone by since the group on June 29 declared a pan-Islamic "caliphate", a system of governance last seen in Ottoman times. The video could be the first official appearance by Baghdadi, according to Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on Islamist movements, though the jihadist leader may have appeared in a 2008 video under a different name.

However, the Iraqi government cast doubt on the authenticity of the video.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan said the footage was "indisputably" not him.

Maan said government forces had wounded Baghdadi in an air strike and that he had been transferred by Islamic State militants to Syria for medical treatment.

The Iraqi government has in the past made claims to have captured wanted Sunni militants only to announce later that the men were still at large.

Baghdadi joined the insurgency against the US military following the 2003 invasion that ousted executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Additional reporting by Associated Press