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IS leader appears in video for 1st time in 5 years

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IS leader appears in video for 1st time in 5 years

A man believed to be the leader of the Islamic State militant group has made a rare appearance on camera vowing to seek revenge following the loss of territory.

He is seated on the floor with a gun propped up next to him and speaking with three men seated opposite him whose faces were covered and blotted out.

Written script at the start of the video dated it to earlier in April. The authenticity and date of the recording could not be independently verified.

The video is the first from Baghdadi since he addressed a crowd at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq in 2014. More recent messages from the IS leader were audio recordings posted online in August 2018 and in September 2017.

"He's obviously the face of ISIS and we hadn't seen him in sometime", he said, using an acronym for the terror group. That speech marked the rise of the group and its self-declared "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria. He sat crossed-legged with an assault rifle at his side and the tips of his grey beard dyed red.

Vice-Admiral Igor Kostyukov, head of the Russian general staff's Main Intelligence Department told the state-run Tass Russian News Agency that Baghdadi's "whereabouts are unknown" but "he is definitely not in Idlib" and "on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river, only "sleeper" IS cells remain".

In the 18-minute video which was released on Monday, al-Baghdadi discussed a number of topics, including the Battle of Baghuz in Syria, which came to an end at the end of March.

Most significantly, he praised the recent attacks in Sri Lanka which he said have "pleased the hearts of Muslims", and said it is "part of the revenge that awaits the Crusaders and their followers".

The attacks have roiled Sri Lanka, with suicide bombers detonating explosives at a militant safe house, killing an additional 15 people over the weekend. This indicates the video was filmed recently as the references are meant to establish that the clip is not an old recording.

He acknowledges that the group has lost its caliphate in Iraq and Syria but says the group's battle with the West and its allies was far from over. This audio was released after reports indicated that he may have been killed in a Russian air strike in May past year in Syria's Raqqa.

The first video was released in 2014 as ISIS was rapidly increasing in strength and taking control of territory in vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. But security sources have recently said he is thought to be hiding out in remote areas of Syria or Iraq.

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