ISIS’s release of a video featuring its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, prior to Ramadan likely indicates efforts to rally supporters during its post-caliphate period, purport its global presence, and encourage attacks during the holy month. On April 29, ISIS released its first video in five years with Baghdadi, who has not publicly appeared since he proclaimed ISIS’s caliphate in 2014 at the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq.
In the video, Baghdadi praised ISIS fighters during the battle of Baghuz—the last ISIS-held territory in Syria until coalition forces took control on March 23— referring to them as “brave” and “steadfast.” Baghdadi stated that although they are in “a small spot” and “in a crushing siege,” the fight will continue and the battle now is “one of attrition and stretching the enemy.”
Baghdadi appeared to receive reports or documented updates from various global affiliates and claimed that fighters “unified” while the group suffered losses in Syria, leading to 290 operations in eight countries. Baghdadi specifically “congratulates” the fighters in Libya for their attack in Fuqaha and accepted pledges of allegiance from supporters in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Khorasan.
Historically, ISIS has called for increased attacks during the month of Ramadan. In the video, Baghdadi praised the Sri Lanka attack that left over 250 dead and at least 500 wounded on Easter Sunday as revenge for the battle of Baghuz. He celebrated that “among the dead were Americans and Europeans.” Toward the end of the video, text appeared encouraging supporters to increase attacks, stating, “The Emir of the Believers [Baghdadi] directs to double the work and intensify the strikes against the Crusaders and the apostates and their helpers.”