The leader of the Islamic State (IS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), appeared in an eighteen-minute video on 29 April, the first time Al-Ibrahim has appeared since 4 July 2014 when he gave the Friday prayer at the Nuri Mosque in Mosul, days after IS had announced the restoration of the caliphate. Al-Ibrahim has given semi-regular speeches over the years, but with these two exceptions they have been audio addresses. The video was released by IS’s premier media outlet, Al-Furqan Media Foundation, which is also the group’s oldest media platform. An English translation was released by IS’s Halummu outlet and is republished below with some interesting and/or important sections, plus names of IS operatives, highlighted in bold.
The video references the ousting of Algeria’s senescent ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika (2 April), the Israeli elections (9 April), and the fall of Sudanese dictator Umar al-Bashir (11 April), which gives some idea as to the date of its recording. Al-Badri lauds the IS terrorist atrocity in Sri Lanka on 21 April and praises the foiled attack the same day in Zulfi, 150 miles north of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. But this is in a section tacked on at the end of the video, and where Al-Badri does not speak on-screen; it looks very much as if it was added in later
The video is, then, confirmation that the Russians were lying when they said they had killed the caliph—something we knew, but it is always nice to be sure. It also confirms that supposed defectors from IS, notably Ismail al-Ithawi (Abu Zayd al-Iraqi), who has recently described Al-Badri as “gaunt”, “extremely thin and his beard … whiter”, and “a shadow” of his former self, were also lying. Al-Badri looks rather portly and his beard is dyed with henna.
Whether Al-Ithawi is, as some of us have long suspected, still an IS loyalist who is feeding deliberate misinformation to his captors, or is simply spinning yarns in prison, we might never know. This should be the end of taking Al-Ithawi seriously, however. It is not illegitimate for journalists to take interviews with such figures when they are available, but hopefully this episode will induce a great deal more scepticism: the interest is in why people like Al-Ithawi say what they say; not what they say on its own.
In terms of the aesthetics, the main noticeable aspect, mentioned by many, was the deliberate effort by Al-Badri to recall Al-Qaeda’s leader Usama bin Ladin and IS’s founder Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), seated simply, surrounded by his aides, with an AK-47 behind him: the modest, plugged in, and hands-on boss.
The caliph gives a run-down of some of IS’s martyrs in the Baghuz battle in eastern Syria. The two that are probably of most interest in the West are an Australian who rose to head the media department, Abu Abdullah al-Australi, and a Belgian military official, Abu Yasir al-Belgiki. While there is nothing at all in the public record about Abu Yasir, there are some traces of Abu Abdullah, who surfaced in letters dated April and May 2018, at which point he was the deputy at the media department, and who appears to have been killed at the end of last year. Still, there are no publicly-available clues as to Abu Abdullah’s identity, beyond his nationality; he is the highest-ranking Australian known to have joined IS. The media department was once headed by an American, Ahmad Abousamra (Abu Sulayman al-Shami), a close associate of IS’s then-general manager, Wael al-Fayad (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan). The media and shari’a departments have historically had more space for foreigners in their upper ranks than, say, the military and security agencies, which tend to be firmly kept in the hands of Iraqis.
Al-Badri accepted the pledges of allegiance from groups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Af-Pak zone, and an official “wilayat” (province) in Turkey was effectively announced. He also delighted in the IS raid at Fuqaha in Libya on 9 April, where they briefly held the area before withdrawing. This was one of “ninety-two operations in eight countries”, said the caliph, that had avenged the defeat inflicted on IS at Baghuz. Al-Badri continued with the messaging of the jihadists being in a long war of “attrition” in which correct doctrine was the key, with no promises of a quick victory. Indeed, the likelihood was of considerable suffering: territory could not simply be ceded; the IS loyalists have to fight to the end, sacrificing lives and bloodying the enemy.
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[Text on the screen:] In the hospitality of Amir al-Mu’mineen, the khalifa [caliph] of the Muslims, Ibrahim ibn Awwad al-Badri al-Husayni al-Qurayshi al-Baghdadi (may God preserve and protect him). Sha’ban 1440 [6 April 2019 – 5 May 2019].
[Al-Ibrahim appears on screen and begins speaking:] May God’s peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of God, his family, his companions, and everyone who follows his guidance.
As for what follows:
Indeed, the battle for Islam and for its people with the Cross and its people will be a long battle.
[Camera pans to show three IS leaders sitting with Al-Badri]
[Al-Badri continues:] Although the battle of Baghuz [the last village held by IS in eastern Syria] is over, it demonstrated the savagery and brutality of the Nation of the Cross against the Muslim umma (nation or community). At the same time, it demonstrated the bravery, tenacity, and steadfastness of the Muslim umma. This steadfastness has jolted the hearts of the crusaders and amplified their rage and rancour against the steadfast [men] of the Muslim umma.
All praise is due to God, and to you, brothers, the emirs and walis (governors), who took turns in this wilaya, until being chosen by God, as we consider them, but God is the ultimate judge. The first of them [to lead IS in its final shreds of territory] was your brother Abu Abdurrahman al-Anqari al-Tamimi, who is from the Jazira (Peninsula) of Muhammad, peace be upon him. Then your brother Abu Hajar Abd al-Samad al-Iraqi al-Talibi took charge of the leadership; he sacrificed his life and wealth. Then your brother Abu al-Walid al-Sinawi succeeded him, who was then succeeded by your brother Abd al-Ghani al-Iraqi. The last one was your brother Abu Musab al-Hijazi, who is from the Peninsula of Muhammad, peace be upon him.
The steadfastness, poise, and determination of these brothers were the reason the mujahideen and the subjects there remained steadfast, in spite of the small size of this spot and the immense size of the vicious crusader onslaught and the smothering siege. Through the perseverance of these men, the people of Islam and this spot persevered.
We should not forget to mention your brothers the media knights. Prominent among them are:
- Abu Abdullah al-Australi [or Abu Abdullah al-Ustrali];
- Khaled al-Qahtani, from the Peninsula of Muhammad, peace be upon him;
- Abu Jihad al-Shishani [real name: Islam Atabayev, once the deputy to Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani)];
- Abu Anas Fabien al-Firansi [real name: Fabien Clain];
- and his brother, Abu Uthman [real name: Jean-Michel Clain].
May God have mercy on them.
We should not also overlook the courage and bravery of the Shari’a Committee members, prominent among whom is Abu Raghad al-Da’jani, from the Peninsula of Muhammad, peace be upon him.
We should not forget to mention your brothers who bore the heaviest load in this battle, the military personnel, including emirs and junud (soldiers), kataeb (battalions) and alwiya (brigades), and those who did their best to arrange and take care of their affairs and needs during battle. Prominent among whom are your brother Abu Yasir al-Belgiki [or Abu Yasir al-Baljiki] and Abu Tariq al-Iraqi, among many others.
If we fail to remember them, they will not suffer any loss, since God knows them best. May God have mercy on them and accept their deeds. May He reward them with goodness on behalf of the Islamic umma. They confronted the crusaders in this battle, demonstrated their utmost capability, and proved to the entire world that the mujahideen have the upper hand when fighting the kuffar (disbelievers). They upheld the truth they represent.
We give God praise and attribution that your mujahideen brothers in the Islamic state, starting with the Bayji, Mosul and Sirte battles, on through Baghuz, did not abandon their faith, nor did they give away land to the kuffar, except over their corpses and torn body parts. May God reward them with goodness and may he accept their deeds.
All of them have been the reason for the steadfastness of this umma in this small stretch of land. We ask God to accept their dead as shuhada (martyrs), heal their wounded, release their captives, and accept their offerings. By God’s permission, their brothers will not forget these sacrifices, such an offering, or these contributions. They will avenge them and never forget them as long as they are alive.
This battle will have a sequel, by God’s permission.
May God reward the brothers in all the wilayat (provinces) for their blessed, unified action to avenge their brothers in al-Sham (Syria), which amounted to ninety-two operations in eight countries. The significance of this is that it indicates the mujahideen’s unity of rank, their steadfastness, their awareness, their perception of the requirements of the battle, and their understanding of the reality they live in.
We congratulate your brothers in Libya for their steadfastness and their blessed raid entering the town of Fuqaha, despite their withdrawal from it, may God reward them bountifully. They have shown their enemies that they are capable of holding the reins of the initiative, knowing that the battle today with their enemies is a battle of attrition.
We recommend to all of them [IS’s loyalists in various theatres] that they fight their enemies and drain all that they have from their human, military, economic, and logistical resources and everything.
Our battle today is one of attrition and struggle with the enemy. They need to know that jihad is continuing until the Day of Resurrection, and that God ordered us to wage jihad and did not order us to achieve victory.
We beseech God to bestow upon us and our brothers steadfastness, pertinence, success, and right guidance, for He is the best to protect and the best to help.
As for the bay’a (oath of allegiance) by your brothers in Burkina Faso and Mali, we congratulate them for this bay’a and for joining to the caravan of the khilafa (caliphate), may God protect them, as well as our brother, [Adnan] Abu al-Walid al-Sahrawi [real name: Lehbib Yumani]. We recommend that they intensify their attacks against crusader France and its allies to avenge their brothers in Iraq and Syria.
They must know that the lives of the believers are equal in value. The humblest of them is entitled to the protection of all. They stand as one against their enemies. They need to realize that a Muslim to another Muslim is like one body; when one limb suffers, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.
We have also learned that God has guided several members of parties and organizations in Khorasan (Afghanistan-Pakistan), so they pledged bay’a to the caliph and joined the convoy of mujahideen. We ask God to grant all of us firm establishment, rightness, and success—to fulfil the pledge, and to provide support and aid to their brothers.
I believe you have followed the news of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu taking over the reins of the Jewish government and the main events of the fall of the tawaghit of Algeria and Sudan. However, it is unfortunate and sad that people fail to realize, up to this moment, why they have taken to the streets and what they want. The moment they displace a taghut, another taghut—more criminal and crueller to Muslims—takes over. We keep telling, and reminding them, that the only effective method against such tawaghit is waging jihad for the sake of God.
The tawaghit may be contained by jihad, and with jihad comes pride and dignity. The only effective method against those tawaghit is al-sayf (the sword). They need to return to the Almighty and Exalted God; they need to pursue shari’a ways to replace the systems and tawaghit, so the religion will be in its entirely for God.
[Cuts to the video of the jihadists who carried out the Easter attack giving their bay’a to IS. Al-Badri continues in audio dubbed over images from Sri Lanka that was possibly added in later than his main speech:] As for you brothers in Sri Lanka, they have pleased and healed the muwahideen’s (monotheists’) chests with their inghimasi operations that unsettled the crusaders in their Easter celebration to avenge their brothers in Baghuz. The number of casualties from among the crusaders has reached or exceeded 1,000 between the killed and wounded. This, by God’s permission, is only part of the vengeance that is awaiting the crusaders and their quislings. All praise is due to God, for among those killed were some Americans and Europeans. We also congratulate the muwahideen in Sri Lanka on their bay’a and on them joining the caliphate. We advise them to hold tight to the firm rope stretching from God, to unite their ranks and message, and to be a thorn in the side of the crusaders. We ask God to accept the inghimasi brothers as shuhada, and to grant success to their brothers to complete the blessed march they have begun.
[Cuts to a clip of the bay’a video from Saudi Arabia, with Al-Badri’s audio continuing over the top:] Also, we should not forget your brothers’ blessed operation in the peninsula of Muhammad, peace be upon him, in al-Zulfi, and we ask God for it be followed by another one. And we advise their brothers to avenge the muwahideen in the Peninsula of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and to strive to continue down the path of jihad against Al-Salul tawaghit, may God damn them.
[Cuts back to Al-Badri, shows him speaking with his three deputies]
[Text on screen:] Amir al-Mu’mineen—may God preserve him—directs [his forces] to double their work and the intensify the strikes against the crusaders and murtadeen (apostates) and their agents.
[The last two minutes show Al-Badri being handed various reports from the “provinces” of the Islamic State as a nasheed plays.
There wilayats are: Iraq, Syria, Khorasan, West Africa, Sinai, Libya, Somalia, Central Africa, Yemen, the Caucasus, and Turkey.
Tunisia was also included on the files, but not as a wilayat.
The news from this section is Turkey, where IS had not previously announced a wilayat, though it clearly has a robust presence in the country. That this was intended as an announcement, rather than being an incidental matter, was confirmed by the next day when IS supporters started showing their presence in Turkey on social media in conformity with the caliph’s instructions.]