ISIS releases first video of leader al-Baghdadi since 2014

ISIS releases first video of leader al-Baghdadi since 2014
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ISIS released a video Monday showing its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for the first time since July 2014.

The video was released by ISIS media outlet al-Furqan and shows al-Baghdadi in good health speaking with three men whose faces are blurred, according to multiple reports.

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In the video, al-Baghdadi acknowledges the end of the battle of Baghouz, Syria, which marked ISIS’s territorial defeat, and vows the fight is not over.

"There will be more to come after this battle," he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The United States and its coalition partners declared victory against ISIS last month after the Syrian Democratic Forces retook its last pocket of land in Baghouz.

The Trump administration is now preparing to significantly reduce the 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria following the victory.

Despite the destruction of the physical “caliphate,” U.S. officials have warned ISIS remains a threat by operating as a more traditional terrorist insurgency and waiting underground to resurge.

Underscoring its continued threat, ISIS took credit for the Sri Lanka church bombings on Easter Sunday that killed at least 253 people.

In an audio-only portion of the video, al-Baghdadi refers to the Sri Lanka bombings and says they were revenge for Baghouz, according to SITE Intelligence director Rita Katz.

The last time al-Baghdadi had been seen was his 2014 speech at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq, in which he announced the formation of a self-styled caliphate.

ISIS has released audio recording of him since then, most recently in August. But rumors of al-Baghdadi’s death have emerged periodically.

For example, in June 2017, Russia claimed to have killed al-Baghdadi in airstrikes on a meeting of ISIS leaders outside Raqqa, Syria. The claim was met with much skepticism at the time, but led to widespread speculation about his whereabouts.