The group's leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in the video acknowledged defeat in the group's last stronghold in Syria and discussed the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka, which killed over 250 people and for which the group claimed responsibility.

This file frame grab from video posted online Monday, March 18, 2019, by the Amaq News Agency, a media arm of Daesh terror group, shows a Daesh terrorist in Baghouz, Syria.
This file frame grab from video posted online Monday, March 18, 2019, by the Amaq News Agency, a media arm of Daesh terror group, shows a Daesh terrorist in Baghouz, Syria. (AP)

The shadowy leader of Daesh terror group appeared for the first time in five years in a video released by the militant group's propaganda arm on Monday, acknowledging defeat in the group's last stronghold in Syria but vowing a "long battle" ahead.

The SITE Intelligence group said in the video Abu Bakr al Baghdadi also discussed the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka, which killed over 250 people and for which the group claimed responsibility.

The video released by terror group's Al Furqan network on Monday shows Baghdadi with a bushy grey and red beard, wearing a black robe with a beige vest and seated on the floor with what appears to be a machine gun propped up next to him.

He is speaking with three men seated opposite him whose faces were covered and blotted out.

It is his first video appearance since he delivered a sermon at the Al Nuri mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014. In that video, he appeared as a black-robed figure with a trimmed black beard to deliver a sermon from the pulpit of the mosque in which he urged Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the "caliphate" and obey him as its leader.

TRT World chooses not to show terrorist Baghdadi's face as per its editorial policies.

War in Syria

Baghdadi acknowledged that Daesh lost the war in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz, which was captured last month by the US-backed SDF/YPG. 

"In fact, the battle of Islam and its people against the Crusaders and their followers is a long battle," he said.

He said the battle of Baghouz demonstrated the "barbarism and brutality" of the West and the "courage, steadfastness and resilience of the nation of Islam."

"This steadfastness shocked the hearts of the Crusaders in what increased their rage," he added.

Referring to the setbacks in battle, he said the "brothers" of the many fallen fighters "will avenge that, as they will not forget as long as they have blood in their veins, and there will be a battle after this one."

It is unclear when or where the video was filmed. Baghdadi spoke slowly and haltingly in the video.

World's most wanted man

With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Baghdadi is the world's most wanted man, responsible for steering his chillingly violent organisation into mass slaughter of opponents, and directing and inspiring terror attacks across continents and in the heart of Europe.

Despite numerous claims about his death in the past few years, Baghdadi's whereabouts remain a mystery.

He appeared in public only once, in 2014. Since then, many of his top aides have been killed, mostly in US-led coalition air strikes.

He is among the few senior Daesh commanders still at large after two years of steady battlefield losses that saw the self-styled "caliphate" shrink from an area the size of Britain to a tiny speck in the Euphrates River valley.

Although largely seen as a symbolic figurehead of the global terror network — he was described as "irrelevant for a long time" by a coalition spokesman in 2017 — Baghdadi's capture would be a coveted prize for the various players across both Syria and Iraq.

Source: AP