A video posted online last night purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group, that has overrun swathes of Syria and Iraq, delivering a sermon at a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which his fighters captured last month.
The footage was released on at least two websites used by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s group. The Iraqi government claimed the video was fake, a view intelligence sources rejected. Last week Baghdadi called on Muslims to take up arms and flock to the “caliphate” his Isis group has declared on captured Syrian and Iraqi soil.
“The mujahideen have been rewarded victory by God after years of jihad, and they were able to achieve their aim and hurried to announce the caliphate and choose the imam [leader],” he says. “It is a burden to accept this responsibility,” he adds. “If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.”
He is dressed in black robes and a black turban and speaks classical Arabic. The mosque has several dozen men and boys standing for prayer, and a black flag of the Islamic State group – formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – is hoisted in the mosque. One man stands guard, with a gun holster under his arm.
Yesterday Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki removed the chiefs of the army’s ground forces and federal police in a shake-up following their near collapse in fighting for Mosul, Iraq’s second city.