US vows to track down remaining ISIS leaders

United States says it will track down and defeat surviving leaders of ISIS after group publishes video of its leader.

Elad Benari,

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Reuters

The United States vowed on Monday that it would track down and defeat surviving leaders of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.

The comments came after the group published a video of its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, for the first time since 2014.

The US-led coalition against the group will fight across the world to “ensure an enduring defeat of these terrorists and that any leaders who remain are delivered the justice that they deserve,” a State Department spokesman said, according to AFP.

US government analysts “will review this recording and we will defer to the intelligence community to confirm its authenticity,” the spokesman added.

But regardless of the video’s authenticity, the spokesman said that ISIS had been battered.

“ISIS’s territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria was a crushing strategic and psychological blow as ISIS saw its so-called caliphate crumble, its leaders killed or flee the battlefield, and its savagery exposed,” he said.

In the video, which was released by ISIS's Al-Furqan media arm, the man said to be Baghdadi referred to the months long fight for ISIS's final redoubt Baghouz, which ended in March.

"The battle for Baghouz is over," he said, sitting cross-legged on a cushion and addressing three men whose faces have been blurred.

He referred to a string of ISIS defeats, including its onetime Iraqi capital Mosul and Sirte in Libya, but insisted the jihadists had not "surrendered" territory.

"God ordered us to wage 'jihad.' He did not order us to win," he said.

There have been conflicting reports about Baghdadi’s fate in recent years. A year ago, it was reported that he was still alive, but that injury and poor health had forced him to relinquish control of the terror group.

In 2017, Russia claimed that the ISIS leader might have been among a group of ISIS members who were killed in a Russian air strike south of Raqqa, the group’s former de facto capital in Syria.

US officials have remained skeptical over reports of Baghdadi’s death. Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in July of 2017 he assumes that Baghdadi is still alive.

In order to prove that he is still alive, ISIS has released several audio recordings of its leader in recent years. In one such recording, released last summer, Baghdadi was heard calling on Muslims to wage "jihad".




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