Daesh commander Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi appeared in a new 18-minute video for the first time after the fall of the organization’s last stronghold in Deir Ezzor and his mysterious disappearance. It can be said that his new appearance is the second of its kind since the announcement of the establishment of the so called ‘Caliphate State’.
The new release shows Al-Baghdadi surrounded by his assistants unlike the previous video in which he appeared as a preacher delivering a sermon in front of many worshippers in a mosque in Mosul city. It is now apparent that he is in good shape contrary to the situation of many of his fighters who have been wounded or permanently disabled. On the other hand, the new video falsifies many reports that had claimed his death or injury, leading us to a new question that has recently been shared among the affiliates of the organization: Did Baghdadi take part in the battles of Baghuz or was he hiding in a location far away from the battlefield?
The question was highly controversial for Daesh affiliates, particularly the foreign ones who stated that the absence of Baghdadi had an extreme impact on their morale, pushing them to surrender in huge numbers in the end of the battle of Baghuz.
The timing of his appearance has left many questions unanswered. In spite of his long disappearance and release of few audio messages, as well as remaining silent on many serious events witnessed by the organization, al-Baghdadi suddenly appears now due to many calls for his removal from within, mainly after the release of a book titled ‘ Break the Bayaah to Al-Baghdadi’ in which the writer called for his removal and appointment of a new leader.
It seems that al-Baghdadi understood the gravity of the situation and that the internal conflict could no longer be tolerated, mainly after experiencing several coup attempts, the last of which occurred shortly before the battle of Baghuz. He appeared to prove that he is in good shape and still capable of leading the organization and that he still has many followers who serve as a shield against any coup attempt. In the video, he attempted to show some files of what he described as ‘Wilayat’, which he was discussing with his assistants in an attempt to prove that the situation is still under his control and disprove the reports about the defections from his ranks.
However, the Baghdadi’s attempts to prove that he is entitled to the leadership of the organization has confirmed the extreme differences among Daesh affiliates. Al-Baghdadi, who did not appear during serious events that extremely shaked the organization (such as the fall of Mosul and Raqqa, the main strongholds of Daesh at their height), found himself obliged to prove his presence before being replaced by another commander.
He also spoke about the continuity of the battle after the devastating defeat of the organization and called for a war of ‘attrition’. However, how can a disintegrated organization, which is experiencing internal conflicts, launch a war of attrition?
Also, he did not refer to the nature of that war amidst the defeat of Daesh on all levels. On the ground, the organization is completely defeated and can hardly find some safe havens. On the other hand, Daesh supporters find themselves encircled in websites and social media. Even Daesh sleeper cells can hardly find an opportunity to conduct operations amidst the ongoing security operations against them. So, what kind of war attrition is he speaking about ???
Based on the above, the appearance of Al-Baghdadi cannot be considered a normal event because it is the tip of the iceberg that covers devastating internal conflicts within the organization. It is also a proactive move of an upcoming event in the future, which would take the form of a coup or defection that lead to the collapse of the organization and the emergence of new offshoots.
Written by: Omar Abu Layla
Deir Ezzour 24 Network, Executive Manager