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Things to Know about the ISIS Leader

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi re-appeared in a video at the end of April to show that he is still alive and that he is tracking current events and urging ISIS on after its defeat in Syria.

The following are five important details from the video.

1. ISIS carried out ninety-two operations in eight countries around the world

Baghdadi claims that ISIS carried out 92 recent operations in eight countries around the world. He specifically mentions Afghanistan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia and other countries. This is supposed to show the ISIS has “steadfastness” and is being revitalized after its recent setbacks. ISIS has already been bragging for months about its ability to carry out operations in Iraq, but this represents a new and clear concrete global threat. After Sri Lanka it is clear that even a local cell can have devastating affects.

2. Netanyahu “received the government of the Jews”
ISIS spends most of its propaganda rhetoric against Christians, “Crusaders” and hatred for non-Muslims, but which it particularly means groups such as the Yazidis in Iraq that it sought to genocide. In the recent discussion Baghdadi referenced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent election. He says that Netanyahu “received” the government of the Jews. It is interesting because he contrasts this with the “tyranny” in Sudan and attacks on Muslims in Sudan by the government. Baghdadi doesn’t mention Israel, rather seeing the country as simply “the Jews” and a government established by Jews.

3. ISIS ‘Game of Thrones’ style list of dead fighters
Baghdadi provides a long list of fallen comrades and also some who have survived recent battles, a bit like reading off a list of the dead from the last episode of Game of Thrones. He mentions a series of fighters who died in Baghouz, one after another. He also mentions several leaders that were killed in an April airstrike carried out by Iraq. These include senior leaders in the province of Wilayah al-Baraka, which is sections eastern Syria. He also mentions two French ISIS member brothers and a Chechan. In addition he mentions several prominent Saudi-born ISIS members who rose to leadership positions. Some of them appear to have been killed recently. This included Abu Rajjib al-Dajjani and Abu Musab al-Hijazi.

Baghdadi mentions a series of western volunteers, including a Belgian and Australian citizen named Abu Yasir al-Beljiki and Abu Abdullah Al-Australi. This shows the global reach of ISIS. More than 5,000 people from Europe joined ISIS. Some of them surrendered in Syria and are now held in detainee camps. More than 800 EU citizens are thought to be held in eastern Syria who were ISIS members.

4.Baghdadi wants to go big in Africa

Baghdadi sees Africa as a major place for ISIS operations. Preying off the weak states of the Sahel, ISIS has set down roots, cannibalizing existing Jihadist networks and expanding them. It has operations in Mali and Burkina Faso and Libya, according to the ISIS leader. ISIS is able to operate in the Sahel region, in a band of states from the borders of Mali to Mauritania and Niger, across Nigeria all the way towards Somalia. It exploits the fact these poor countries have their own internal problems and it also works with locals who have differences between tribes and groups. ISIS tentacles appear to be growing.

The US and France have been expanding operations in this band of countries in the last years. This is part of the US special forces deployment in 90 countries that has special operators training and aiding the fight against terror in countries like Niger. The French are also working closely with local countries, usually former colonies in French speaking areas of West Africa, to fight extremism. Baghdadi has other plans. He thinks these ISIS franchises have a major future.

5.ISIS wants to target Saudi Arabia

The ISIS leader mentions Saudi Arabia at least six times in his video, referring to it as Mohammed’s peninsula. He also references the Saudi royal family who he calls “Al-Salul,” a reference to an early Islamic figure who converted but whose conversion was seen as hypocritical. For Baghdadi the leaders of Saudi Arabia are hypocrites but he cares deeply for the birthplace of Muhammad. Like Osama Bin Laden before him, Baghdadi has this abiding interest in Saudi Arabia and also a respect for Saudi volunteers in his ranks.

He also sought to pose like Bin Laden in his video, with an AK-47 close at hand. In a sense Baghdadi wants to take the mantle from Bin Laden.

Baghdadi mentions an April 21 attack in Zulfi near Riyadh. It shows that ISIS wants to strike at the Kingdom. “We do not forget our brothers blessed operation,” Baghdadi says. “Strive in your footsteps to reach the path of Jihad,” he urges his followers