The reported leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria allegedly appeared at a mosque in Mosul, calling on those gathered to wage a holy war, CNN reported, citing witnesses and a video posted to the extremist group’s website.
The video was promoted on social media sites tied to ISIS and supposedly shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi leading Friday prayers at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, weeks since the notorious breakaway group took control of Iraq’s second-largest city.
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If it is al-Baghdadi, it would be one of the first known appearances of the militant leader to be captured on video. Very few images have been made public of al-Baghdadi.
The Iraqi government has seen the video and is analyzing it, a spokesman in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office told CNN. The U.S. government also is looking into it.
In the video, the man purported to be al-Baghdadi urges people to follow his call to create a “caliphate,” an Islamic state, in Iraq and Syria, and wage “jihad” during Ramadan — the holy month of fasting for Muslims that began last week.
“God created us to worship him and spread his religion, and ordered us to fight his enemies for him and for religion,” the man in the video said.
During the sermon, he added that Muslims are sinners if they don’t join him in establishing an Islamic state.
“I am being entrusted with this heavy burden and duty to be your imam, although I am not the best one among you,” he said.
“Therefore, if you see me as righteous, you should help me and if you see me wrong, you should advise me and help me. Obey me as long as long as I obey God in ruling you,” he said. “…If I disobey God, then you are no longer obligated to obey me.”
Al-Baghdadi’s alleged appearance comes on the heels of ISIS declaring him the leader of its new “caliphate,” or Islamic state, in the regions in Iraq and Syria that ISIS has taken over.
He reportedly was heard on audio tape earlier in the week making similar declarations.
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The extremist group also said it was changing its name from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to “the Islamic State.”
CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video, which shows dozens of people, including men who appear to be bodyguards, listening to the sermon and praying. Several automatic weapons are displayed near the man delivering the sermon.
Al-Baghdadi was never identified by name, only as “the emir of the believers,” according to a woman who was at the mosque when he arrived. CNN is identifying the witness only as Bara’a out of a concern for her safety.
“It was a terrifying Friday,” she said.
Read the rest of the CNN article here.