BAGHDAD: Iraqi officials are working to determine the authenticity of the video that purportedly shows the leader of the Islamic extremist group that has seized large swaths of the country delivering a sermon this week in the nation’s second-largest city, authorities said Sunday.
The 21-minute video said to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), was reportedly filmed Friday at the Great Mosque in the northern city of Mosul. It was released on at least two websites known to be used by the organization and bore its media arm’s logo.
Iraqi military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi told reporters Sunday the country’s security services are still analyzing the video to verify whether the speaker is indeed Baghdadi, and that the government would “announce the details once they are available.”
The purported appearance in Mosul, a city of some 2 million that the militants seized last month, came five days after ISIS, now calling itself the Islamic State, declared the establishment of a caliphate in the territories it has seized in Iraq and Syria. The group proclaimed Baghdadi the leader of its state and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official told the Associated Press Saturday that an initial analysis indicated that the man in the video was indeed Baghdadi. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
However, a government spokesman said Saturday that the video was falsified.
Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan told Reuters that the footage posted on the Internet, purporting showing Baghdadi, was “indisputably” not him.
“We have analyzed the footage ... and found it is a farce,” he said.
Maan said government forces had recently wounded Baghdadi in an airstrike and that he had been transferred by ISIS militants to Syria for medical treatment. He declined to give further details and there was no way to confirm the claim independently.
The Iraqi government has in the past made claims to have captured wanted Sunni militants only to announce later that the men were still at large.