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Iraqi Authorities Analyzing Authenticity of al-Baghdadi Video

Iraqi authorities are analyzing the video purported to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to ascertain its authenticity.

by Liz Fields
Jul 6 2014, 2:10pm

Screenshot via YouTube

Iraqi authorities are analyzing the authenticity of a video purporting to show the leader of the Islamic militant group that recently declared a caliphate over swathes of Iraq and Syria, the military said Sunday.

The video posted to two websites that are used regularly by the Islamic State, appears to show its elusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his first-ever public appearance on Friday, speaking at the great mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Iraqi security services are currently working to verify whether the speaker seen in the footage sporting a black turban and robe is indeed the shadowy militant leader.

The government will "announce the details once they are available, " Iraqi military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi told reporters Sunday.

Speaking in classical Arabic, the man in the video calmly delivers a sermon stating the objectives and philosophy of the Islamic State, which late last month appointed al-Baghdadi as supreme leader of a self-declared caliphate (a medieval-style Islamic state) straddling Syria and Iraq.

"I am the wali [leader] who presides over you, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, assist me," he said, according to a translation provided by the Guardian. "If you see that I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God in you."

An intelligence official told the Associated Press on Saturday that preliminary assessment seems to indicate the video is authentic and the man shown is al-Baghdadi.

On midday Friday, cellular networks were blocked in the area as a large convoy arrived in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, the unidentified official said. The networks returned to normal a few hours later, after the convoy left.

On June 29, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared the restoration of a strict Shariah law-governed caliphate in an area stretching from Diyala in Iraq to Aleppo, Syria.

Portrait of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Photo by Thierry Ehrmann via Flickr

The announcement made by ISIS's chief spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani called on al Qaeda and other Sunni militant forces to join the group, which he said would henceforth be called the "Islamic State."

The news came as US and Iraqi military forces battled to reclaim the strategic city of Tikrit from insurgents who overran the urban center earlier last month as part of an advancing offensive across northern and western Iraq.

An introduction and field guide to the fighting in Iraq. Read more here.

In parts of the country, the violent clashes have sent the regular Iraqi army fleeing, forcing Shiite militia and volunteers to step up to fight and fill their posts.

On Saturday, the release of the video coincided with the removal of Iraq's head of federal police and commander of the army's ground forces by Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki.

The two senior security force officials were removed as part of al-Maliki's vow to crackdown on a scattered military on the brink of collapse. Their forced retiring follows the dismissal of three brigadier generals deployed in Mosul, which fell to militant forces in June.

Al-Maliki has also promised to court martial more unnamed senior military officials and execute any soldiers found guilty of desertion.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields