Islamic State Releases Video It Claims Shows Leader Preaching

The extremist Sunni group released a video it says shows their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his first public appearance, giving the Friday sermon at a mosque in Iraq's northern city of Mosul.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. Arun Rath is away. I'm Kelly McEvers. The leader of an extremist Sunni group that's been gobbling up territory in Iraq and Syria appears to have made his first public appearance. The group that now calls itself the Islamic State has released a video they say is their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, preaching the Friday sermon at an ancient mosque in Iraq's northern city of Mosul. NPR's Alice Fordham reports if his identity is confirmed, the sermon gives a glimpse of what life is like under Baghdadi's harsh Islamic rule.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: The man wears long black robes and a black turban as he mounts the beautifully carved pulpit of the Nuri Mosque in Mosul. For years, the Iraqi born as Ibrahim al-Badri in the town of Samarra, has coordinated attacks by Sunni extremist groups from the shadows. He renamed himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi when he led al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq. The State Department offered $10 million for information leading to his capture. But only one or two smudgy photographs of him existed. When he was disowned by al-Qaida, he released audio statements, often through a spokesman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Arabic spoken).

FORDHAM: This is very different. As the long bearded figure in the video cries that those who obey God have achieved the greatest victory, he speaks openly, in front of perhaps 200 men. Every modern thing is a misguidance and leads to hell, he says - a reflection of the values of a neo-medieval Islamic empire called a caliphate that his group recently declared. He has awarded himself the title of Caliph.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Arabic Spoken).

FORDHAM: He says that this election as caliph is a great responsibility. If I err, advise me, he declares.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Arabic spoken).

FORDHAM: As there are so few images, the identity of the man is difficult to confirm. One tribal leader, Sheikh Khalil al-Obeidi, was in the room and believes it was Baghdadi. An Iraqi official told Reuters news agency that it was not. But a bold appearance would fit with the pattern of consolidation of power his group has been able to do in a few short weeks in Mosul, since they took the city in a lightning attack. Rights groups have reported massacres of non-Sunni Muslims. A charter has been issued, enforcing things like women wearing veils - hookah cafes shut down. And according to residents on Friday, the Islamic state held a meeting with the tribes and Saddam Hussein loyalists who helped them take the city. They were given a choice - they could hand over their weapons, they could join the Islamic State or they could be subjected to Islamic law. Those who were in the meeting say that could only mean one thing - death. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Baghdad.

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