RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
ISIS is sending an online message. The terrorist group has posted a video showing images of a man they say is the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It's the first time Baghdadi has appeared on a video in nearly five years since he declared the formation of the so-called caliphate in Mosul, Iraq. ISIS has now been forced out of that territory, and now Baghdadi talks about their next steps. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports.
RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sits cross-legged on the floor, a Kalashnikov weapon beside him. He has a thick, graying beard that looks like it's been dyed red at the edges. He talks about ISIS' global reach. He praises members in Libya, Mali and Burkina Faso.
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ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI: (Speaking Arabic).
SHERLOCK: Here, he congratulates the perpetrators of the suicide attacks on hotels and churches in Sri Lanka that left over 250 people dead. Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Center for Global Policy, says that if this is confirmed to be Baghdadi, the appearance of the ISIS leader, or caliph, comes at a strategic time.
HASSAN HASSAN: I do think this video is, you know, extremely important for the organization to show that the caliph is still alive, and he still believes in this project of his and that there's a continuation of what he started in 2014.
SHERLOCK: The last time Baghdadi appeared on video in July 2014, it was to celebrate victory, claiming huge parts of Iraq and Syria as an Islamic state or caliphate. But today, that territory has been lost. And this broadcast is meant to signal a shift in the group's tactics, says Hassan.
HASSAN: And now the caliphate ended, the physical caliphate. And ISIS says, oh, we need to move to the next chapter, which is war-of-attrition insurgency.
SHERLOCK: Even without land in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is still believed to have thousands of fighters in these countries, and it has chapters in Asia and Afghanistan. The message is intended as a rallying cry to supporters to fight back however they can. Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Beirut.
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