According to a security adviser to the Iraqi government, the location of the most wanted man in the world, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been narrowed to just four locations after ISIS released a video of al-Baghdadi. The adviser, Hisham al-Hashemi, said, “These are in the desert of Iraq’s Anbar (province) or in the (eastern) desert of Homs in Syria.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said the video showed al-Baghdadi in a “very simple and isolated” location, but did not confirm which country al-Baghdadi was in.
The latest atrocity committed by ISIS occurred on April 21, when a series of attacks murdered over 300 people in Sri Lanka.
Mahdi said that despite the reduced presence of ISIS, it “has not completely disappeared but suffered painful blows,” adding that ISIS “will try to rebuild trust among its fighters, will try to launch further operations” like the Sri Lanka attacks. He pointed out, “Daesh (ISIS) was broken, but if little cells are left, it could reactivate and resurface and commit painful attacks.”
In the 18-minute video of al-Baghdadi, who was identified by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, he lauded the terrorists in Sri Lanka, saying the attacks were revenge for ISIS losing their stronghold in Baghouz, Syria. He stated, “As for your brothers in Sri Lanka, they have put joy in the hearts of the monotheists with their immersing operations that struck the homes of the crusaders in their Easter.” After the attacks, a Sri Lankan official said the attacks were revenge for the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Israel HaYom reported, “Authorities initially blamed the Easter attacks, targeting three hotels and three churches, on a local militant named Mohammed Zahran and his followers. Then the Islamic State group on April 23 released images of Zahran and others pledging their loyalty to al-Baghdadi.”
A French IT expert, Gregoire Pouget, warned that although the video might offer a clue to al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts, “Daesh has a specialist cyber brigade, they’re being tracked by security services. They know how to use multiple filters before distributing something. They are not idiots, these masking tools are easy to use.”
The last video of al-Baghdadi was released in Mosul in 2014, although audio recordings of him have been released since.
As Reuters noted, “A U.S.-backed campaign ended Islamic State’s control of territory in Iraq in late 2017 and in Syria last month, nearly five years after the group took over vast areas in both countries.”
In March 2019, the State Department noted that certain media sites were part of ISIS’s propaganda wing, stating:
The Department of State has amended the terrorist designations of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to include Amaq News Agency, Al Hayat Media Center, and other aliases. These aliases have been added to ISIS’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224. Additionally the Department of State has reviewed and maintained the FTO designation of ISIS.
Amaq News Agency and Al Hayat Media Center are two media wings of ISIS. Amaq News Agency is part of the terrorist organization’s propaganda apparatus, and is used for claiming responsibility for ISIS or ISIS-inspired attacks, spreading terrorist messages online, and recruitment. Al Hayat Media Center is ISIS’s multilingual media outlet and is also used for recruitment purposes.