In the video, a man purporting to be Baghdadi appeared to be wearing a casual outfit, sitting on the ground next to an assault rifle. He said the “battle for Baghouz is over,” referencing the last town held by ISIS in eastern Syria.
He also referenced recent political events, including Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory in Israel, the resignation of Algeria’s president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and the fall of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir.
The video was published by ISIS media wing al-Furqan on Monday. If authentic, it would be the first time that Baghdadi has been seen since July 2014, when he spoke at the Great Mosque in Mosul.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting ISIS told CNN that the US was working to gauge the authenticity of today’s video.
“At this time, we are working to independently corroborate the validity of the video posted today reportedly showing Abu Bakr al Baghdadi,” Col. Scott Rawlinson said.
“We are continuing to support partner forces in their mission of an enduring defeat of Daesh, which includes the capability to finance their operations, recruit new members, and collaborate to conduct violent extremist attacks.”
According to US senator Angus King — who recently returned from a bipartisan congressional delegation to the Middle East — US military, Iraqi and Kurdish officials told him there are still an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria despite coalition forces retaking control of the territory.
“Among the most important takeaways from this trip is the knowledge of the continuing danger that ISIS can pose if left unchecked, and the importance of our continued operation to ensure they do not gain a new foothold,” King said.
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen contributed to this story.