Fresh footage of ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has surfaced, apparently showing the reclusive terror leader making a rare public appearance and talking to children at a mosque in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
The images, broadcast on a local Iraqi television channel, have not been verified but appear to show the extremist addressing a small crowd of boys, The Times reported.
A banner behind him announces an ISIS-sponsored Quran memorising competition, with prizes from Baghdadi to be awarded to the winner.
Baghdadi, one of the world’s most wanted men, rarely appears in public. The last time he is known to have made a public appearance was in July 2014 when he led Friday prayers at the Great Mosque in Mosul less than two months after his troops stormed into the city.
Analysts at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium were quoted as saying that one of the other men in the footage is Baghdadi’s “body double” — a logical security measure given that the US has put a USD 10 million bounty on his head.
A man wearing a green headscarf, who is sitting to Baghdadi’s left as he addresses the children, is later seen presenting prizes to the competition winners.
A former prisoner of Camp Bucca, a US detention facility in Iraq, Baghdadi had studied to postgraduate level at the Islamic University in Baghdad and is thought to have been living a quiet life as a family man before the coalition invasion in 2003. Some reports suggest that he was a cleric at the time.
By 2010, Baghdadi had risen to become head of the Islamic State in Iraq, a fore-runner of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syrua.
Baghdadi’s well-being has often been the subject of speculation. In October, it was reported that he had been seriously wounded in an Iraqi airstrike on his convoy.
Two months later he released a 24-minute audio recording in which he claimed that his organisation was “thriving”.