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New alleged photos of IS chief raise eyebrows

Is it or is it not? Images of Baghdadi making a public appearance [Twitter]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2016

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New images of Islamic State group "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at a mosque in Fallujah have gone viral, but raise as many questions as they answer.
Images purporting to show Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making a public appearance at a mosque in Fallujah were broadcast on local Iraqi television on Friday.

The new photographs cannot be authenticated, but IS supporters claim they show Baghdadi speaking to children during a ceremony in a small Fallujah mosque.

The presence of a man closely resembling Baghdadi in the same image have led to further claims of a body-double making the appearance on behalf of the militant chief. 

If these are indeed recent pictures of Baghdadi, they would represent the first sighting of the so-called "caliph" in more than 18 months.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was last photographed giving a speech to his followers in Mosul in July 2014.

The last audio statement attested to have been given by Baghdadi was released in December last year.

But experts from the US Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium said the man was almost certainly a Baghdadi body double.

Banners depicted in the new footage indicated the presence of the armed group leader through reference to his official title:

"The central Missionary and Mosques Ministry of Fallujah province presents a main ceremony for the presentation of gifts by the 'Commander of the Believers' to the winners and participants in the first 'House of Islam' competition for the memorisation of the Quran."

The ticker accompanying the video realised by IS group miliants stated the "distribution of presents of our master the Commander of Believers for those memorising the Holy Quran".

As one of the most wanted militants in the world, with a $10 million bounty on his head, Baghdadi has seemingly stopped appearing at large gatherings.

Baghdadi's attested presence at a low-key ceremony attended mainly by children in a city currently nearly surrounded by Iraqi government ground forces will raise many sceptical eyebrows.


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