The leader of the Islamic State group has praised the attack in Sri Lanka and called it revenge for the fall of Baghouz, Syria, the last territory the extremist group held there or in Iraq.
The U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group said the acknowledgement of the Sri Lanka attack by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came during his first propaganda video in nearly five years.
It is his first video appearance since he delivered a sermon at the al-Nuri mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, declaring himself the “caliph” of the territory IS held.
On Easter Sunday, the holiest day on the Christian calendar, suicide bombers attacked churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. They killed over 231 people.
The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group also posted a picture of the seven suicide bombers.
In the video, the seven suicide bombers stand in front of the ISIS flag and swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the terrorist group’s leader.
ISIS identified the attackers in a statement: Abu Ubayda, Abu al-Mukhtar, Abu Khalil, Abu Hamza, Abu al-Bara’a, Abu Muhammad and Abu Abdullah. It did not tell us the nationalities of the terrorists.
Reports have named Zahran Hashim, a radical Islamic cleric, as the mastermind behind the attack.
Translation via Microsoft: Sri Lanka terror Attack | Documentation: Dahad published the Oath of allegiance to the terrorists who claimed to be responsible for terrorist attacks in the country @Generalzini
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) April 23, 2019
Fox News: Nonetheless, Hashim had developed a reputation as a preacher who “copied” ISIS propaganda videos with his animated and vehement postings who has long espoused vocal support for the world’s most dangerous terrorist brand. The pro-ISIS “Al-Ghuraba” media channel in Sri Lanka, which operated across Facebook and YouTube as its primary platforms, reportedly featured his inflammatory videos. The videos often advocated the notion that only Muslims are acceptable rulers and he routinely railed against Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus.
Unconfirmed local reports have since indicated he once studied in neighboring India; but became a controversial figure within the Muslim community and he prompted clashed with other students before dropping out.
A lengthy statement has been added to the claim pic.twitter.com/KJ7y0116k6
— Pieter Van Ostaeyen (@p_vanostaeyen) April 23, 2019
Times of Israel: The militant group said six were suicide bombers who “immersed” themselves among the victims before blowing up their vests. It said one attacker clashed with police in Dematagoda.
The group said the attackers targeted citizens of the US-led coalition fighting IS and referred to Easter as an “infidel holiday.”
ISIS claimed they did the terrorist attack as retaliation for the attack on New Zealand mosques, which killed 50 people. The terrorist group wanted to attack people from the countries that have taken part in the coalition to rid Syria and Iraq of ISIS.
Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry stated victims came from Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, Japan, Portugal, and the United States. The majority of the victims were from Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan officials blamed National Thowfeek Jamaath, “a little-known local Islamist group,” even though they do not have a history of any attacks in Sri Lanka. No one could figure out an “explanation for how a group previously not known for violence could engineer such a massive attack, which experts said resembled an assault by the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda.”
The FBI joined the investigation while Sri Lanka’s government has faced criticism for not acting on numerous warnings over the terrorist attack.