BAGHDAD - Self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made an unprecedented appearance in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which his forces captured last month, ordering Muslims to obey him, according to a video posted Saturday.
That marks a significant change for the shadowy jihadist whose Islamic State (IS) group led a lighting offensive that has overrun swathes of five provinces north and west of Baghdad.
The onslaught has alarmed world leaders, displaced hundreds of thousands and piled pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as he seeks a third term in office following April elections.
The video showed a portly man clad in a long black robe and a black turban with a long greying beard addressing worshippers at weekly prayers at Al-Nur mosque in central Mosul.
"I am the wali (leader) who presides over you, though I am not the best of you. So if you see that I am right, assist me," said the man, purportedly Baghdadi.
"If you see that I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God."
Text superimposed on the video identified the man as "Caliph Ibrahim," the name Baghdadi took when the group declared on June 29 a "caliphate," a pan-Islamic state last seen in Ottoman times in which the leader is both political and religious.
The video is the first ever official appearance by Baghdadi, says Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on Islamist movements, though the jihadist leader may have appeared in a 2008 video under a different name.
Baghdadi is believed to have been born in the Iraqi city of Samarra in 1971, and joined the insurgency against the US military following the 2003 invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
He spent time in a US military prison and eventually took over leadership of a group, then affiliated with Al-Qaeda and known as the Islamic State of Iraq, in 2010.