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Al-Qaida splinter declares new Islamic caliphate



BAGHDAD (AP) - The al-Qaida breakaway group that has seized much of northeastern Syria and huge tracts of neighboring Iraq formally declared the establishment of a new Islamic state on Sunday and demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide.

The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, made the announcement in an audio statement posted online on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Muslim extremists have long dreamed of recreating the Islamic state, or caliphate, that ruled over the Middle East, much of North Africa and beyond in various forms over the course of Islam's 1,400-year history.

ISIS Declares A New Islamist Caliphate; Now What?

Al-Adnani declared the group's chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the new leader, or caliph, and called on jihadi groups everywhere, not just those in areas under the organization's control, to swear loyalty to al-Baghdadi and support him.

"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas," al-Adnani said. "Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day."

Al-Adnani loosely defined the Islamic state's territory as running from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala - a vast stretch of land straddling the border that is already largely under the Islamic State's control. He also said that with the establishment of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.

It was unclear what immediate impact the declaration would have on the ground in Syria and Iraq, though experts predicted it could herald infighting among the Sunni militants who have formed an alliance with the Islamic State in its blitz across northern and western Iraq.

"Now the insurgents in Iraq have no excuse for working with ISIS if they were hoping to share power with ISIS," said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an analyst who specializes in Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, using one of several acronyms for the Islamic State. "The prospect of infighting in Iraq is increased for sure."

The greatest impact, however, could be on the broader international jihadist movement, in particular on the future of al-Qaida.

Founded by Osama bin Laden, the group that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. has long carried the mantle of the international jihadi cause. But the Islamic State has managed to do in Syria and Iraq what al-Qaida never has - carve out a large swath of territory in the heart of the Arab world and control it.

"This announcement poses a huge threat to al-Qaida and its long-time position of leadership of the international jihadist cause," said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, in emailed comments. "Taken globally, the younger generation of the jihadist community is becoming more and more supportive of (the Islamic State), largely out of fealty to its slick and proven capacity for attaining rapid results through brutality."

Al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, took the reins of the Islamic State in 2010 when it was still an al-Qaida affiliate based in Iraq. Since then, he has transformed what had been an umbrella organization focused mainly on Iraq into a transnational military force.

Al-Baghdadi has long been at odds with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, and the two had a very public falling out after al-Baghdadi ignored al-Zawahri's demands that the Islamic State leave Syria. Fed up with al-Baghdadi and unable to control him, al-Zawahri formally disavowed the Islamic State in February.

But al-Baghdadi's stature has only grown since then, as the Islamic State's fighters have strengthened their grip on much of Syria, and now overrun large swathes of Iraq.

The Islamic State's declaration comes as the Iraqi government tries to wrest back some of the territory it has lost to the jihadi group and its Sunni militant allies in recent weeks.

On Sunday, Iraqi helicopter gunships struck suspected insurgent positions for a second consecutive day in the northern city of Tikrit, the predominantly Sunni hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi military launched its push to wrest back Tikrit, a hotbed of antipathy toward Iraq's Shiite-led government, on Saturday with a multi-pronged assault spearheaded by ground troops backed by tanks and helicopters.

The insurgents appeared to have repelled the military's initial push for Tikrit, and remained in control of the city on Sunday, but clashes were taking place in the northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah, two residents reached by telephone said.

Muhanad Saif al-Din, who lives in the city center, said he could see smoke rising from Qadissiyah, which borders the University of Tikrit, where troops brought by helicopter established a bridgehead two days ago. He said many of the militants had deployed to the city's outskirts, apparently to blunt the Iraqi military attack.

Military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi told reporters Sunday that government troops in full control of the university and had raised the Iraqi flag over the campus.

"The battle has several stages. The security forces have cleared most of the areas of the first stage and we have achieved results," al-Moussawi said. "It is a matter of time before we declare the total clearing" of Tikrit.

A provincial official reached by telephone reported clashes northwest of the city around an air base that previously served as a U.S. military facility known as Camp Speicher. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Jawad al-Bolani, a security official in the provincial operation command, said the U.S. was sharing intelligence with Iraq and has played an "essential" role in the Tikrit offensive.

"The Americans are with us and they are an important part in the success we are achieving in and around Tikrit," al-Bolani told The Associated Press.

Washington has sent 180 of 300 American troops President Barack Obama has promised to help Iraqi forces. The U.S. is also flying manned and unmanned aircraft on reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

Iraq's government is eager to make progress in Tikrit after weeks of demoralizing defeats at the hands of the Islamic State and its Sunni allies. The militants' surge across the vast Sunni-dominated areas that stretch from Baghdad north and west to the Syrian and Jordanian borders has thrown Iraq into its deepest crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.

More ominously, the insurgent blitz, which prompted Kurdish forces to assert long-held claims over disputed territory, has raised the prospect of Iraq being split in three, along sectarian and ethnic lines.

For embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, success in Tikrit could help restore a degree of faith in his ability to stem the militant tide. Al-Maliki, a Shiite who has been widely accused of monopolizing power and alienating Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish minorities, is under growing pressure to step aside. But he appears set on a third consecutive term as prime minister after his bloc won the most seats in April elections.

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tms36 June 29 2014 at 7:23 PM

I guess they are going to call the new country, Obamaland.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
48 replies
wbearl June 29 2014 at 8:09 PM

How is Obama's foreign policies working for everyone? The world hasn't been this tense in over 30 years and maybe not since the 40's. The Middle East is in total turmoil, Ukraine is sitting on a time bomb, Poland has said that agreements with America aren't worth the paper they are written on. The other NATO Countries don't trust us. Yep, great foreign policy.

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39 replies
Richard June 29 2014 at 7:31 PM

Hope Obama reads so he can be up on the news if he is not to busy golfing.

Flag Reply +88 rate up
14 replies
tistolaugh June 29 2014 at 7:30 PM

Oh good! Now that we know where "their" new territory is we can remove it from the face of the earth.

Flag Reply +87 rate up
12 replies
Taylor Brent June 29 2014 at 8:09 PM

I guess that the Gay Pride Parade won't be passing through their area any time soon!!

Flag Reply +80 rate up
10 replies
GENEVAOHMAN48 June 29 2014 at 7:38 PM

only good muslim is a dead one

Flag Reply +58 rate up
14 replies
Peter June 29 2014 at 7:30 PM

Bomb the bastards!!

Flag Reply +57 rate up
6 replies
bd2thebone June 29 2014 at 7:31 PM

Maybe Obama should give them more arms and advisors so they will be our friends.

Flag Reply +52 rate up
13 replies
jpirro8723 June 29 2014 at 7:24 PM

Springtime for Islam and Al-Qaida!

Flag Reply +33 rate up
3 replies
mgimhh11 June 29 2014 at 11:16 PM

His transparency is blinding, I see nothing. When will his words become reality?

When Mexico tests our resolve crossing the border, opening fire on our border patrol with an apology; while holding U.S. Marine Andrew Tahmooressi for a wrong turn on the highway in shackles? Nothing.
When Americans in Benghazi pleaded for help? Nothing. Louis Lerner? ‘Not a smidgen.’ Obama is leading America to defeat after defeat at the hands of jihadists, at a great cost to American soldiers.

When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of these savages, was released by the Obama administration in 2009 (threatening "See you in NY" on his release)? No problem. One year later, in 2010, Baghdadi started ISIS. The 2014 release of the Bergdahl Five? Sure, why not. What will they do?

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
kent_hern mgimhh11 June 29 2014 at 11:32 PM

The obsessive lies of hatred are still just lies.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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