A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Syria. REUTERS/Stringer
An offshoot of al Qaeda which has captured swathes of
territory in Iraq and Syria has declared itself an Islamic
"Caliphate" and called on factions worldwide to pledge their
allegiance, a statement posted on jihadist websites says.
The move is an expansion of the group's ambitions to wage a
holy war and posed a direct challenge to the central
leadership of al Qaeda, which has already disowned it.
The group, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and
the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, has renamed itself
"Islamic State" and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi
as "Caliph" - the head of the state, the statement said.
"He is the imam and khalifah (Caliph) for the Muslims
everywhere," the group's spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani
said in the statement, which was translated into several
languages and an Arabic audio speech.
"Accordingly, the "Iraq and Sham" (Levant) in the name of the
Islamic State is henceforth removed from all official
deliberations and communications, and the official name is
the Islamic State from the date of this declaration," he
Charles Lister, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Cnter,
saw considerable significance in the move.
"Whatever judgments are made in terms of its legitimacy,
(the) announcement that it has restored the Caliphate is
likely the most significant development in international
jihadism since 9/11.
"The impact of this announcement will be global as al-Qaeda
affiliates and independent jihadist groups must now
definitively choose to support and join the Islamic State or
to oppose it."
Fighters from the group overran the Iraqi city of Mosul last
month and have advanced towards Baghdad. In Syria they have
captured territory in the north and east, along the frontier
"It is incumbent upon all Muslims to pledge allegiance to
(him) and support him...The legality of all emirates, groups,
states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of
the khalifah's authority and arrival of its troops to their
areas," the statement said.