London: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State stretching across Iraq and Syria, has promised to lead the conquest of Rome as he called on Muslims to migrate to his new land to fight under its banner around the globe.
Baghdadi, who holds a PhD in Islamic studies, said that Muslims were being targeted and killed from China to Indonesia. Speaking as the first Caliph, or commander of the Islamic faithful since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, he called on Muslims to rally to his pan-Islamic state.
Militants from an al-Qaeda splinter group held a military parade in their stronghold in northeastern Syria, displaying US-made Humvees, heavy machine guns, and missiles captured from the Iraqi army. Photo: AP
"Those who can immigrate to the Islamic State should immigrate, as immigration to the house of Islam is a duty," he said in an audio recording released on a website used by the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"Rush, O Muslims to your state. It is your state. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims. This is my advice to you. If you hold to it you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills."
The speech came hours after Iraq's parliament failed to appoint a new leadership amid divisions between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish MPs. Iraq must vote on a president, prime minister and speaker in the wake of recent elections.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who unilaterally announced the creation of a new Islamic caliphate, a state governed by Sharia law. Photo: AP
Having claimed the title of "caliph", Baghdadi appealed to "judges and those who have military and managerial and service skills, and doctors and engineers in all fields." He also called on jihadi fighters to escalate fighting in the holy month of Ramadan, which began on Sunday. "In this virtuous month or in any other month, there is no deed better than jihad in the path of Allah, so take advantage of this opportunity and walk the path of your righteous predecessors," he said.
In a reflection of the havoc wreaked the past month by the Sunni insurgency led by the group, the United Nations said that more than 2,400 people were killed in Iraq in June, making it the deadliest month in the country in years.
Baghdadi's claims to control vast territory have yet to be tested by an Iraqi government counter attack. Many Muslim groups dispute his putative caliphate. However, some experts fear his rise could transform the appeal of extremist Islam, partly by using social media to build a global following.
Hassan Hassan, an analyst at Abu Dhabi's Delma Institute, wrote that Baghdadi provided the most radical challenge since the emergence of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. "The whispers of support to a caliph in Afghanistan are now replaced by clear words and acts, amplified by social media," he said.