BAGHDAD — The leader of the extremist group that seized much of northern Iraq and Syria called on Muslims worldwide on Tuesday to join the battle and help build an Islamic state in the newly conquered territory.
The 19-minute audiotape from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came two days after his organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls. It also proclaimed al-Baghdadi the caliph (and a direct decendant of Muhammad), and demanded that all Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him.
In the statement, al-Baghdadi makes clear his global ambition and presented himself as the leader of all Muslims. With his group’s dramatic blitz in the heart of the Middle East, the Iraqi-born al-Baghdadi has made a bid to eclipse even al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri as the jihadi movement’s most influential figure. Continue reading