The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, announced the decision in an audio statement posted online on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. A caliphate ruled the Middle East and large portions of North Africa in various forms for a large portion of Islam’s roughly 1,400 year history.
“Swear your loyalty”
In the statement, Al-Adnani named ISIL‘s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new caliph while calling on jihadi groups and Muslims worldwide to swear their loyalty to the 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.’’
Additionally, he announced that the group was shortening its name by dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant and simply now going by the name, the Islamic State.
‘‘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.’’
‘‘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.’’
The group broke from al-Qaida in 2010 and has done something that al-Qaida never managed, taking control of a large area in the Arab World.
Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri formally disavowed the group, whatever their name, in February after its leader refused to leave Syria. That public falling out only strenghtened al-Baghdadi’s public image and it’s successes in Iraq have added to that even further.
Forces of Iraq assault Tikrit
The statement came as Iraqi helicopters struck at Islamic State positions in the northern city of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, for the second consecutive day. On Saturday, an assault with tanks, ground troops and helicopters was launched on the city in a multi-pronged attack.
‘‘The battle has several stages. The security forces have cleared most of the areas of the first stage and we have achieved results,’’ said Iraqi Military spokesperson Qassim al-Moussawi ‘‘It is a matter of time before we declare the total clearing’’ of Tikrit
To date, 180 of the 300 military advisers that President Obama announced would be sent to Iraq have arrived and it’s believed that they provided intelligence for Saturday’s assault as well as flying drones to support the attack.
‘‘The Americans are with us and they are an important part in the success we are achieving in and around Tikrit,’’ Jawad al-Bolani, a security official in the provincial operation command told The Associated Press.