- (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)
An Islamic militant group has declared that an "Islamic state" has been established in Iraq and Syria following territorial gains, calling on "Muslims everywhere" to support leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the "Caliph," or the head of the state.
"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," spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in a statement, according to Reuters on Sunday.
"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 added.
The Sunni muslim group was previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS. It has captured several cities in Iraq, including Mosul and much of the Nineveh province, and has made territory gains on the capital of Baghdad. The Islamists are also active in Syria, where several rebel groups are looking to topple the government of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Half a million people, including many of the country's fleeting Christian population, are said to have fled the violence.
The decoration of an Islamic state, or Caliphate, is said to have global implications and push separate groups to decide whether they want to join the cause.
"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," offered Charles Lister, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.
"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."
Fox News noted that Muslim extremists have been calling for the re-creation of such an Islamic state that ruled over the Middle East and much of North Africa during the course of the religion's 1,400-year history.
It remains to be seen, however, if the various Islamic militant factions will indeed rally behind the new Islamic state, experts noted.
"Now the insurgents in Iraq have no excuse for working with ISIS if they were hoping to share power with ISIS," Aymenn al-Tamimi, an analyst who specializes in Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, told The Associated Press. "The prospect of infighting in Iraq is increased for sure."
President Barack Obama has said that the U.S. will not be sending troops in direct combat against the Islamic militants in Iraq, but close to 300 security forced were deployed to the guard the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and other U.S. assets.