The leader of the ISIS jihadist group launching an offensive across Iraq and parts of Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has reportedly ordered all Muslims to obey him in a video released on Saturday.
The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL) is thought to have made the demand in a sermon delivered Friday in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which ISIS seized as part of an early June offensive across northern Iraq.
The formerly elusive Baghdadi proclaimed an Islamic "caliphate" on June 29 that he said includes regions of both Syria and Iraq. Days later, he ordered Muslims around the world to relocate to the new "state".
By declaring the establishment of a caliphate and himself as caliph, Baghdadi is claiming to be the successor to the political and religious community originally established by the Prophet Mohammed. The caliphate is a powerful ideal – a nation of Muslims ruled by sharia law under a caliph who holds both spiritual and political authority.
"I am the wali (leader) who presides over you, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, assist me," said the man believed to be Baghdadi.
"If you see that I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God."
Baghdadi has almost never been seen in public and there are few known photographs of him.
The video was released on a website known to be used by ISIS, but it was not possible to independently verify whether the person shown was indeed Baghdadi.
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His jihadists are known for their brutality, executing and crucifying opponents. New photographs emerged Saturday depicting ISIS militants demolishing Sunni and Shiite mosques and shrines in Mosul and in surrounding Nineveh province.
Baghdadi is believed to have been born in the Iraqi city of Samarra in 1971. He joined the insurgency against the US military following the 2003 invasion that ousted former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Baghdadi reportedly spent time in a US military prison and later took over leadership of what was originally an al Qaeda-linked group known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).
His militants joined the fight against the Syrian regime in late spring of 2013. The group was subsequently accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing Syrians – including children – from its stronghold in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, prompting an alliance of moderate Syrian rebel groups to declare a "second revolution" against the jihadist group.
ISI struggled for influence in Syria with another group affiliated with al Qaeda, al Nusra (Jabhat al Nusra or the Nusra Front). In April 2013 Baghdadi sought to merge the rivals into a new group to be known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.
But the merger idea was rejected by both al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri and al Nusra. In June Zawahiri ordered ISIS to disband and told Baghdadi to go back to operating only in Iraq while al Nusra would remain al Qaeda’s main branch in Syria.
Baghdadi rejected the order, prompting al Qaeda to cut off ties with ISIS.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2014-07-05