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ISIS Insurgents Declare New Islamic State
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has declared the establishment of an Islamic state in the areas it controls and demanded allegiance from other Muslim groups worldwide.
The Sunni militant group proclaimed its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, as "caliph" - the head of the state, and said the "caliphate" stretched from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala in Iraq.
Iraqi army spokesman Qassun Atta said that with the declaration, ISIS has become a "threat to all countries", adding: "I believe all countries, once they read the declaration, will change their attitudes because it orders everybody to be loyal to it."
ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani said in an audio recording on the first day of Ramadan: "He is the imam and khalifah (caliph) for the Muslims everywhere.
"His (al Baghdadi's) authority has expanded over wide areas in Iraq and Sham (Levant). The land now under his leadership spreads from Aleppo to Diyala."
He added: "The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas.
"Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day."
Iraqi army spokesman Qassim Atta said that with the declaration, ISIS has become a "threat to all countries", adding: "I believe all countries, once they read the declaration, will change their attitudes because it orders everybody to be loyal to it."
Al Adnani said that with the establishment of the "caliphate", the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and Syria.
ISIS fighters overran the Iraqi city of Mosul last month in a lightning offensive and have since been advancing towards Baghdad.
In Syria, they have captured territory in the north and east, along the frontier with Iraq.
ISIS' declaration comes as the Iraqi government is battling to wrest back some of the territory it has lost to the jihadist group in recent weeks.
On Sunday, Iraqi helicopter gunships struck suspected insurgent positions for a second consecutive day in the northern city of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, around 80 miles north of Baghdad.
The Iraqi military launched a multi-pronged attack spearheaded by thousands of ground troops backed by tanks, warplanes and helicopters.
The insurgents appeared to have repelled the military's initial push and remained in control of the city on Sunday, but clashes were reportedly taking place in the northern neighbourhood of Qadissiyah.
Iraqi army spokesman Qassim al Moussawi told reporters government troops were in full control of the university and had raised the Iraqi flag over the campus.
"It is a matter of time before we declare the total clearing of Tikrit," he said.
Jawad al Bolani, a security official in the provincial operation command, said the US was sharing intelligence with Iraq and has played an "essential" role in the Tikrit offensive.