Saturday, October 25, 2014


Iraq

Iraq Army Says ISIL 'Threat To All Countries'

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Iraq.
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Iraq.

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By RFE/RL

An Iraqi Army spokesman says Sunni-led jihadists who have declared a "caliphate" in territories seized across Iraq and Syria have grown into an international threat. 

Qassim Atta told the Reuters news agency that the caliphate declaration by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al-Qaeda splinter group, sends a message both "to the region and the world" that it has become "a threat to all countries."

On June 29, ISIL declared a "caliphate," or Islamist state, extending from Aleppo in northern Syria to Diyala in Iraq.

It said it was dropping the local element in its name, becoming just the Islamic State, and said its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was now caliph of the entire Muslim world.

The declaration aims to defy Iraq's Shi'ite-led, U.S.-backed government. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been blamed for failing to promote national reconciliation.

It also poses a direct challenge to Al-Qaeda, which has disowned ISIL.

Iraqi forces, meanwhile, have been pressing with a counteroffensive to retake the northern city of Tikrit from insurgents.

ISIL fighters captured Tikrit, the hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, earlier this month as they swept across large parts of northern and western Iraq.

Clashes broke out in various parts of the city on June 29 and witnesses reported air strikes overnight.

The Iraqi government said it has received the first five second-hand Sukhoi attack aircraft from Russia to help it fight the insurgents.

Security officials said more Russian-made warplanes were on their way.

Near the town of Baiji, six civilians were reportedly killed and more than 10 others injured on June 30 when Iraqi helicopters fired at houses where insurgents were believed to be hiding. Baiji is the site of the country's largest oil refinery.

A spokesman for Maliki has said hundreds of soldiers have been killed since the insurgent offensive was launched on June 9.

The United Nations puts the overall death toll at more than 1,000, mostly civilians.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa

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