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ISIL Calls On Muslims To Join Jihad, Help Build State


Iraqi troops monitor an area west of the shrine city of Karbala on June 29. In recent days, Iraqi forces have been pursuing a campaign to retake the militant-held city of Tikrit, clashing with Sunni fighters nearby and pounding positions inside the city with air strikes in their biggest counter-offensive to date.

The leader of the Sunni militant group that has overrun parts of Iraq and Syria has called on Muslims worldwide to travel to territories his group has seized and fight to build an Islamic state.

In an audio recording posted online on July 1, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also presented himself as the leader of Islam worldwide.

The recorded message was posted online as Iraqi government forces pressed on with an offensive to retake the northern city of Tikrit from ISIL-led militants, who captured it last month.

The message also came two days after ISIL -- an Al-Qaeda offshoot -- unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls.

It also proclaimed al-Baghdadi the caliph, and announced the group was changing its name to the Islamic State.

In his 19-minute address, Baghdadi said the Islamic state was a land for all Muslims regardless of nationality, telling them it "will return your dignity, might, rights, and leadership."

To help build that state, he appealed to those with practical skills -- scholars, judges, doctors, engineers, former soldiers, and people with administrative expertise -- to "answer the dire need of the Muslims for them."

He also urged militants to escalate fighting in the holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 29.

Meanwhile, the first session of Iraq's new parliament on July 1 ended in disarray without settling on a new speaker.

Acting speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh told lawmakers that "this session is adjourned, and it will be held next week in the event of an agreement."

Lawmakers had taken a recess to discuss candidates for speaker, who has traditionally been Sunni Muslim, as well as two deputies who are Shi'ite and Kurdish.

Parliament convened with 255 deputies out of 328 but only 75 returned after the recess, resulting in the lack of a quorum.

Most of those who stayed away were Sunni and Shi'ite legislators.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the meeting was "important," but urged Iraqi politicians to come to an agreement with "extreme urgency," warning that Iraq was facing an "existential threat."

Separately, the leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Masud Barzani, said he planned to hold an independence referendum within months.

In an interview with the BBC, Barzani said the time was right for a vote, as Iraq is already effectively partioned.

"We will hold a referendum in Kurdistan and we will respect and be bound by the decision of our people and hope that others will do likewise," Barzani said.

Barzani said he could not set a date yet, "but definitely it's a question of months."

He said the final decision would be left to the Kurdish regional parliament.

On June 30, President Barack Obama said the United States was sending about 300 more troops to Iraq to protect Americans and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

That brings the total of U.S. troops and advisers ordered to Iraq in recent weeks to almost 800.

About 470 U.S. soldiers are providing security in Baghdad -- mainly at the embassy and the airport -- while some 300 others are there to advise and coordinate with Iraqi officials on security and military matters in the fight against ISIL.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and BBC
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