Syria fighters hail declaration of Islamic ‘caliphate’

Members loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) wave ISIL flags as they drive around Raqqa June 29, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Members loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) wave ISIL flags as they drive around Raqqa June 29, 2014.   Credit: Reuters/Stringer

(Reuters) – Militant Islamist fighters held a parade in Syria’s northern Raqqa province to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic “caliphate” after the group captured territory in neighboring Iraq, a monitoring service said.

The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said.

The Islamic State says it wants to erase national boundaries from the Mediterranean to the Gulf and return the region to a medieval-style caliphate.

Some analysts say the group is a credible threat to frontiers and is stirring regional violence while others say it exaggerates its reach and support through sophisticated media campaigns.

The group renamed itself and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “Caliph” – the head of the state – on Sunday.

It also called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance, in a direct challenge to regional leaders and to the central leadership of al Qaeda, which has disowned it.

Pictures were posted on Twitter on Sunday and appeared to have been taken following the Islamic State’s announcement. Reuters could not immediately verify the contents of the pictures independently.

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