Raqqa jihadis celebrate ISIS caliphate declaration

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An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on a jihadi website allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria driving on a street in the Salaheddin province. (Photo: AFP / Wilayat Salaheddin)

Published Monday, June 30, 2014

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 of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said.

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

The group 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 ISIS announcement. Reuters could not immediately verify the contents of the pictures independently.

The extremist group has been trying to build strong tribal support in its Raqqa bastion, the only provincial capital in Syria under rebel control.

ISIS, which says it now wants to be referred to simply as the "Islamic State," also controls other areas in northern and eastern Syria and across the frontier into Iraq, where it has advanced towards Baghdad from the northern city of Mosul, which it captured on June 10.

ISISe also released a video called "Breaking of the Borders," promoting its destruction of a frontier crossing between the northern province of al-Hasakah in Syria and Nineveh province in Iraq, said SITE, which tracks militant websites.

Mosul, the country's largest northern city, is the capital of Nineveh. The video showed fighters from ISIS killing Iraqi border guards.

"I say to the Islamic community: Now we are in Iraq. God, glorified and exalted ... smashed these borders, the borders of Sykes-Picot, and now the Muslim can enter Iraq without a passport," the video said, according to a transcript.

"Sykes-Picot" refers to the division of the Ottoman Empire territories in 1916 by Britain and France.

In Syria, another monitoring group said the militants had recently crucified eight rival rebel fighters, leaving their bodies in a town square as a warning to others.

On Monday, pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat showed a picture of bloodied, hooded men hanging from wooden stakes by their arms on a platform. One man was lying on the ground and all the men, dressed in civilian clothes, appeared dead.

It was not possible to immediately verify the picture, which showed the ISIS black flags placed on the edge of the square.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group which tracks the violence, said ISIS fighters crucified the men the town square of Deir Hafer in the Aleppo province on Saturday for being rival rebels.



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