ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi tells Muslims around the world to rise up
Extremist presents himself as Islam's worldwide leader, calling on faithful to flock to territories under his control and build caliphate
Associated Press in Baghdad
The leader of the extremist group that has overrun parts of Iraq and Syria has called on Muslims around the world to flock to territories under his control to fight and build an Islamic state.
In a recording posted online on Tuesday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared he wanted to turn the enclave his fighters had carved out in the heart of the Middle East into a magnet for militants. He also presented himself as the leader of Islam worldwide, urging Muslims everywhere to rise up against oppression.
The audio message came two days after Baghdadi's group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls. It also proclaimed Baghdadi the caliph, and demanded all Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him.
His group's forceful seizure of territory and its grand pronouncement of a caliphate have transformed the Iraqi-born Baghdadi into one of the leading figures of the jihadist movement, perhaps even eclipsing al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The blitz across Iraq has pushed the death toll there to levels unseen since the worst sectarian bloodletting in 2006 during the US occupation. The United Nations said on Tuesday that more than 2,400 Iraqis had been killed last month. That tally would make June the deadliest month in Iraq since April 2005.
After melting away in the initial onslaught, Iraq's military and security forces have regrouped to stem the tide at the outskirts of Shiite-dominated regions.
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".
"It is a state where the Arab and non-Arab, the white man and black man, the easterner and westerner are all brothers," he said, trying to broaden his base. "Muslims, rush to your state. Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq is not for the Iraqis. The earth is Allah's."
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 current holy month of Ramadan.
In an appeal to Muslims worldwide, he said: "The time has come for you to free yourself from the shackles of weakness, and stand in the face of tyranny."
The message was posted on militant websites where the group has issued statements before, and the voice resembled that on other recordings said to be by Baghdadi, who has rarely appeared in public.
Baghdadi's group held a triumphant parade on Monday in Raqqa, the largest city it controls in Syria. Fighters drove through streets displaying material captured in Iraq, including US-made Humvees and tanks.