A militant Islamist fighter gestures as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)
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The leader of the extremist group that seized much of northern Iraq and Syria called on Muslims worldwide on Tuesday to join the battle and help build an Islamic state in the newly conquered territory.The 19-minute audiotape from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came two days after his organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls. It also proclaimed al-Baghdadi the caliph, and demanded that all Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him. In the statement, al-Baghdadi makes clear his global ambition and presented himself as the leader of all Muslims. Al-Baghdadi's group has already been a magnet for jihadi fighters from across the Arab world, the Caucasus and extremists from Europe and some from the United States -- drawn by an organization that in a few short years has transformed from just an al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq into a transnational military force that has conquered and held a massive chunk of territory.Under an informal system that took hold after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq's prime minister is chosen from the Shiite Muslim community, the president from the ethnic Kurdish minority and the speaker of parliament from the minority Sunni Muslim community.
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