Isis calls on Muslims to ‘conquer Rome’

The leader of the Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) jihadist group, which has launched an offensive in Iraq in recent weeks, has released a video calling on Muslims to "take up arms" to "conquer Rome" and establish an Islamic state across Europe.

Isis calls on Muslims to 'conquer Rome'
Fighters who volunteered to protect holy sites in Iraq against militants fighting the Baghdad government. Photo: Mohammed Sawaf/AFP

Isis chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on the “soldiers of the Islamic state” to fight alongside his jihadist group, telling them: “If you have faith, you will conquer Rome.”

“The Islamic community sees our jihad with the eyes of hope,” al-Baghdadi was quoted by Rai News as saying.

The report comes just days after the Isis leader declared the establishment of a "caliphate", or Islamist state, in Syria and Iraq. According to a map published online, the plans also envisage expansion of the Islamic state into Europe and across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In an audio recording released online on Sunday, Isis declared al-Baghdadi "the caliph" and "leader for Muslims everywhere".

The jihadists said their caliphate would spread from Aleppo in northern Syria to Diyala in eastern Iraq, and ordered Muslims in those areas to "obey" and pay allegiance to their new leader.

"The Shura [council] of the Islamic State met and discussed this issue…[and] the Islamic State decided to establish an Islamic caliphate and to designate a caliph for the state of the Muslims," said Isis spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

"The jihadist cleric Baghdadi was designated the caliph of the Muslims," said Adnani, adding that the caliphate would extend "from Aleppo [in northern Syria] to Diyala" in Iraq.

Baghdadi "has accepted this allegiance, and has thus become the leader for Muslims everywhere" and is to be known hereof as "Caliph Ibrahim" – a reference to his real name.

"The words 'Iraq' and 'the Levant' have been removed from the name of the Islamic State in official papers and documents," Adnani said.

The caliphate is "the dream in all the Muslims' hearts" and "the hope of all jihadists", he said.

Ever since the Prophet Mohammed's death, a caliph was designated "the prince" or emir "of the believers".

After the first four caliphs who succeeded Mohammed, the caliphate lived its golden age in the Omayyad empire from the year 661 to 750, and then under the Abbasids, from 750 to 1517.

It was abolished when the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1924.

In the recording, Adnani demanded that all Muslims "pledge allegiance" to the new leader and "reject democracy…and other garbage from the West" saying "the West and the East will submit to you".

"Today the unfaithful are angry…today the unfaithful countries of the West are trembling."

Celebrations in Syria stronghold

An activist in Raqa, the bastion of Isis, told AFP via the internet: "Large convoys of Isis members arrived in the city just as the declaration was issued, to celebrate their caliphate.

"There was very intense gunfire. Isis supporters were shooting in the air with joy," Hadi Salameh said.

"I even saw seven Isis members come into Raqa on horseback."

Another activist, Abu Ibrahim, said via Facebook: "Isis members in Al-Naim Square [in Raqa] are calling on all residents to pledge their loyalty."

Opposed to Isis, both Salameh and Abu Ibrahim said they feared the consequences of the declaration.

"More jihadists will be drawn to join Isis, and they will become stronger. It's crazy," said Abu Ibrahim.

In Syria, Isis' fighters control large swathes of territory in Deir Ezzor near the Iraq border, Raqa in the north, as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo province.

In Iraq, it has spearheaded a lightning offensive in recent weeks, capturing sizeable territories in the north and west of the conflict-torn country.

Once welcomed in Syria by rebels seeking President Bashar al-Assad's ouster, Isis quickly earned the wrath of the Syrian opposition because of its systematic abuses.

On a near-daily basis, reports have emerged of Isis jihadists summarily executing political and military rivals, as well as average civilians.

It has kidnapped thousands of people, including many rebels seeking Assad's overthrow.

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G7, tech giants agree on plan to block jihadist content online at Italy meeting

G7 countries and tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter on Friday agreed to work together to block the dissemination of Islamist extremism over the internet.

G7, tech giants agree on plan to block jihadist content online at Italy meeting
Photo: AFP

“These are the first steps towards a great alliance in the name of freedom,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said after a two-day meeting with his Group of Seven counterparts, stressing the role of the internet in extremist “recruitment, training and radicalisation.”

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the goal was to ensure pro-jihadist content “is taken down within two hours of it going online”.

“Our enemies are moving at the speed of a tweet and we need to counter them just as quickly,” acting US Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said.

While acknowledging progress had been made, Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd insisted “companies need to go further and faster to not only take down extremist content but also stop it being uploaded in the first place”.

Senior executives from the internet giants and Microsoft attended the ministerial session devoted to the issue but did not offer any explanation on how they might go about clamping down on web extremists.

The meeting on the Italian island of Ischia off Naples also focused on ways to tackle one of the West's biggest security threats: jihadist fighters fleeing Syria. The European Union has promised to help close a migration route considered a potential back door for terrorists.

Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State group between 2014 and 2016. Some then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.

Minniti warned last week that fighters planning revenge attacks following the recent collapse of the IS stronghold in Raqqa could hitch lifts back to Europe on migrant boats from Libya.

The US and Italy signed an agreement on the sidelines of the G7 meeting to share their fingerprint databases in a bid to root out potential extremists posing as asylum seekers.

The group also said international police agency Interpol — which currently holds details of nearly 40,000 foreign fighters — would play a bigger role in information sharing.

Interpol's secretary general Jürgen Stock said the agency's global databases could “act as an 'early warning system' against terrorists and crime threats and help close potential loopholes for terrorists”.

Earlier, EU President Donald Tusk promised the bloc would fork out more funds to help shut down the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy — a popular path for migrants who hope to journey on to Europe.

The EU would offer “stronger support for Italy's work with the Libyan authorities”, and there was “a real chance of closing the central Mediterranean route”, he said.

Italy has played a major role in training Libya's coastguard to stop human trafficking in its territorial waters, as well as making controversial deals with Libyan militias to stop migrants from setting off.

Minniti said the G7 ministers had discussed how to go about “de-radicalising” citizens returning from the IS frontline, to prevent them becoming security risks in jails.

READ ALSO: G7 meets in Italy as Europe braces for return of Isis recruits from Syria