Recently, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) declared an Islamic Caliphate, renaming ISIL to simply the Islamic State (and declaring himself the latest caliph). Following the declaration of the caliphate, al-Baghdadi called for all true followers of Islam to immigrate to the new Islamic state, declaring it a duty. While the mere declaration of a caliphate will have its shortcomings, it appears that al-Baghdadi’s message is reverberating outside the Middle East: one Pakistan-based terror group, Tehreek-e-Khilafat, has sworn its allegiance to al-Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate in Iraqi and Syrian territory.
The Telegraph called Tehreek-e-Khilafat’s declaration of allegiance to the Islamic State a “breakthrough” for al-Baghdadi, representing one of the first major coups for his extremist movement outside of the Middle East. Tehreek-e-Khilafat itself is a little known group operating in Pakistan that has claimed responsibility for a handful of terror attacks in Karachi. The group has allegedly pledged to “raise the Islamic State’s flag in South Asia and Khuarasan — the historic name used by Islamist militants for an area covering Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Tehreek-e-Khilafat is now the first group outside the Middle East to publicly align itself with al-Baghdadi’s movement. ISIL and al-Baghdadi originally started off as al-Qaeda in Iraq but his movement eventually broke off following a series of disagreements between al-Qaeda’s senior leadership and al-Baghdadi. While most analysts do not expect ISIL’s call to arms to reverberate globally in any real significant way, Tehreek-e-Khilafat declaring its loyalty to the new caliphate could spread ISIL’s mission beyond the immediate region.
Tehreek-e-Khilafat released a statement which declared: “From today, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi shall consider Tehreek-e-Khilafat and Jihad mujahideen fighters of Pakistan as one of the arrows among his arrows which he has kept for his bow.” It further adds: “We are praying from the almighty Allah to give us [the] chance in our lives to see the expansion of Islamic State boundaries toward the SubContinent and Khurasan region in order to hoist the flag of Islamic State here.”
In the Telegraph‘s report on the Islamic State, one Pakistan-based analyst of Pakistan’s tribal areas, Safiullah Mehsud, notes that most social media chatter among Pakistani extremists suggests a heightened interest in the Islamic State over al-Qaeda. “This seems to be the in thing now. If you monitor social media, as I do, all the talk is about the Islamic State rather than al-Qaeda … All the chatter is about Baghdadi – negative and positive,” he notes.