Baghdad, July 2 :
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Wednesday offered amnesty to Sunni militants who fought against the government and took control of swathes of territories in the Sunni-dominated provinces even as he described the declaration of an Islamic state by the militants as a threat to the entire region.
“I announce an amnesty for all tribes and all people who have been involved in actions against the state, who now return to their senses. They are welcome. We will not exclude anyone except those involved in killings,” Xinhua quoted Maliki as saying in his televised weekly speech.
Maliki’s offer is seen as an attempt to reduce the number of Sunni fighters and to cut the support by the Sunni community to those who took up arms against the government.
Al-Maliki also warned that the latest declaration of Islamic state by Sunni extremists is a threat to the entire region.
“Daash (Arabic first letters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria or ISIS) has turned to be caliphate state and this is a message to the states in the region that you have become within the red circle. Daash was speaking about a state in Iraq and Sham (Levant), now it is speaking about caliphate in the region,” Maliki said in his speech.
Late in June, the ISIS, which seized large areas in Syria and in Iraq, formally declared the establishment of caliphate Islamic rule in both countries and demanded allegiance from all Muslims.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, was declared the caliph or religious ruler of the new caliphate, according to an online audio recording which was made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The new caliphate is an attempt to revive the system of Islamic religious ruling which ended about 100 years ago with the fall of the Ottoman Empire during the World War I.
“The Islamic State decided to establish an Islamic caliphate and to designate a caliph for the state of the Muslims,” Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, spokesman of the Islamic State, said in the recording.
Al-Adnani called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the group’s control, to swear loyalty to al-Baghdadi and support him.
“Jihadi cleric al-Baghdadi is the caliph of Muslims everywhere,” al-Adnani said, adding that “listen to your caliph and obey him”.
“Support your state, which grows every day,” he added
In his speech Wednesday, al-Maliki also rejected claims by the semi-autonomous Kurdish region to control the disputed areas, which are now in the hands of the Kurdish security forces.
“No one has the right to exploit the events that occurred to impose a fait accompli, like what happened in some of the actions of the Kurdistan region. This is a rejected act,” Maliki said.
Maliki’s comments came as an answer to Kurdish regional leader Massud Barzani’s comments that the Kurds did not need the Iraqi constitution to resolve the problem over disputed areas, as the Peshmerga (Kurdish security forces) have now controlled the disputed city of Kirkuk, the last part of the disputed areas described in the constitution.
“The Kurds have been waiting for 10 years for fulfillment of Article 140 but it was no use, now Article 140 is achieved and it is over, and we won’t talk about it anymore,” Barzani said.
The disputed areas are mainly ethnically mixed with the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmans and other minorities. The Kurds demanded expansion of their autonomous region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other areas in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala.
Maliki also rejected the latest press releases by Barzani about a referendum to establish a Kurdish state.
On June 23, Barzani told CNN in an interview that “the time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold”.
Iraq has been witnessing its worst security conditions that began about three weeks ago when armed Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by the Al Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), launched a surprise offensive that led to the debacle of Iraqi security forces, and the fall of a large part of the country’s northern and western territories.