Sectarian warring in Iraq sparks fears, but oil prices stay stable

A checkpoint on the road to the Iraqi city of Tikrit (Source: AFP/Getty Images)
Fierce fighting raged yesterday in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, as the country’s military struggled to dislodge an al Qaeda splinter group, after its leader was declared caliph of a new Islamic state in lands seized across a swathe of Iraq and Syria.

Alarming regional and world powers – and briefly causing a spike in oil prices – the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) claimed control, declaring its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi caliph of the Muslim world, a title last used by the Ottoman empire which collapsed after the First World War.

“He is the imam and caliph for Muslims everywhere,” group spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in an online statement on Sunday, using titles that carry religious and civil power.

The move, at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, follows a drive for territory by Isil militants and allies among Iraqi’s Sunni Muslim minority. The caliphate aims to erase colonial-era borders and defy the US- and Iranian-backed government of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

It also poses a direct challenge to the global leadership of al Qaeda, which disowned Isis, and to conservative Gulf Arab Sunni rulers, who originally funded the group but now view it as a threat.

Meanwhile, Brent crude extended last week’s losses, dropping below $113 a barrel today, as the conflict in Iraq, has had no effect on the country’s crude output.

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