BAGHDAD — Fresh from success in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group tried to tighten its hold Wednesday on territory in Syria and crush pockets of resistance on land straddling the border, where it has declared the foundation of an Islamic state.
Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned that the entire region is endangered by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, whose gunmen have rampaged across his country.
The militant group has fed off the chaos of Syria's civil war to seize control of a large amount of territory there. With its recent blitz across Iraq, it has expanded its gains while also effectively erasing the border between the countries and laying the groundwork of its proto-state.
Led by an ambitious Iraqi militant known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group this week declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it has seized. It also proclaimed Baghdadi the head of its new self-styled state governed by Shariah law and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.
On Wednesday, nine Syrian rebel groups rejected Baghdadi's declaration of a caliphate and pledged to continue the fight.