"ISIL", "ISIS", "Daesh", "Daish" and "Islamic State group" redirect here. For other uses, see ISIL (disambiguation), ISIS (disambiguation), Daish (disambiguation), and Islamic state (disambiguation).
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام (Arabic) ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām
Participant in the Syrian Civil War, Iraq War (2003–2011), Iraqi insurgency, Iraq War (2014–present), Second Libyan Civil War, Boko Haram insurgency, War in North-West Pakistan, War in Afghanistan, Yemeni Civil War, and other conflicts
Primary target of Operation Inherent Resolve and of the military intervention against ISIL: in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Nigeria.
|Motto: باقية وتتمدد
"Remaining and Expanding"
|Anthem: أمتي قد لاح فجر
Ummatī, qad lāḥa fajrun
"My Nation, A Dawn Has Appeared"
Areas of military control as of 26 July 2015 in the Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese conflicts.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Iraqi Government forces
Syrian Government forcesNote: Iraq and Syria contain large desert areas with limited populations. These areas are mapped as under the control of forces holding roads and towns within them.
|Administrative center||Ar-Raqqah, Syria (de facto capital)|
|Largest city||Mosul, Iraq|
|Ideology||Salafism Salafi jihadism Wahhabism|
|Type||Rebel group controlling territory
Current control in
|Military strength & operation areas||Inside Syria and Iraq
(CIA estimate) Outside Syria and Iraq
32,600–57,900 (See Military of ISIL for more-detailed estimates.) Estimated total
|-||Leader||Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi|
|-||Deputy leader||Abu Ala al-Afri †|
|-||Deputy leader in Syria||Abu Ali al-Anbari|
|-||Deputy leader in Iraq||Abu Muslim al-Turkmani †|
|-||Military chief||Abu Suleiman al-Naser|
|-||Chief spokesperson||Abu Mohammad al-Adnani|
|-||Chief of Syrian military operations||Abu Omar al-Shishani|
|-||Sharia official||Abu Hummam al-Athari|
|-||Formation (as Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād)||1999|
|-||Joined al-Qaeda||October 2004|
|-||Declaration of an Islamic state in Iraq||13 October 2006|
|-||Claim of territory in the Levant||8 April 2013|
|-||Separated from al-Qaeda||3 February 2014|
|-||Declaration of caliphate||29 June 2014|
|-||Claim of territory in:
Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen
|13 November 2014|
|-||Afghanistan and Pakistan||26 January 2015|
|-||Nigeria||12 March 2015|
|-||North Caucasus||23 June 2015|
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated ISIL or ISIS, //; Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham, or simply Islamic State (IS), is a Salafi jihadi extremist militant group and self-proclaimed caliphate and Islamic state which is led by Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria. As of March 2015, it has control over territory occupied by ten million people in Iraq and Syria, as well as limited territorial control in Libya and Nigeria. The group also operates or has affiliates in other parts of the world including South Asia.
The group is known in Arabic as ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām, leading to the acronym Da'ish, Da'eesh, or DAESH (داعش, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈdaːʕiʃ]), the Arabic equivalent of "ISIL". On 29 June 2014, the group proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named its caliph, and renamed itself "Islamic State" (الدولة الإسلامية, ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah). The new name and the idea of a caliphate has been widely criticised and condemned, with the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups all refusing to acknowledge it. As caliphate, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide and that "the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes null by the expansion of the khilāfah's [caliphate's] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas".
The United Nations has held ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has reported ethnic cleansing by the group on a "historic scale". The group has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and other governments. Over 60 countries are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIL. The group originated as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group participated in the Iraqi insurgency, which had followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces. In January 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, which proclaimed the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in October 2006.
After the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011, the ISI, under the leadership of al-Baghdadi, sent delegates into Syria in August 2011. These fighters named themselves Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-Ahli ash-Shām—al-Nusra Front—and established a large presence in Sunni-majority areas of Syria, within the governorates of Ar-Raqqah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi announced the merger of the ISI with al-Nusra Front and that the name of the reunited group was now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, both Abu Mohammad al-Julani and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leaders of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda respectively, rejected the merger. After an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIL on 3 February 2014, citing its failure to consult and "notorious intransigence". In Syria, the group has conducted ground attacks on both government forces and rebel factions in the Syrian Civil War. The group gained prominence after it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in western Iraq in an offensive initiated in early 2014. Iraq's territorial loss almost caused a collapse of the Iraqi government and prompted renewal of US military action in Iraq.
ISIL is known for its well-funded web and social media propaganda, which includes Internet videos of beheadings of soldiers, civilians, journalists and aid workers, and for its deliberate destruction of cultural heritage sites. Muslim leaders around the world have condemned ISIL's ideology and actions, arguing that the group has swayed drastically from the path of true Islam and that its actions do not reflect the religion's true teachings or virtues.
- 1 Name
- 2 History
- 3 Worldwide caliphate aims
- 3.1 Goals
- 3.2 Ideology and beliefs
- 3.3 Territorial claims and international presence
- 3.4 Other areas of operation
- 3.5 Leadership and governance
- 3.6 Non-combatants
- 4 Designation as a terrorist organisation
- 5 Human rights abuse and war crime findings
- 6 Criticism
- 7 In the media
- 8 Countries and groups at war with ISIL
- 9 Supporters
- 10 Military and resources
- 10.1 Military
- 10.2 Weapons
- 10.3 Propaganda and social media
- 10.4 Finances
- 11 Timeline of events
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Bibliography
- 15 External links
NameThe group has had various names since it began.
- The group was founded in 1999 by Jordanian radical Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād, "The Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad" (JTJ).
- In October 2004, al-Zarqawi swore loyalty to Osama bin Laden and changed the group's name to Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn, "The Organisation of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia", commonly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Although the group has never called itself al-Qaeda in Iraq, this has been its informal name over the years.
- In January 2006, AQI merged with several other Iraqi insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council. Al-Zarqawi was killed in June 2006.
- On 12 October 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council merged with several more insurgent factions, and on 13 October the establishment of the ad-Dawlah al-ʻIraq al-Islāmiyah, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), was announced. The leaders of this group were Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri. After they were killed in a U.S.–Iraqi operation in April 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became the new leader of the group.
- On 8 April 2013, having expanded into Syria, the group adopted the name Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which more fully translates as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. These names are translations of the Arabic name ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī-l-ʻIrāq wa-sh-Shām, al-Shām being a description of the Levant or Greater Syria. The translated names are commonly abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS, with a debate over which of these acronyms should be used. The Washington Post concluded that the distinction between the two "is not so great".
- The name Daʿish is often used by ISIL's Arabic-speaking detractors. It is based on the Arabic letters Dāl, alif, ʻayn, and shīn, which form the acronym (داعش) of ISIL's Arabic name al-Dawlah al-Islamīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām. There are many spellings of this acronym, with DAESH gaining acceptance. ISIL considers the name Da'ish derogatory, because it sounds similar to the Arabic words Daes, "one who crushes something underfoot", and Dahes, "one who sows discord". ISIL also reportedly uses flogging as a punishment for those who use the name in ISIL-controlled areas. In 2015, over 120 British parliamentarians asked the BBC to use Daesh, following the example of John Kerry and Laurent Fabius.
- On 14 May 2014, the United States Department of State announced its decision to use "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) as the group's primary name. However, in late 2014, top U.S. officials shifted toward DAESH, since it was the preferred term used by Arab partners.
- On 29 June 2014, the group renamed itself the Islamic State and declared it a worldwide caliphate Accordingly, the 'Iraq and Shām' was removed from all official deliberations and communications, and the official name became the Islamic State from the date of the declaration. The name "Islamic State" and the claim of a caliphate have been widely criticised, with the UN, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups refusing to use it.
Part of a series on the
| Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (1999–2004)
Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (2004–06)
Mujahideen Shura Council (2006)
Islamic State of Iraq (2006–13)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (2013–14)
Islamic State (June 2014–present)
See also: Timeline of ISIL related events, Islamic State of Iraq § Timeline, Syrian Civil War § Course of events and Terrorist incidents in Iraq in 2014
Main articles: Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn and Mujahideen Shura Council (Iraq)Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Jordanian Salafi jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his militant group Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, founded in 1999, achieved notoriety in the early stages of the Iraqi insurgency for the suicide attacks on Shia Islamic mosques, civilians, Iraqi government institutions and Italian soldiers partaking in the US-led 'Multi-National Force'. Al-Zarqawi's group officially pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in October 2004, changing its name to Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين, "Organisation of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia"), also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Attacks by the group on civilians, Iraqi government and security forces, foreign diplomats and soldiers, and American convoys continued with roughly the same intensity. In a letter to al-Zarqawi in July 2005, al-Qaeda's then deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined a four-stage plan to expand the Iraq War. The plan included expelling US forces from Iraq, establishing an Islamic authority as a caliphate, spreading the conflict to Iraq's secular neighbours, and clashing with Israel, which the letter says "was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity".
In January 2006, AQI joined with several smaller Iraqi insurgent groups under an umbrella organisation called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC). According to Brian Fishman, this was little more than a media exercise and an attempt to give the group a more Iraqi flavour, and perhaps to distance al-Qaeda from some of al-Zarqawi's tactical errors, more notably the 2005 bombings by AQI of three hotels in Amman. On 7 June 2006, a US airstrike killed al-Zarqawi, who was succeeded as leader of the group by the Egyptian militant Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
On 12 October 2006, the MSC united with three smaller groups and six Sunni Islamic tribes to form the "Mutayibeen Coalition". It swore by Allah "to rid Sunnis from the oppression of the rejectionists (Shi'ite Muslims) and the crusader occupiers ... to restore rights even at the price of our own lives ... to make Allah's word supreme in the world, and to restore the glory of Islam". A day later, the MSC declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), comprising Iraq's six mostly Sunni Arab governorates. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was announced as its emir, and al-Masri was given the title of Minister of War within the ISI's ten-member cabinet.
As Islamic State of Iraq, 2006–13
Main article: Islamic State of IraqAccording to a study compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies in early 2007, the ISI—also known as AQI—planned to seize power in the central and western areas of the country and turn it into a Sunni Caliphate. The group built in strength and at its height enjoyed a significant presence in the Iraqi governorates of Al Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad, claiming Baqubah as a capital city.
The U.S. troops surge of 2007 supplied the U.S. military with more manpower for operations targeting the group, resulting in dozens of high-level AQI members being captured or killed.
Between July and October 2007, al-Qaeda in Iraq was reported to have lost its secure military bases in Anbar province and the Baghdad area. During 2008, a series of U.S. and Iraqi offensives managed to drive out AQI-aligned insurgents from their former safe havens, such as the Diyala and Al Anbar governorates, to the area of the northern city of Mosul.
By 2008, the ISI was describing itself as being in a state of "extraordinary crisis". Its violent attempts to govern its territory led to a backlash from Sunni Iraqis and other insurgent groups and a temporary decline in the group, which was attributable to a number of factors, notably the Anbar Awakening.
In late 2009, the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, stated that the ISI "has transformed significantly in the last two years. What once was dominated by foreign individuals has now become more and more dominated by Iraqi citizens". On 18 April 2010, the ISI's two top leaders, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, were killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid near Tikrit. In a press conference in June 2010, General Odierno reported that 80% of the ISI's top 42 leaders, including recruiters and financiers, had been killed or captured, with only eight remaining at large. He said that they had been cut off from al-Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan.
On 16 May 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. Al-Baghdadi replenished the group's leadership, many of whom had been killed or captured, by appointing former Ba'athist military and intelligence officers who had served during Saddam Hussein's rule. These men, nearly all of whom had spent time imprisoned by the U.S. military, came to make up about one third of Baghdadi's top 25 commanders. One of them was a former Colonel, Samir al-Khlifawi, also known as Haji Bakr, who became the overall military commander in charge of overseeing the group's operations. Al-Khlifawi was instrumental in doing the ground work that led to the growth of ISIL.
In July 2012, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement online announcing that the group was returning to former strongholds from which U.S. troops and their Sunni allies had driven them in 2007 and 2008. He also declared the start of a new offensive in Iraq called Breaking the Walls, aimed at freeing members of the group held in Iraqi prisons. Violence in Iraq had begun to escalate in June 2012, primarily with AQI's car bomb attacks, and by July 2013, monthly fatalities exceeded 1,000 for the first time since April 2008.
Syrian Civil WarIn March 2011, protests began in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad. In the following months, violence between demonstrators and security forces led to a gradual militarisation of the conflict. In August, al-Baghdadi began sending Syrian and Iraqi ISI members experienced in guerilla warfare across the border into Syria to establish an organisation there. Led by a Syrian known as Abu Muhammad al-Julani, this group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country. In January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl as-Sham—Jabhat al-Nusra—more commonly known as al-Nusra Front. Al-Nusra grew rapidly into a capable fighting force, with popular support among Syrians opposed to the Assad government.
As Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, 2013–14On 8 April 2013, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that al-Nusra Front had been established, financed, and supported by the Islamic State of Iraq, and that the two groups were merging under the name "Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham". Al-Julani issued a statement denying the merger, and complaining that neither he nor anyone else in al-Nusra's leadership had been consulted about it. In June 2013, Al Jazeera reported that it had obtained a letter written by al-Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, addressed to both leaders, in which he ruled against the merger, and appointed an emissary to oversee relations between them to put an end to tensions. The same month, al-Baghdadi released an audio message rejecting al-Zawahiri's ruling and declaring that the merger was going ahead. The ISIL campaign to free imprisoned ISIL members culminated in July 2013, with the group carrying out simultaneous raids on Taji and Abu Ghraib prison, freeing more than 500 prisoners, many of them veterans of the Iraqi insurgency. In October 2013, al-Zawahiri ordered the disbanding of ISIL, putting al-Nusra Front in charge of jihadist efforts in Syria, but al-Baghdadi contested al-Zawahiri's ruling on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence, and his group continued to operate in Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIL.
According to journalist Sarah Birke, there are "significant differences" between al-Nusra Front and ISIL. While al-Nusra actively calls for the overthrow of the Assad government, ISIL "tends to be more focused on establishing its own rule on conquered territory". ISIL is "far more ruthless" in building an Islamic state, "carrying out sectarian attacks and imposing sharia law immediately". While al-Nusra has a "large contingent of foreign fighters", it is seen as a home-grown group by many Syrians; by contrast, ISIL fighters have been described as "foreign 'occupiers'" by many Syrian refugees. It has a strong presence in central and northern Syria, where it has instituted sharia in a number of towns. The group reportedly controlled the four border towns of Atmeh, al-Bab, Azaz and Jarablus, allowing it to control the entrance and exit from Syria into Turkey. Foreign fighters in Syria include Russian-speaking jihadists who were part of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA). In November 2013, the JMA's Chechen leader Abu Omar al-Shishani swore an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi; the group then split between those who followed al-Shishani in joining ISIL and those who continued to operate independently in the JMA under new leadership.
In January 2014, rebels affiliated with the Islamic Front and the U.S.-trained Free Syrian Army launched an offensive against ISIL militants in and around the city of Aleppo in Syria. In May 2014, Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered al-Nusra Front to stop its attacks on its rival, ISIL.[not in citation given] In June 2014, after continued fighting between the two groups, al-Nusra's branch in the Syrian town of Al-Bukamal pledged allegiance to ISIL. In mid-June 2014, ISIL captured the Trabil crossing on the Jordan–Iraq border, the only border crossing between the two countries. ISIL has received some public support in Jordan, albeit limited, partly owing to state repression there, but ISIL has undertaken a recruitment drive in Saudi Arabia, where tribes in the north are linked to those in western Iraq and eastern Syria.
As Islamic State, 2014–present
See also: ISIL beheading incidents, American-led intervention in Syria, American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present), Iranian intervention in Iraq (2014–present), Military intervention against ISIL, Northern Iraq offensive (June 2014) and Turkish involvement in the Syrian Civil WarOn 29 June 2014, the organisation proclaimed itself to be a Worldwide Caliphate. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—known by his supporters as Amir al-Mu'minin, Caliph Ibrahim—was named its Caliph, and the group renamed itself the "Islamic State". As a "Caliphate", it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide. The concept of it being a Caliphate and the name "Islamic State" has been rejected by governments and Muslim leaders worldwide.
In June and July 2014, Jordan and Saudi Arabia moved troops to their borders with Iraq, after Iraq lost control of, or withdrew from, strategic crossing points that had then come under the control of ISIL, or tribes that supported ISIL. There was speculation that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had ordered a withdrawal of troops from the Iraq–Saudi crossings in order "to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia and bring the threat of ISIS over-running its borders as well".
In July 2014, ISIL recruited more than 6,300 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some of whom were thought to have previously fought for the Free Syrian Army. On 23 July 2014, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon and some masked men swore loyalty to al-Baghdadi in a video, giving ISIL a presence in the Philippines. In September 2014, the group began kidnapping people for ransoming, in the name of ISIL.
On 11 October 2014, it was reported that ISIL had dispatched 10,000 militants from Syria and Mosul to capture the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, and Iraqi Army forces and Anbar tribesmen threatened to abandon their weapons if the U.S. did not send in ground troops to halt ISIL's advance. On 13 October, ISIL fighters advanced to within 25 kilometres (16 mi) of Baghdad Airport.
At the end of October 2014, 800 radical militants gained partial control of the Libyan city of Derna and pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, thus making Derna the first city outside Syria and Iraq to be a part of the "Islamic State Caliphate". On 2 November 2014, according to the Associated Press, in response to the coalition airstrikes, representatives from Ahrar ash-Sham attended a meeting with al-Nusra Front, the Khorasan Group, ISIL, and Jund al-Aqsa, which sought to unite these hard-line groups against the U.S.-led coalition and moderate Syrian rebel groups. However, by 14 November 2014, it was revealed that the negotiations had failed. On 10 November 2014, a major faction of the Egyptian militant group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis also pledged its allegiance to ISIL.
ISIL has often used water as a weapon of war. The closing of the gates of the smaller Nuaimiyah dam in Fallujah in April 2014, resulted in the flooding of surrounding regions, while water supply was cut to the Shia dominated south. Around 12,000 families lost their homes, 200 km² of villages and fields were either flooded or dried up. The economy of the region also suffered with destruction of cropland and electricity shortages.
In mid-January 2015, a Yemeni official said that ISIL had "dozens" of members in Yemen, and that they were coming into direct competition with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with their recruitment drive.
In January 2015, Afghan officials confirmed that ISIL had a military presence in Afghanistan, recruiting over 135 militants by late January. However, by the end of January 2015, 65 of the militants were either captured or killed by the Taliban, and ISIL's top Afghan recruiter, Mullah Abdul Rauf, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in February 2015.
In late January 2015, it was reported that ISIL members had infiltrated the European Union and disguised themselves as civilian refugees who were emigrating from the war zones of Iraq and the Levant. An ISIL representative claimed that ISIL had successfully smuggled 4,000 fighters, and that the smuggled fighters were planning attacks in Europe in retaliation for the airstrikes carried out against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria. However, experts believe that this claim was exaggerated to boost their stature and spread fear, although they acknowledged that some Western countries were aware of the smuggling.
In early February 2015, ISIL militants in Libya managed to capture part of the countryside to the west of Sabha, and later, an area encompassing the cities of Sirte, Nofolia, and a military base to the south of both cities.
In February 2015, it was reported that some Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen members had dissented from al-Qaeda and pledged allegiance to ISIL.
On 16 February 2015, Egypt conducted airstrikes in Libya, in retaliation against ISIL's beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. By the end of that day, 64 ISIL militants in Libya had been killed by the airstrikes, including 50 militants in Derna. However, by early March, ISIL had captured additional Libyan territory, including a city to the west of Derna, additional areas near Sirte, a stretch of land in southern Libya, some areas around Benghazi, and an area to the east of Tripoli.
On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram swore formal allegiance to ISIL, giving ISIL an official presence in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. On 13 March 2015, a group of militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan swore allegiance to ISIL,  the group released another video on 31 July 2015 containing its spiritual leader also pledging allegiance. On 30 March 2015, the senior sharia official of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, Abdullah Al-Libi, defected to ISIL.
From March through mid-April 2015, advances by Iraqi forces into ISIL-controlled territory were focused on Tikrit and the Saladin Governorate.
In June 2015, the US Deputy Secretary of State announced that ISIL had lost more than 10,000 members in airstrikes over the preceding nine months.
In the same month, three simultaneous attacks occurred: two hotels were attacked by gunmen in Tunisia, a man was decapitated in France, and a bomb was detonated at a Shia mosque in Kuwait. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks in Kuwait and Tunisia. ISIL flags were present at the crime scene in France, but ISIL has not claimed responsibility for the attack.
Worldwide caliphate aims
GoalsSince at least 2004, a significant goal of the group has been the foundation of a Sunni Islamic state. Specifically, ISIL has sought to establish itself as a caliphate, an Islamic state led by a group of religious authorities under a supreme leader—the caliph—who is believed to be the successor to Muhammad. In June 2014, ISIL published a document in which it claimed to have traced the lineage of its leader al-Baghdadi back to Muhammad, and upon proclaiming a new caliphate on 29 June, the group appointed al-Baghdadi as its caliph. As caliph, he demands the allegiance of all devout Muslims worldwide, according to Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).
When the caliphate was proclaimed, ISIL stated: "The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah's [caliphate's] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas." This was a rejection of the political divisions in the Middle East that were established by Western powers during World War I in the Sykes–Picot Agreement.
Ideology and beliefs
Main article: Ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and the LevantISIL is a Salafi group. It follows an extreme interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence, and regards those who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates. According to Hayder al Khoei, ISIL's philosophy is represented by the symbolism in the Black Standard variant of the legendary battle flag of Muhammad that it has adopted: the flag shows the Seal of Muhammad within a white circle, with the phrase above it, "There is no God but Allah". Such symbolism has been said to point to ISIL's belief that it represents the restoration of the caliphate of early Islam, with all the political, religious and eschatological ramifications that this would imply.
According to some observers, ISIL emerged from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first post-Ottoman Islamist group dating back to the late 1920s in Egypt. It adheres to global jihadist principles and follows the hard-line ideology of al-Qaeda and many other modern-day jihadist groups. However, other sources trace the group's roots to Wahhabism. The New York Times wrote:
For their guiding principles, the leaders of the Islamic State ... are open and clear about their almost exclusive commitment to the Wahhabi movement of Sunni Islam. The group circulates images of Wahhabi religious textbooks from Saudi Arabia in the schools it controls. Videos from the group’s territory have shown Wahhabi texts plastered on the sides of an official missionary van.According to The Economist, dissidents in the ISIL capital of Ar-Raqqah report that "all 12 of the judges who now run its court system ... are Saudis". Saudi Wahhabi practices also followed by the group include the establishment of religious police to root out "vice" and enforce attendance at salat prayers, the widespread use of capital punishment, and the destruction or re-purposing of any non-Sunni religious buildings. Bernard Haykel has described al-Baghdadi's creed as "a kind of untamed Wahhabism".
ISIL aims to return to the early days of Islam, rejecting all innovations in the religion, which it believes corrupts its original spirit. It condemns later caliphates and the Ottoman Empire for deviating from what it calls pure Islam, and seeks to revive the original Wahhabi project of the restoration of the caliphate governed by strict Salafist doctrine. Following Salafi-Wahhabi tradition, ISIL condemns the followers of secular law as disbelievers, putting the current Saudi government in that category.
Salafists such as ISIL believe that only a legitimate authority can undertake the leadership of jihad, and that the first priority over other areas of combat, such as fighting non-Muslim countries, is the purification of Islamic society. For example, ISIL regards the Palestinian Sunni group Hamas as apostates who have no legitimate authority to lead jihad and fighting Hamas as the first step toward confrontation with Israel.
EschatologyOne difference between ISIL and other Islamist and jihadist movements is its emphasis on eschatology and apocalypticism, and its belief that the arrival of the Mahdi is imminent. ISIL believes that it will defeat the army of "Rome" at the town of Dabiq, in fulfilment of prophecy. Following its interpretation of the Hadith of the Twelve Successors, it also believes there will be only four more legitimate caliphs after al-Baghdadi.
Territorial claims and international presence
Main article: ISIL territorial claims
In Iraq and Syria, ISIL uses many of those countries' existing Governorate boundaries to subdivide its claimed territory; it calls these divisions wilayah or provinces. As of June 2015, it had established official branches in Libya, Egypt (Sinai Peninsula), Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and the North Caucasus. Outside Iraq and Syria, it controls territory in only Sinai and Libya. ISIL also has members in Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and Palestine, but does not have official branches in those areas.
Main article: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Libya
ISIL divides Libya into three historical provinces, claiming authority over Cyrenaica in the east, Fezzan in the desert south, and Tripolitania in the west, around its capital Tripoli.
On 5 October 2014, the Shura Council of Islamic Youth and other militants in Libya were absorbed and designated the Cyrenaica Province of ISIL. The Libyan branch of ISIL has been the most active and successful of all ISIL branches outside Iraq and Syria. It has been active mainly around Derna and Sirte. On 4 January 2015, ISIL forces in Libya seized control of the eastern countryside of Sabha, executing 14 Libyan soldiers in the process. They temporarily controlled part of Derna before being driven out in Mid 2015.
ISIL uses its bases in Libya to smuggle its fighters into the European Union posing as refugees.
Sinai ProvinceOn 10 November 2014, many members of the group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis took an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi. Following this the group assumed the designation Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province). They are estimated to have 1,000–2,000 fighters. A faction of the Sinai group also operates in the Gaza Strip, calling itself the Islamic State in Gaza.
Algerian ProvinceMembers of Jund al-Khilafah swore allegiance to ISIL in September 2014. ISIL in Algeria gained notoriety when it beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel in September 2014. Since then, the group has largely been silent, with reports that its leader Khalid Abu-Sulayman was killed by Algerian forces in December 2014.
Khorasan ProvinceOn 26 January 2015, a new Wilayat (Province) was announced, with Hafiz Saeed Khan named as Wāli (Governor) and Abdul Rauf as his deputy after both swore an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi. The province includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, and "other nearby lands".
On 9 February 2015, Mullah Abdul Rauf was killed by a NATO airstrike. On 18 March 2015, Hafiz Wahidi, ISIL's replacement deputy Emir in Afghanistan, was killed by the Afghan Armed Forces, along with nine other ISIL militants who were accompanying him. In June, Reuters received reports that villages in several districts of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar Province had been captured from the Taliban by ISIL sympathizers. On 10 July 2015, Hafiz Saeed Khan, the Emir of ISIL's Khorasan Province, was reportedly killed in U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan. However Khorasan Province released an audio tape claimed to be of Hafiz Saeed Khan on 13 July 2015.
On 13 November 2014, unidentified militants in Yemen pledged allegiance to ISIL. By December of that year, ISIL had built an active presence inside Yemen, with its recruitment drive bringing it into direct competition with al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In February 2015, it was reported that some members of Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen had split from AQAP and pledged allegiance to ISIL As the Yemeni Civil War escalated in March 2015, at least seven ISIL Wilayat, named after existing provincial boundaries in Yemen, claimed responsibility for attacks against the Houthis, including the Hadhramaut Province, the Shabwah Province, and the Sana'a Province.
Shi'a Houthis (Revolutionary Committee) are principal enemies of Yemen's ISIL branch. U.S. supports the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen against the Houthis, but many in U.S. SOCOM reportedly favor Houthis, as they have been an effective force in rolling back al-Qaeda and recently ISIL in Yemen, "something that hundreds of U.S. drone strikes and large numbers of advisers to Yemen’s military had failed to accomplish". The Guardian reported: "As another 50 civilians die in the forgotten war, only Isis and al-Qaida are gaining from a conflict tearing Yemen apart and leaving 20 million people in need of aid."
West African ProvinceOn 7 March 2015, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant via an audio message posted on the organisation's Twitter account. On 12 March 2015, ISIL's spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani released an audio tape in which he welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described it as an expansion of the group's caliphate into West Africa. ISIL publications from late March 2015 began referring to members of Boko Haram as part of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiya (West Africa Province).
North Caucasus ProvinceSome commanders of the Caucasus Emirate in Chechnya and Dagestan switched their allegiance to ISIL in late 2014 and early 2015. On 23 June 2015, ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani accepted the pledges of allegiance and announced a new Wilayat Qawqaz (North Caucasus Province) under the leadership of Rustam Asildarov.
Other areas of operation
- Unidentified militants in Saudi Arabia pledged allegiance to ISIL - designated as a province of ISIL.
- The Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade (Lebanon) pledged allegiance to ISIL.
- Sons of the Call for Tawhid and Jihad (Jordan) pledged allegiance to ISIL.
Leadership and governance
Further information: List of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant members
The group is headed and run by al-Baghdadi, with a cabinet of advisers. There are two deputy leaders, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (KIA) for Iraq and Abu Ali al-Anbari for Syria, and 12 local governors in Iraq and Syria. A third man, Abu Ala al-Afri is also believed to hold a prominent position within the group, having been rumored to be the deputy leader of ISIL. Unusually, all three are believed to be ethnic Turkmens. The former Iraqi strongman, Saddam Hussein was also said to have had senior Turkmen within his inner circle.
Beneath the leaders are councils on finance, leadership, military matters, legal matters—including decisions on executions—foreign fighters' assistance, security, intelligence and media. In addition, a Shura council has the task of ensuring that all decisions made by the governors and councils comply with the group's interpretation of sharia. The majority of ISIL's leadership is dominated by Iraqis, especially former members of Saddam Hussein's government. It has been reported that Iraqis and Syrians have been given greater precedence over other nationalities within ISIL due to the fact that the group need the loyalties of the local Sunni populations in both Syria and Iraq in order to be sustainable. Other reports have indicated however that Syrians are at a disadvantage to foreign members of ISIL, with some native Syrian fighters resenting alleged 'favoritism' towards foreigners over pay and accommodation.
British security expert Frank Gardner concluded that ISIL's prospects of maintaining control and rule were greater in 2014 than they had been in 2006, and that despite being as brutal as before, ISIL had become "well entrenched" among the population and was not likely to be dislodged by ineffective Syrian or Iraqi forces. It has replaced corrupt governance with functioning locally controlled authorities, services have been restored and there are adequate supplies of water and oil. With Western-backed intervention being unlikely, the group will "continue to hold their ground" and rule an area "the size of Pennsylvania for the foreseeable future", he said. Further solidifying ISIL rule is the control of wheat production, which is roughly 40% of Iraq's production. ISIL has maintained food production, crucial to governance and popular support.
Non-combatantsAlthough ISIL attracts followers from different parts of the world by promoting the image of holy war, not all of their recruits end up in combatant roles. There have been several cases of new recruits who expected to be mujihadeen that returned from Syria disappointed by the everyday jobs that had been assigned to them, like drawing water or cleaning toilets, or by the ban imposed on use of mobile phones during military training sessions.
ISIL also publishes material directed to women. Although women are not allowed to take up arms, media groups encourage them to play supportive roles within ISIL: providing first aid, cooking, nursing and sewing, to become "good wives of jihad".
Designation as a terrorist organisation
|United Nations||18 October 2004 (as al-Qaeda in Iraq)
30 May 2013 (after separation from al‑Qaeda)
|United Nations Security Council|||
|European Union||2004||EU Council (via adoption of UN al-Qaida Sanctions List)|||
|United Kingdom||March 2001 (as part of al-Qaeda)
20 June 2014 (after separation from al‑Qaeda)
|Home Secretary of the Home Office|||
|United States||17 December 2004 (as al-Qaeda in Iraq)||United States Department of State|||
|Australia||2 March 2005 (as al-Qaeda in Iraq)
14 December 2013 (after separation from al‑Qaeda)
|Attorney-General for Australia|||
|Canada||20 August 2012||Parliament of Canada|||
|Turkey||30 October 2013||Grand National Assembly of Turkey|||
|Saudi Arabia||7 March 2014||Royal decree of the King of Saudi Arabia|||
|Indonesia||1 August 2014||National Counter-terrorism Agency BNPT|||
|United Arab Emirates||20 August 2014||United Arab Emirates Cabinet|||
|Malaysia||24 September 2014||Ministry of Foreign Affairs|||
|Egypt||30 November 2014||The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters|||
|India||16 December 2014||Ministry of Home Affairs|||
|Russia||29 December 2014||Supreme Court of Russia|||
|Kyrgyzstan||25 March 2015||Kyrgyz State Committee of National Security|||
The United Nations Security Council in its Resolution 1267 (1999) described Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda associates as operators of a network of terrorist training camps. The UN's Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee first listed ISIL in its Sanctions List under the name "Al-Qaida in Iraq" on 18 October 2004, as an entity/group associated with al-Qaeda. On 2 June 2014, the group was added to its listing under the name "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant". The European Union adopted the UN Sanctions List in 2002.
Many world leaders and government spokespeople have called ISIL a terrorist group or banned it, without their countries having formally designated it as such. Some examples:
The Government of Germany banned ISIL in September 2014. Activities banned include donations to the group, recruiting fighters, holding ISIL meetings and distributing its propaganda, flying ISIL flags, wearing ISIL symbols and all ISIL activities. “The terror organisation Islamic State is a threat to public safety in Germany as well,” de Mazière said. “Today’s ban is directed solely against terrorists who abuse religion for their criminal goals.” The ban does not mean ISIL has been outlawed as a foreign terrorist organisation, as that requires a court judgement.
In October 2014, Switzerland banned ISIL's activities in the country, including propaganda and financial support of the fighters, with prison sentences as potential penalties.
In mid-December 2014, India banned ISIL, after arresting the operator of a pro-ISIL Twitter account.
Media sources worldwide have also described ISIL as terrorist.