ISIS- Group Of Terrorism, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, Islamic State (IS) and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh,
ISIS- Group Of Terrorism
Is a Salafi jihadist terrorist organisation and former unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Wahhabi, and heterodox doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIL gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre.
This group has been designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations and many individual countries. ISIL is widely known for its videos of beheadings and other types of executions of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites.
The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes and Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a “historic scale” in northern Iraq
You cannot understand ISIS without understanding al-Qaeda and the history they share, as well as the differences, there at the beginning, that would ultimately divide them.
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And al-Qaeda’s origin story begins with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Soviet aggression shocked the Muslim world, galvanizing roughly 20,000 foreign fighters to help Afghans resist Soviet forces. That’s where Osama bin Laden met a number of other young radicals, who together formed the core of the al-Qaeda network.
In the past year a number of high-profile attacks by Jihadist operatives outside of Syria and Iraq have resulted in killings in Sousse in Tunisia and most recently, the second attack in Paris, France were the deadliest the country has seen since World War II. As both sides prepare to take the conflict further, the battle between Islamic State and the rest of the world doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.
Documents found after the death of Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, a former colonel in the intelligence service of the Iraqi Air Force before the US invasion who had been described as “the strategic head” of ISIL, detailed planning for the ISIL takeover of northern Syria which made possible “the group’s later advances into Iraq”.
Al-Khlifawi called for the infiltration of areas to be conquered with spies who would find out “as much as possible about the target towns: Who lived there, who was in charge, which families were religious, which Islamic school of religious jurisprudence they belonged to, how many mosques there were, who the imam was, how many wives and children he had and how old they were”.
Following this surveillance and espionage would come murder and kidnapping – “the elimination of every person who might have been a potential leader or opponent”. In Raqqa, after rebel forces drove out the Assad regime and ISIL infiltrated the town, “first dozens and then hundreds of people disappeared”.
Security and intelligence expert Martin Reardon has described ISIL’s purpose as being to psychologically “break” those under its control, ” so as to ensure their absolute allegiance through fear and intimidation,” while generating, “outright hate and vengeance” among its enemies. Jason Burke, a journalist writing on Salafi jihadism, has written that ISIL’s goal is to “terrorize, mobilize and polarize”.
Its efforts to terrorize are intended to intimidate civilian populations and force governments of the target enemy “to make rash decisions that they otherwise would not choose”. It aims to mobilise its supporters by motivating them with, for example, spectacular deadly attacks deep in Western territory (such as the November 2015 Paris attacks), to polarise by driving Muslim populations – particularly in the West – away from their governments, thus increasing the appeal of ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate among them, and to: “Eliminate neutral parties through either absorption or elimination”.
While all of this was going on, other parts of the Arab world were revolting against the repressive dictators that had ruled much of the Middle East for decades. Most significantly for the rise of ISIS, in 2011 protests in Syria gradually deteriorated into a complex civil war with multiple factions fighting against the repressive government of Bashar al-Assad.
Some of these factions were Salafist Sunni extremists hoping to wage jihad, or holy war, against the Assad regime, Shiites, Israel, the United States, and pretty much anyone else who looked at them wrong. Sunni extremists from Syria linked up with the war-hardened Sunni extremists in Iraq to form ISIS.
Mugshot of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
In 2014, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi emerged as the leader of ISIS. In early 2014, ISIS took control of the Syrian city of Ar-Raqqah, where they established one of their primary base of operation. Al-Qaeda attempted to restrict ISIS activities to Iraq, but al-Baghdadi rejected any outside attempt to reign in ISIS activities, resulting in the separation of al-Qaeda and ISIS. In June of 2014, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi proclaimed a worldwide caliphate under ISIS control.
Journalist Rukmini Maria Callimachi also emphasizes ISIL’s interest in polarization or in eliminating what it calls the “grey zone” between the black (non-Muslims) and white (ISIL). “The gray is moderate Muslims who are living in the West and are happy and feel engaged in the society here.
- 1999 Originated as jama’at al-tawid wal-jihad
- 2003 Became actively involved in the Iraq insurgency
- 2004 Pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda
- 2006 Formed the Mujahideen Shura Council
- First declaration of an Islamic state in Iraq
- 2011 The Syrian Civil War begins
- 2014 Separated from Al Qaeda Declared a Caliphate
Destroyed dozens of ancient architectural sites and historic artefacts Claimed territory in Sinai Province in addition to previous holdings in the Levan 2015 Claimed further territories in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India and Nigeria. Began attacking ‘Western’ targets outside of IS controlled areas, notably in Tunisia and France AQI didn’t just fight the Americans, it also attacked fellow Iraqis.
It bombed Shia mosques and slaughtered Shia civilians, hoping to provoke mass Shia reprisals against Sunni civilians and thus force the Sunnis to rally behind AQI. It worked, and it’s a tactic ISIS still uses today. It also helped spark a civil war in Iraq between Sunnis and Shia. The conquest of Mosul and much of northern Iraq led a triumphant Baghdadi to declare his territory a “caliphate” on July 4.
By this, Baghdadi meant that ISIS was now a state — and not just any state but the only Islamically legitimate state in the world. All Muslims, Baghdadi said, were obligated to support the nascent Islamic state in its struggle to hold and expand its land.
Establishing a caliphate had long been the goal of the entire jihadist movement. By declaring that he had actually created one, Baghdadi gained a huge leg up on al-Qaeda in the struggle for global jihadist supremacy.
Since then, ISIS has “succeeded in attracting far, far more recruits” than al-Qaeda, Will McCants, the director of the Brookings Institution’s Project on US Relations With the Islamic World, told me. This has also has allowed it to gain a following among foreign terrorist groups, with major ISIS franchises in Libya, Egypt’s Sinai desert, and Nigeria.
But these methods were too vicious even for al-Qaeda, which warned Zarqawi to cool it. He ignored the warnings, and AQI came to hold a swath of territory in Sunni parts of Iraq, roughly along the lines of what ISIS controls there today. Yet between 2006 and 2009, it all came crashing down.