Also known as:
ISIS is an extremist group formed from al-Qaeda offshoots in Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s immediate goal is to sustain a self-declared caliphate encompassing eastern Syria and western Iraq, though it seeks to grow throughout the Levant—a region consisting of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, and southern Turkey. In the long term, ISIS seeks to unite the world under a single caliphate, and the group has already begun to establish roots worldwide, establishing satellite operations in nine countries. Initially, ISIS gained support within Iraq as a Sunni insurgency group fighting what some Sunni’s viewed as a partisan Shiite-led Iraqi government. Today, the group has flourished as a result of the Syrian civil war, and has recruited up to 31,000 fighters from around the world.“Foreign Fighters: An Updated Assessment of the Flow of Foreign Fighters into Syria and Iraq,” Soufan Group, December 2015, 3, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/TSG_ForeignFightersUpdate3.pdf.
In June 2014, ISIS declared a caliphate spanning eastern Syria and western Iraq, naming its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as “caliph.” In his first speech as “caliph,” Baghdadi made clear that ISIS’s activities were not limited to any one region, saying that the group sought to establish governance over all Muslims. Consequently, the organization changed its name from the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (or the “Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham”) to simply the “Islamic State.”
Al-Qaeda had formally cut ties with the group in February 2014, reportedly as a result of the group’s wanton slaughter of civilians. As noted in a statement released by al-Qaeda’s General Command, ISIS “is not a branch of the al-Qaeda group… [al-Qaeda] does not have an organizational relationship with [ISIS] and is not the group responsible for their actions.” The announcement came months after a power struggle between ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch at the time, the Nusra Front. In April 2013, al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri criticized Baghdadi after he unilaterally announced a merger with the Nusra Front and refused to capitulate to Zawahiri’s orders.Liz Sly, “Al-Qaeda Disavows Any Ties with Radical Islamist ISIS Group in Syria, Iraq,” Washington Post, February 3, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/al-qaeda-disavows-any-ties-with-radical-islamist-isis-group-in-syria-iraq/2014/02/03/2c9afc3a-8cef-11e3-98ab-fe5228217bd1_story.html.
ISIS has declared wilayat (provinces, governorates) in Iraq, Syria, Egypt,Reuters, “Egypt’s Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis swears allegiance to ISIS: statement,” Al Arabiya November 4, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/11/04/Egypt-s-Ansar-Bayt-al-Maqdis-swears-allegiance-to-ISIS.html. Libya,Paul Cruickshank, Nic Robertson, Tim Lister and Jomana Karadsheh, “ISIS comes to Libya,” CNN, November 18, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/18/world/isis-libya/. Algeria,“Algeria’s al-Qaeda defectors join IS group,” Al Jazeera, September 14, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/algeria-al-qaeda-defectors-join-group-201491412191159416.html. Yemen,Aaron Y. Zelin “The Islamic State’s Model,” Washington Post, January 28, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/01/28/the-islamic-states-model/. Saudi Arabia,Kristin Roberts, “The Coming ISIS Assault on Saudi Arabia Means Awful Things for Washington,” National Journal, May 29, 2015, http://www.nationaljournal.com/defense/saudi-arabia-isis-threat-dammam-suicide-bombing-20150529; Aaron Y. Zelin “The Islamic State’s Model,” Washington Post, January 28, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/01/28/the-islamic-states-model/. Nigeria,Agence France-Presse, “IS welcomes Boko Haram allegiance: tape,” Yahoo News, March 12, 2015, http://news.yahoo.com/accepts-allegiance-nigeria-jihadists-boko-haram-201513146.html. Afghanistan,Bill Roggio, “Pakistani Taliban emir for Bajaur joins Islamic State,” Long War Journal, February 2, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/pakistani_taliban_em.php. Pakistan,Bill Roggio, “Pakistani Taliban emir for Bajaur joins Islamic State,” Long War Journal, February 2, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/pakistani_taliban_em.php. and the North Caucasus.Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS Declares Governorate in Russia’s North Caucasus Region,” Institute for the Study of War, June 23, 2015, http://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-declares-governorate-russia%E2%80%99s-north-caucasus-region. Beyond this, the terror group attracts considerable sympathy or has waged attacks in Turkey,Zia Weise, “Ankara bombing: Investigation into Turkey's deadliest terrorist attack to be 'completely focused' on Isis,” Independent (London), October 11, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/ankara-bombing-investigation-into-turkeys-deadliest-terrorist-attack-to-be-completely-focused-on-a6690111.html. Morocco,Associated Press, “Morocco dismantles ISIS recruitment cell,” Al Arabiya, August 14, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/08/14/Morocco-dismantles-recruitment-cell-for-Iraq.html. Tunisia,Jamel Arfaoui, “Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia spokesman backs ISIS,” All Africa, July 8, 2014, http://magharebia.com/en_GB/articles/awi/features/2014/07/08/feature-01. the Philippines,Maria A. Ressa, “Senior Abu Sayyaf leader swears oath to ISIS,” Rappler, August 4, 2014, http://www.rappler.com/nation/65199-abu-sayyaf-leader-oath-isis. Lebanon,Associated Press, “Hezbollah repels ISIS attack on Lebanon-Syria border,” Fox News, June 9, 2015, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/06/09/lebanon-hezbollah-repels-attack-by-is-on-its-positions-on-lebanon-syria-border/. Indonesia,“Bekasi Group Swear Allegiance to ISIS,” Jakarta Post, August 5, 2014, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/08/06/bekasi-group-swear-allegiance-isil.html. and the Palestinian territories.Diaa Hadid and Majd al Waheidi, “ISIS Allies Target Hamas and Energize Gaza Extremists,” New York Times, June 30, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/01/world/isis-allies-target-hamas-and-energize-gaza-extremists.html. ISIS sympathizers have also carried out lone-wolf attacks in a variety of Western countries.
ISIS funds itself through extortion, robbery, human trafficking, and the highly lucrative oil industry. However, ISIS lost approximately $500 million in income between 2014 and 2015 due loss of territory and military setbacks amid sustained coalition airstrikes.Jose Pagliery, “ISIS is struggling to fund its war machine,” CNN Money, April 21, 2016, http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/21/news/isis-financing-oil-tax-war/;
“ISIS Financing,” Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, May 2016, 1, 20, http://cat-int.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ISIS-Financing-2015-Report.pdf. The group has also lured significant numbers of recruits through online propaganda, including videos and magazines produced in English, French, German, and a variety of other languages.Greg Miller and Souad Mekhennet, “Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine,” Washington Post, November 20, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/inside-the-islamic-states-propaganda-machine/2015/11/20/051e997a-8ce6-11e5-acff-673ae92ddd2b_story.html;
“New ISIS Media Company Addresses English, German And French-Speaking Westerners,” MEMRI, June 23, 2014, http://www.memrijttm.org/new-isis-media-company-targets-english-german-and-french-speaking-westerners.html. ISIS recruiters have also been successful on social media platforms and encrypted messaging services such as Twitter and Telegram.James Billington, “Paris Terrorists Used WhatsApp and Telegram to Plot Attacks According to Investigators,” International Business Times, December 17, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/paris-terrorists-used-whatsapp-telegram-plot-attacks-according-investigators-1533880.
ISIS funds itself through extortion, robbery, human trafficking, and the highly lucrative oil industry. However, ISIS lost approximately $500 million in income between 2014 and 2015 due loss of territory and military setbacks amid sustained coalition airstrikes.Jose Pagliery, “ISIS is struggling to fund its war machine,” CNN Money, April 21, 2016, http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/21/news/isis-financing-oil-tax-war/; “ISIS Financing,” Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, May 2016, 1, 20, http://cat-int.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ISIS-Financing-2015-Report.pdf.
Under its self-proclaimed caliphate, ISIS has already imposed sharia (Islamic law) in some conquered cities, including the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria. ISIS is well-known for killing civilians en masse, often by public execution and crucifixion. While ISIS’s dreams of a global caliphate are unlikely to ever be realized, the group will continue to cause significant damage wherever it is able to gain a foothold.
ISIS’s overarching goals center on the reestablishment of a global, Islamic caliphate.Andrew F. March and Mara Revkin, “Caliphate of Law: ISIS’ Ground Rules,” Foreign Affairs, April 15, 2015, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2015-04-15/caliphate-law. Unlike al-Qaeda, which views a global caliphate as a long-term goal, ISIS sees the establishment and growth of the caliphate as its proximate objective. Since its official founding in June 2014, this doctrinal commitment has translated into a (successful) quest for territory across Iraq and Syria.
In his June 2014 speech announcing the creation of the caliphate, ISIS’s late spokesman and director of external operations Abu Muhammad al-Adnani declared that “Without [the caliphate], authority becomes nothing more than kingship, dominance and rule, accompanied with destruction, corruption, oppression, subjugation, fear, and the decadence of the human being and his descent to the level of animals.”“ISIS Spokesman Declares Caliphate, Rebrands Group as ‘Islamic State,’” SITE Intelligence, June 24, 2014, https://news.siteintelgroup.com/Jihadist-News/isis-spokesman-declares-caliphate-rebrands-group-as-islamic-state.html; “This is the promise of Allah,” Alhayat Media, June 29, 2014, https://ia902505.us.archive.org/28/items/poa_25984/EN.pdf. On the cover of the first issue of ISIS’s online English magazine Dabiq, the title “The Return of Khilafah” is superimposed over an image of the Arabian Peninsula, literally illustrating the group’s top priority.“The Return of the Khilafah,” Dabiq, July 2014, 4, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/islamic-state-22dc481biq-magazine-122.pdf. Its slogan, baqiya wa tatamaddad (remaining and expanding), similarly underscores the point.Aaron Y. Zelin, “Colonial Caliphate: The Ambitions of the ‘Islamic State,’ Washington Institute of Near East Policy, July 8, 2014, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/colonial-caliphate-the-ambitions-of-the-islamic-state.
On the front cover of Issue One of ISIS’s in-house publication, the title “The Return of Khilafah” is superimposed over an image of the Arabian Peninsula, literally illustrating the group’s number one priority.Dabiq, September 2014, http://media.clarionproject.org/files/09-2014/isis-isil-islamic-state-magazine-Issue-1-the-return-of-khilafah.pdf. Its slogan, baqiya wa tatamaddad (remaining and expanding), similarly underscores the point.Aaron Y. Zelin, “Colonial Caliphate: The Ambitions of the ‘Islamic State,’ Washington Institute of Near East Policy, July 8, 2014, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/colonial-caliphate-the-ambitions-of-the-islamic-state.
ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate cannot function without a caliph, the key figurehead. That role is reserved for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose so-called legitimacy is likewise established in ISIS’s doctrine.Andrew F. March and Mara Revkin, “Caliphate of Law: ISIS’ Ground Rules,” Foreign Affairs, April 15, 2015, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2015-04-15/caliphate-law. ISIS asserts that Baghdadi is a member of the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s Quraysh tribe, “one of the key qualifications in Islamic history for becoming the caliph.”Aaron Y. Zelin, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Islamic State’s driving force,” BBC, July 31, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28560449. In his “inaugural speech” launching the Islamic State on June 29, 2014, Baghdadi expanded further on the significance of the caliphate. Most important, he claimed, was that all Muslims submit and pledge allegiance (bay’a) to the caliphate.“ISIS Spokesman Declares Caliphate, Rebrands Group as ‘Islamic State,’” SITE, June 29, 2014, https://news.siteintelgroup.com/Jihadist-News/isis-spokesman-declares-caliphate-rebrands-group-as-islamic-state.html.
Underpinning the allegiance to the caliphate, ISIS adheres to a literalist interpretation of Sunni Islam, specifically embracing beliefs according to an extremist Salafi vision.Hassan Hassan, “Isis: a portrait of the menace that is sweeping my homeland,” Guardian (London), August 16, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/16/isis-salafi-menace-jihadist-homeland-syria. Salafis believe that Islam has been tainted by centuries of human revision and interpretation. They call for a reversion to the practices and beliefs of the salaf, the first few generations of Muslims immediately following the Prophet. While Salafism under the Gulf monarchies tends to non-violent “quietism,” ISIS is explicitly willing to use violence in an attempt to return to the days of the salaf. This willingness is based on the conviction that violence is divinely ordained.Ed Husain, “Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism,” New York Times, August 22, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/opinion/isis-atrocities-started-with-saudi-support-for-salafi-hate.html.
ISIS supplements its Salafist world-view with a belief in the revival of takfirist practices. As a Salafi-Takfiri group, the “enemies of Islam” may be Muslim too. Thus, according to ISIS doctrine, almost 200 million Shiite Muslims—as well as Sufis, Yazidis, and Ba’hai—are all apostates and deserving of death.
ISIS also cleaves to a form of millenarianism with the ultimate hope of “bringing about the apocalypse,” according to journalist Graeme Wood.Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Atlantic, March 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/. Indeed, ISIS frequently refers to the apocalypse in its various recruitment materials, including magazines, videos, and speeches.“ISIS leader surfaces in new audio recording,” CBS News, December 26, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/isis-leader-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-surfaces-in-new-audio-recording/;
“Break the Cross,” Dabiq, July 2016, 2, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/the-islamic-state-e2809cdacc84biq-magazine-1522.pdf;
Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Atlantic, March 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/. According to ISIS’s aptly-named English-language magazine Dabiq, the apocalypse will be preceded by “One of the greatest battles between the Muslims and the crusaders” in the town of Dabiq, located northeast of Aleppo in the Syrian countryside.“The Return of the Khilafah,” Dabiq, July 2014, 4, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/islamic-state-22dc481biq-magazine-122.pdf;
“Dabiq: Why is Syrian town so important for IS?,” BBC News, October 4, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30083303.
ISIS is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, its emir (commander, chieftain, or prince), whom the group proclaimed caliph of ISIS’s self-declared Islamic State in June 2014.“ISIS Spokesman Declares Caliphate, Rebrands Group as ‘Islamic State,’” SITE Institute, June 29, 2014, https://news.siteintelgroup.com/Jihadist-News/isis-spokesman-declares-caliphate-rebrands-group-as-islamic-state.html. Beneath Baghdadi are two chief deputies, overseeing ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq, respectively.Nick Thompson and Atika Shubert, “The anatomy of ISIS: How the Islamic State is run, from oil to beheadings,” CNN, January 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/18/world/meast/isis-syria-iraq-hierarchy/. These two deputies, Baghdadi, and his cabinet of advisors are reported to comprise ISIS’s executive branch, called “Al Imara” or “The Emirate.”Jared Day, “The inner workings of ISIS revealed,” Examiner, September 9, 2014, http://www.examiner.com/article/the-inner-workings-of-isis-revealed.
Also directly underneath Baghdadi, but not part of the executive branch, are ISIS’s legislative councils, the Shura Council and Shariah Council. The nine-member Shura Council is reportedly responsible for ensuring that lower councils adhere to ISIS’s religious doctrine,Nick Thompson and Atika Shubert, “The anatomy of ISIS: How the ‘Islamic State’ is run, from oil to beheadings,” CNN, January 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/18/world/meast/isis-syria-iraq-hierarchy/. and is also responsible for relaying Baghdadi’s orders through the rest of the organization.Richard Barrett, “The Islamic State,” Soufan Group, November 2014, 6, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf. According to terrorism analyst Jasmine Opperman, the council approves lower council decisions that impact the caliphate. It also has the authority to force Baghdadi to step down if he deviates from ISIS doctrine.Nick Thompson and Atika Shubert, “The anatomy of ISIS: How the ‘Islamic State’ is run, from oil to beheadings,” CNN, January 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/18/world/meast/isis-syria-iraq-hierarchy/.
ISIS’s six-member Shariah Council is the group’s “most powerful” body, according to Richard Bennett of the Soufan Group. It is responsible for enforcing its interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) within ISIS’s territory, as well as selecting the caliph.Richard Bennet, “The Islamic State,” Soufan Group, November 2014, 30, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf;
Adam Taylor, “Charting the murky leadership structure of the Islamic State,” Washington Post, October 30, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/10/30/charting-the-murky-leadership-structure-of-the-islamic-state/. When ISIS conquers new territory, the group’s Shariah Council is responsible for creating a sharia police force and courts to enforce its interpretation of Islamic law.Richard Barrett, “The Islamic State,” Soufan Group, November 2014, 30, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf.
According to a January 2015 report by CNN, Baghdadi’s two deputies each oversee 12 governors in their respective territories in Iraq and Syria. The deputies also oversee ministry-like councils that are responsible for day-to-day functions:Nick Thompson and Atika Shubert, “The anatomy of ISIS: How the ‘Islamic State’ is run, from oil to beheadings,” CNN, January 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/18/world/meast/isis-syria-iraq-hierarchy/; Jason Bellini and Reem Makhoul, “The Islamic State: How Its leadership Is Organized,” Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2014, http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2014/09/09/the-islamic-state-how-its-leadership-is-organized-the-short-answer/.
- Financial Council: ISIS’s treasury, which oversees oil and weapons sales and other revenue.
- Leadership Council: responsible for the organization’s laws and policies. The council’s decisions are approved by Baghdadi. The council also has the authority to depose al-Baghdadi if he strays from ISIS’s ideology.
- Military Council: responsible for the organization’s military operations.
- Legal Council: responsible for decisions on executions and recruitment. It also handles family disputes and religious transgressions.
- Fighters Assistance Council: responsible for providing aid and housing to foreign fighters who come to ISIS’s territory, including moving them into and out of the territory.
- Security Council: responsible for police and security oversight of ISIS’s territory. It also carries out executions.
- Intelligence Council: ISIS’s intelligence-gathering wing.
- Media Council: manages ISIS’s media strategy, including social media.
In addition to governing bodies, ISIS operates a secret service wing, previously run by the late Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. This wing, referred to as the Emni, reportedly serves as both an internal police and external operations unit, whose members seek to export terror abroad. According to an August 2016 report by the New York Times, multiple lieutenants are responsible for planning attacks in three distinct target regions: Europe, Asia, and the Arab world.Rukmini Callimachi, “How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers,” New York Times, August 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/world/middleeast/isis-german-recruit-interview.html?_r=0. The unit is reportedly responsible for deploying operatives back into Europe, for the purpose of connecting with local ISIS sympathizers and plotting domestic attacks.Rukmini Callimachi, “How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers,” New York Times, August 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/world/middleeast/isis-german-recruit-interview.html?_r=0.
ISIS controls wilayats (provinces) in Syria and Iraq including in Raqqa, Idlib, and Hama in Syria, and Ninawa, Kirkuk, and Anbar in Iraq.Bill Roggio, “ISIS’ ‘Southern Division’ Praises Foreign Suicide Bombers,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies, April 9, 2014, http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/bill-roggio-isis-southern-division-praises-foreign-suicide-bombers/. The terror group also controls provinces across the Middle East and Africa. These provinces begin as local jihadist groups which then pledge allegiance to ISIS’s caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Before accepting a pledge of allegiance and forming a new wilayat, ISIS must receive a proposal detailing the group’s military and governance strategy, as well as identifying a collectively chosen leader. Issue 7 of ISIS’s Dabiq magazine describes the process in detail:
“This [approval] process includes documenting their bay’āt [pledge of allegiance], unifying the jamā’āt [assembly] who have given bay’ah, holding consultations to nominate a wālī [governor] and members for the regional shūrā assembly, planning a strategy to achieve consolidation in their region for the Khilāfah [caliphate] so as to implement the Sharī’ah [Islamic law], and presenting all this to the Islamic State leadership for approval.”“From Hypocrisy to Apostacy: The Extinction of the Grayzone,” DABIQ, accessed November 12, 2015, 35, http://media.clarionproject.org/files/islamic-state/islamic-state-dabiq-magazine-issue-7-from-hypocrisy-to-apostasy.pdf.
Below is a list of official wilayat outside of Syria and Iraq:
Afghanistan and Pakistan: Wilayat Khorasan
Jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014. ISIS accepted the pledge in January 2015, officially forming Wilayat Khorasan, and appointed former Pakistani Taliban commander Hafiz Said Khan as leader.“Islamic State moves in on al-Qaeda turf,” BBC News, June 25, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-31064300. A U.N. report alleges 70 ISIS militants traveled from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan to form the core of the new Wilayat.Agence France-Presse, “Islamic State gaining ground in Afghanistan: UN,” Yahoo News, September 25, 2015, https://news.yahoo.com/islamic-state-gaining-ground-afghanistan-un-235952988.html. Other members include former Taliban insurgents and dozens of foreign fighters.Surkh Dewal, “Exclusive: In turf war with Afghan Taliban, Islamic State loyalists gain ground,” Reuters, June 29, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/29/us-afghanistan-islamic-state-idUSKCN0P91EN20150629#O2dDId6xEYbsFZM0.97. In August 2015, the Afghanistan-based jihadist group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) pledged allegiance to ISIS and was subsumed into Wilayat Khorasan.Merhat Sharipzhan, “IMU Declares It Is Now Part Of The Islamic State,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, August 6, 2015, http://www.rferl.org/content/imu-islamic-state/27174567.html.
Wilayat Khorasan claimed its first attack on Afghan forces in September 2015 when it killed three policemen at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan.Rahim Faiez and Lynne O’Donnel, “IS loyalists kill 3 police in first attack on Afghan forces,” Associated Press, September 27, 2015, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/4407127095a4444ab25ac5d71dc86b9d/afghan-official-islamic-state-fighters-kill-3-police.
Algeria: Wilayat al-Jazair
In 2014, ISIS accepted the pledge of allegiance from Algeria-based terrorist group Jund al-Khilafah, and announced that the establishment of an Algerian governate, Wilayat al-Jazair.Nathaniel Barr, “f at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Deception: The Islamic State’s Expansion Efforts in Algeria,” Terrorism Monitor 13, no. 22, http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=44595&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7&cHash=0c1f99764a132dde0b33631ba9b49095#.VmhXN7grLIU; Aaron Y. Zelin, “The Islamic State’s model,” Washington Post, January 28, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/01/28/the-islamic-states-model/. By December 2014, however, Wilayat al-Jazair leader Abd al-Malik Guri (a.k.a. Khalid Abu Sulayman) was killed by the Algerian military.
Wilayat al-Jazair is credited with the September 24, 2014, beheading of French tourist Hervé Gourdel but has been minimally active there in the months since. On October 21, 2015, Wilayat al-Jazair released an audio statement attempting to reassure its supporters that ISIS’s presence in Algeria was secure. During the same statement, however, an ISIS militant urged fighters not to risk their lives unnecessarily, appearing to indicate the underlying vulnerability of ISIS’s Algerian governate.Nathaniel Barr, “f at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Deception: The Islamic State’s Expansion Efforts in Algeria,” Terrorism Monitor 13, no. 22, http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=44595&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7&cHash=0c1f99764a132dde0b33631ba9b49095#.VmhXN7grLIU.
Egypt: Wilayat Sinai
In November 2014, Egypt’s Ansar Beit al-Maqdis—a jihadist group based in the Sinai Peninsula—pledged allegiance to ISIS and became Wilayat Sinai, ISIS’s Sinai province. The group grew amid the chaos of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, and is known for killing hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police officers.David D. Kirkpatrick, “Militant Group in Egypt Vows Loyalty to ISIS,” New York Times, November 10, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/11/world/middleeast/egyptian-militant-group-pledges-loyalty-to-isis.html?_r=2. Since its pledge of allegiance, Wilayat Sinai has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian vesselDoug Bolton, “Isis claims responsibility for rocket attack against Egyptian navy ship in Mediterranean Sea,” Independent (London), July 17, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-claims-responsibility-for-a-rocket-attack-against-an-egyptian-navy-ship-in-the-mediterranean-sea-10394112.html. and the downing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai that killed all 224 people on board.Barbara Starr and Catherine E. Schoichet, “Russian plane crash: U.S. intel suggests ISIS bomb brought down jet,” CNN, November 4, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/04/africa/russian-plane-crash-egypt-sinai/; “Russian plane crash: investigation into cause begins – as it happened,” Guardian (London), last modified November 2, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/oct/31/russian-passenger-plane-crashes-in-egypts-sinai-live.
Libya: Wilayat al-Tarabulus, al-Barqa, and al-Fezza
ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of Libya’s Wilayat in November 2014.Dougal Ernst, “Islamic State takes Libyan city; 100K under terror group’s control as chaos spreads,” Washington Times, November 18, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/18/islamic-state-takes-libyan-city-100k-under-terror-/. Since then, ISIS in Libya has divided its control into three provinces: Wilayat al-Tarabulus (a.k.a. Wilayat Tripolitania) in the west, Wilayat Barqa in the east, and Wilayat Fezza in the south.Tim Lister, “ISIS atrocity in Libya demonstrates its growing reach in North Africa,” CNN, February 17, 2015, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/16/africa/isis-libya-north-africa/. In January 2015, Wilayat al-Tarabulus attacked the five-star Corinthia hotel in Tripoli, killing nine people including five foreign nationals.Jack Moore, “ISIS Attack on Tripoli Hotel Opens New Front Against West,” Newsweek, January 27, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/isis-attack-tripoli-hotel-opens-new-front-against-west-302567. The U.S. Department of State designated ISIS’s Libya branch as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2016. “Terrorist Designations of ISIL-Yemen, ISIL-Saudi Arabia, and ISIL-Libya,” U.S. Department of State, May 19, 2016, http://m.state.gov/md257388.htm.
ISIS’s roots in Libya can be traced back to the spring of 2014, when a group of Libyans fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq—the “Battle Brigade—returned to Libya and established the Islamic Youth Shura Council, which then pledged allegiance to ISIS.Frederic Wehrey and Ala’ Alrababa’h, “Rising Out of Chaos: The Islamic State in Libya,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 5, 2015, http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=59268.
Nigeria: Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiyya
ISIS accepted Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance in March 2015.Agence France-Presse, “IS welcomes Boko Haram allegiance: tape,” Yahoo News, March 12, 2015, http://news.yahoo.com/accepts-allegiance-nigeria-jihadists-boko-haram-201513146.html. Boko Haram, now called Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiyaa (West Africa Province) has waged an insurgency to impose sharia in northern Nigeria since 2009, resulting in the death of approximately 4,000 civilians in 2015 alone.“Boko Haram death toll escalates,” eNCA, October 1, 2015, https://www.enca.com/africa/boko-haram-death-toll-escalates. Its leader is Abubakar Shekau.Helen Nianias, “Abubakar Shekau and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: What unites the Islamic extremist Boko Haram and Isis leaders?,” Independent (London), March 9, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/abubakar-shekau-and-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-what-unites-the-islamic-extremist-boko-haram-and-isis-10095802.html.
North Caucasus: Wilayat Qawqaz
In June 2015, ISIS announced the creation of a governate in Russia’s North Caucasus, after months of garnering support in the region. The governate is reportedly comprised of former al-Qaeda militants in the region who pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the months leading up to the announcement.Alessandria Masi, “How Russian Militants Declared A New ISIS ‘State’ In Russia’s North Caucasus,” International Business Times, June 26, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/how-russian-militants-declared-new-isis-state-russias-north-caucasus-1984613.
Saudi Arabia: Wilayat al-Haramayn
ISIS declared a governate in Saudi Arabia in November 2014.Landon Shroder, “Saudi Arabia Has a Big Islamic State Problem,” VICE News, July 31, 2015, https://news.vice.com/article/saudi-arabia-has-a-big-islamic-state-problem. Since then, ISIS has been involved in a number of attacks in Saudi Arabia, including the November 2014 targeting of a Shiite shrine in al-Dalwa village, the November 22, 2015, shooting of a Danish resident in Riyadh, and a thwarted multiple car bombing attack east of Riyadh in April 2015.Orlando Crowcroft, “Isis: Who is behind the Islamic State's latest franchise in war torn Yemen?” International Business Times, April 27, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-who-behind-islamic-states-latest-franchise-war-torn-yemen-1498532;
Lazaro Gamio, Bonnie Berkowitz, and Denise Lu, “What a year of Islamic State terror looks like,” Washington Post, last modified November 15, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/world/islamic-state-attacks/. The U.S. Department of State designated ISIS’s Saudi branch as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2016. “Terrorist Designations of ISIL-Yemen, ISIL-Saudi Arabia, and ISIL-Libya,” U.S. Department of State, May 19, 2016, http://m.state.gov/md257388.htm.
Yemen: Wilayat Sana’a
A self-proclaimed ISIS affiliate, calling itself “Wilayat Sana’a” claimed responsibility for a deadly mosque bombing in Yemen in March 2015, in which 137 people were killed.Orlando Crowcroft, “Isis: Who is behind the Islamic State's latest franchise in war torn Yemen?” International Business Times, April 27, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-who-behind-islamic-states-latest-franchise-war-torn-yemen-1498532; Lazaro Gamio, Bonnie Berkowitz, and Denise Lu, “What a year of Islamic State terror looks like,” Washington Post, last modified November 15, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/world/islamic-state-attacks/. In late April 2015, the group formally announced itself as an ISIS governate. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi confirmed the group’s status as a governate in November 2015.Orlando Crowcroft, “Isis: Who is behind the Islamic State's latest franchise in war torn Yemen?” International Business Times, April 27, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-who-behind-islamic-states-latest-franchise-war-torn-yemen-1498532; Lazaro Gamio, Bonnie Berkowitz, and Denise Lu, “What a year of Islamic State terror looks like,” Washington Post, last modified November 15, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/world/islamic-state-attacks/. The U.S. Department of State designated ISIS’s Yemeni branch as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2016. “Terrorist Designations of ISIL-Yemen, ISIL-Saudi Arabia, and ISIL-Libya,” U.S. Department of State, May 19, 2016, http://m.state.gov/md257388.htm.
ISIS is believed to be the richest terrorist organization in the world.Terrence McCoy, “ISIS just stole $425 million, Iraqi governor says, and became the ‘world’s richest terrorist group’,” Washington Post, June 12, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/12/isis-just-stole-425-million-and-became-the-worlds-richest-terrorist-group/;
Robert Windrem, “ISIS Is the World's Richest Terror Group, But Spending Money Fast,” NBC News, March 20, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-uncovered/isis-richest-terror-group-world-n326781. Months after the caliphate’s formation in June 2014, analysts estimated the group’s assets to be between $1.3–2 billion, with a daily income of $3 million.Mathew Levitt, “Terrorist Financing and the Islamic State,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, November 13, 2014, 2, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/testimony/LevittTestimony20141113.pdf;
Martin Chulov, “How an arrest in Iraq revealed Isis's $2bn jihadist network,” Guardian (London), June 15, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/15/iraq-isis-arrest-jihadists-wealth-power. Since then, coalition airstrikes, military setbacks, and loss of territory have dampened the group’s profits.Mathew Levitt, “Terrorist Financing and the Islamic State,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, November 13, 2014, 2, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/testimony/LevittTestimony20141113.pdf;
Avaneesh Pandey, “ISIS Income Plummets As Oil Revenue, Tax Base Dwindle,” International Business Times, April 18, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-income-plummets-oil-revenue-tax-base-dwindle-2355291;
“ISIS Financing,” Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, May 2016, 1, 20, http://cat-int.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ISIS-Financing-2015-Report.pdf. ISIS’s annual revenue reportedly fell from $2.9 billion in 2014 to $2.4 billion in 2015, according to the European think tank Center for the Analysis of Terrorism.“ISIS Financing,” Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, May 2016, 1, 20, http://cat-int.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ISIS-Financing-2015-Report.pdf.
Militant financing expert Patrick Johnson of the RAND Corporation credits ISIS’s survival and evolution to its strong, diversified fundraising apparatus.Patrick B. Johnston, “Countering ISIL’s Financing,” RAND Corporation, November 13, 2014, http://www.rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT419.html. As the group expanded through 2013 and 2014, ISIS derived the largest part of its revenue from the spoils of war, particularly as the group commandeered oil fields and weapons caches.Patrick B. Johnston, “Countering ISIL’s Financing,” RAND Corporation, November 13, 2014, http://www.rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT419.html;
“Financing of the Terrorist Organisation Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” Financial Action Task Force, February 2015, 31, http://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/Financing-of-the-terrorist-organisation-ISIL.pdf. Today, ISIS is believed to derive its income primarily from bank looting, oil, taxation, and kidnapping for ransom.Jose Pagliery, “Inside the $2 billion ISIS war machine,” CNN Money, December 11, 2015, http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/06/news/isis-funding/.
For years, ISIS has controlled oil fields in its strongholds of eastern Syria and northern Iraq. Here, ISIS has smuggled crude oil by truck in exchange for cash and refined petroleum. Luay al-Khatteeb, “How Iraq’s black market in oil funds ISIS,” CNN, August 22, 2014, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/18/business/al-khatteeb-isis-oil-iraq/index.html. In the past, customers have reportedly included not only ISIS sympathizers, but those who formally oppose ISIS, including the Turkish and Syrian governments.John Defterios, “ISIS’ struggle to control its oil riches,” CNN, September 4, 2014, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/03/business/defterios-oil-isis/index.html?hpt=ibu_c2. For financial purposes, the group also continues to target for seizure key infrastructure, including factories and power plants.Glen Carey, Mahmoud Habboush and Gregory Viscusi, “Financing Jihad: Why ISIL Is a Lot Richer Than Al-Qaeda,” Bloomberg, June 26, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2014-06-26/looted-banks-fund-iraq-fighters-eyeing-wealth-al-qaeda-never-had.html. ISIS’s exploitation of the energy assets under its control is hamstrung by maintenance needs, which it reportedly addresses by intimidating on-site engineers.John Defterios, “ISIS’ struggle to control its oil riches,” CNN, September 4, 2014, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/03/business/defterios-oil-isis/index.html?hpt=ibu_c2.
ISIS also reportedly fills its coffers through extortion, including bank looting, taxation, and kidnapping for ransom.Jose Pagliery, “Inside the $2 billion ISIS war machine,” CNN Money, December 11, 2015, http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/06/news/isis-funding/. The group has also collected profit from the sale of women and children as sex slaves.Mat Wolf and Shira Rubin, “How to Buy a Slave Girl From ISIS,” Daily Beast, September 3, 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/03/the-isis-slave-girl-buyback-schemes.html. In 2014, ISIS is believed to have made at least $25 million in ransom payments, a figure which may in fact be much higher.Mike Bird, “3 Big Sources Of Revenue Help ISIS Make Millions Each Day,” Business Insider, December 4, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/isis-islam-terrorist-makes-millions-2014-12#ixzz3RYWZ1VRb. As of December 2015, ISIS was estimated to make $45 million annually through kidnapping ransoms, and more than $360 million annually from tax collection.Jose Pagliery, “Inside the $2 billion ISIS war machine,” CNN Money, December 11, 2015, http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/06/news/isis-funding/.
ISIS has also illegally exported valuable antiquities from Iraq and Syria to Turkey.Associated Press, “Islamic State group earning more than $3 million per day,” PBS NewsHour, September 14, 2014, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/islamic-state-group-earning-3-million-per-day/. In May 2015, the United Nations estimated that ISIS earned as much as $100 million annually from the illegal sale of antiquities looted from captured territories.Rick Gladstone, “U.N. Resolves to Combat Plundering of Antiquities by ISIS,” New York Times, May 28, 2015, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Jun-07/300970-al-qaeda-claims-2-algerian-attacks.ashx. Professor Michael Danti of Boston University noted that Islamic law specifies “exactly what to do with antiquities when you find them. You sell them and 20% of the profits goes as a tax.”Orlando Crowcroft, “Isis: Islamic State’s war on history and the multimillion dollar global antiquities trade,” International Business Times, April 13, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-islamic-states-war-history-multimillion-dollar-global-antiquities-trade-1496177. The United Nations has condemned ISIS’s antiquities looting as “a form of violent extremism that seeks to destroy the present, past and future of human civilization.”Rick Gladstone, “U.N. Resolves to Combat Plundering of Antiquities by ISIS,” New York Times, May 28, 2015, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Jun-07/300970-al-qaeda-claims-2-algerian-attacks.ashx.
The group also attracts donations from terrorist sympathizers worldwide. Wealthy individuals in the Gulf reportedly provided funding that helped to launch ISIS and other jihadist groups amid the turmoil of the Syrian civil war.Robert Windrem, “Who's Funding ISIS? Wealthy Gulf 'Angel Investors,' Officials Say,” NBC News, September 21, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/whos-funding-isis-wealthy-gulf-angel-investors-officials-say-n208006. For example, U.S.-designated Qatari national ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi provided significant financial support to al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s forerunner, according to the U.S. Treasury.“Treasury Designates Al-Qa’ida Supporters in Qatar and Yemen,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 19, 2013, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2249.aspx. Beyond that, ISIS uses its extensive presence on social media platforms to solicit both small- and large-scale donations.Justin Sink, “ISIS rakes in donations on Twitter,” Hill, October 23, 2014, http://thehill.com/policy/defense/221666-isis-rakes-in-donations-on-twitter.
Recruitment and Training:
Since its inception, ISIS has maintained a powerful online media campaign aimed at recruiting members internationally.“ISIS recruits fighters through powerful online campaign,” CBS News, August 29, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/isis-uses-social-media-to-recruit-western-allies/. According to national security pundit John Little, ISIS “launched [its] offensive with a… media campaign well planned in advance. [The campaign] wasn’t an afterthought.”Alexander Trowbridge, “Jihadist on the move in Iraq with weapons, hashtags,” CBS News, June 16, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/isis-jihadists-on-move-in-iraq-using-weapons-and-twitter-hashtags/. Recruitment methods include slickly produced videos,“Al-Hayat Media Center,” Jihadology, accessed December 17, 2014, http://jihadology.net/category/al-%E1%B8%A5ayat-media-center/. an online magazine,“The Islamic State’s (ISIS, ISIL) Magazine,” Clarion Project, September 10, 2014, http://www.clarionproject.org/news/islamic-state-isis-isil-propaganda-magazine-dabiq. and the use of social media outlets.Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Twitter, Facebook account: James Foley video highlights disturbing, but effective recruitment campaign,” International Business Times, August 20, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-twitter-facebook-account-james-foley-video-highlights-disturbing-effective-1660544.
ISIS’s Al-Hayat Media Center is responsible for much of the group’s marketing and recruitment. The center’s explicit goal is to “convey the message of the Islamic State in different languages with the aim of unifying Muslims under one flag.”Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Twitter, Facebook account: James Foley video highlights disturbing, but effective recruitment campaign,” International Business Times, August 20, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-twitter-facebook-account-james-foley-video-highlights-disturbing-effective-1660544. In addition to pursuing fighters, recruiters seek to attract doctors, accountants, engineers, and wives, in the interest of building a “new society.”Associated Press, “ISIS is recruiting all sorts of people, not just male fighters,” New York Post, December 16, 2014, http://nypost.com/2014/12/16/isis-is-recruiting-all-sorts-of-people-not-just-male-fighters/.
ISIS recruiters have utilized social media outlets to “field questions about joining” the group, a process which resembles an “online version of [a] religious seminar.”Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. CEP has documented as ISIS recruiters exploit online platforms such as Twitter,J.M. Berger, “How ISIS Games Twitter,” Atlantic, June 16, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/isis-iraq-twitter-social-media-strategy/372856/. Facebook,Rachel Nuwer, “The Social Media Fight Between the U.S. and ISIS is Weirder Than You’d Imagine,” Smithsonian, September 10, 2014, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/social-media-fight-between-us-and-isis-weirder-youd-imagine-180952663/?no-ist. YouTube,J.M. Berger, “How ISIS Games Twitter,” Atlantic, June 16, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/isis-iraq-twitter-social-media-strategy/372856/. Tumblr,Rachel Nuwer, “The Social Media Fight Between the U.S. and ISIS is Weirder Than You’d Imagine,” Smithsonian, September 10, 2014, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/social-media-fight-between-us-and-isis-weirder-youd-imagine-180952663/?no-ist. Ask.fm,Dina Temple-Raston, “ISIS Used Predatory Tools and Tactics to Convince U.S. Teens to Join,” NPR Morning Edition, December 11, 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/12/11/370022514/isis-used-predatory-tools-and-tactics-to-convince-u-s-teens-to-join. and Askbook,“Neil Prakash a.k.a. Abu Khaled al-Cambodi,” Counter Extremism Project, accessed August 11, 2016, https://www.counterextremism.com/extremists/neil-prakash-aka-abu-khaled-al-cambodi. to advertise and recruit for ISIS. Recruiters also use instant-messaging services such as Telegram,James Billington, “Paris Terrorists Used WhatsApp and Telegram to Plot Attacks According to Investigators,” International Business Times, December 17, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/paris-terrorists-used-whatsapp-telegram-plot-attacks-according-investigators-1533880. Wickr,Umberto Bacchi, “ISIS agents in London dispatching gullible teenage jihadi brides to Syria,” International Business Times, December 19, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-agents-london-dispatching-gullible-teenage-jihadi-brides-syria-1480246. KiK,Laurie Segall, “ISIS Recruiting Tactics: Applie pie and video games,” CNN Money, September 30, 2014, http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/30/technology/isis-recruiting/. and YikYakDina Temple-Raston, “ISIS Used Predatory Tools and Tactics to Convince U.S. Teens to Join,” NPR Morning Edition, December 11, 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/12/11/370022514/isis-used-predatory-tools-and-tactics-to-convince-u-s-teens-to-join. to provide advice about logistical issues–such as transportation and finances–regarding the trek to Syria.Umberto Bacchi, “ISIS agents in London dispatching gullible teenage jihadi brides to Syria,” International Business Times, December 19, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-agents-london-dispatching-gullible-teenage-jihadi-brides-syria-1480246.
Canadian national Mubin Shaikh, a Taliban recruiter turned security operative, claims that recruiters interview potential jihadists to ensure commitment to the cause, as well as to weed out spies.Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. According to Shaikh, recruiters use whatever means possible. “If they can Skype you, they’ll Skype you. They want to see what you look like. You can’t be that secretive with them.”Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. Common interview tactics include testing the recruit’s knowledge of Islamic scholars.Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. Shaikh also describes a large net of jihadists, claiming that recruiters often contact established ISIS sympathizers within a potential recruit’s city in order to vet recruits, “whether [the recruit is] American, Canadian or British.”Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. To avoid detection, recruiters use encryption software and proxy servers during the interview process.Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076.
ISIS’s Al-Hayat Media Center produces much of the recruitment material disseminated by the terror group.Olivia Becker, “ISIS had a really slick and sophisticated media department,” Vice News, July 12, 2014, https://news.vice.com/article/isis-has-a-really-slick-and-sophisticated-media-department. In May 2014, the media center launched a video series called the Mujatweets, shot in HD quality, to show “snippets of day-to-day life in the Islamic State.”“Al-Hayat media center presents a new video message from the Islamic State: ‘Mujatweets Episode #8’,” Jihadology, accessed December 17, 2014, http://jihadology.net/2014/07/25/al-%E1%B8%A5ayat-media-center-presents-a-new-video-message-from-the-islamic-state-mujatweets-episode-8/; Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Twitter, Facebook account: James Foley video highlights disturbing, but effective recruitment campaign,” International Business Times, August 20, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-twitter-facebook-account-james-foley-video-highlights-disturbing-effective-1660544; “New ISIS Media Company Addresses, English, German and French-Speaking Westerns,” Middle East Media Research Institute, June 23, 2014, http://www.memrijttm.org/new-isis-media-company-targets-english-german-and-french-speaking-westerners.html. The Mujatweets serve as explicit propaganda, aimed at depicting life in the Islamic State as bountiful and heroic.
In the first episode of Mujatweets, an ISIS fighter appeals to Western jihadists by singing in German.“Al-Hayat media center presents a new video message from the Islamic State: ‘Mujatweets Episode #1’,” Jihadology, accessed December 17, 2014, http://jihadology.net/2014/05/31/al-%E1%B8%A5ayat-media-center-presents-a-new-video-message-from-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-al-sham-mujatweets-episode-1/. In the sixth episode, a member of ISIS speaks in French, claiming that it is an obligation for Muslims to immigrate to the Islamic State.“Al-Hayat media center presents a new video message from the Islamic State: ‘Mujatweets Episode #6’,” Jihadology, accessed December 17, 2014, p. 7, http://jihadology.net/2014/07/19/al-%E1%B8%A5ayat-media-center-presents-a-new-video-message-from-the-islamic-state-mujatweets-episode-6/. In the third and seventh episodes, shots of a sandwich shop and a bustling marketplace aim to attract newcomers with scenes of abundance.“Al-Hayat media center presents a new video message from the Islamic State: ‘Mujatweets Episode #3’,” Jihadology, accessed December 17, 2014, http://jihadology.net/2014/06/11/al-%E1%B8%A5ayat-media-center-presents-a-new-video-message-from-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-al-sham-mujatweets-episode-3/; “Al-Hayat media center presents a new video message from the Islamic State: ‘Mujatweets Episode #7’,” Jihadology, accessed December 17, 2014, http://jihadology.net/2014/07/21/al-%E1%B8%A5ayat-media-center-presents-a-new-video-message-from-the-islamic-state-mujatweets-episode-7/. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), “the purpose [of the Mujatweets] is to show that life under ISIS rule is peaceful and normal, and to shatter the image of the jihad fighters as fierce religious fanatics by presenting them as ordinary, friendly people eager to help the local population.”“New ISIS Media Company Addresses, English, German and French-Speaking Westerns,” Middle East Media Research Institute, June 23, 2014, http://www.memrijttm.org/new-isis-media-company-targets-english-german-and-french-speaking-westerners.html.
In addition to the Mujatweets series, the al-Hayat media center produces longer recruitment videos, the infamous beheading videos, and an online magazine called “Dabiq.”“Category: Al-Hayat Media Center,” Jihadology, accessed December 20, 2014, http://jihadology.net/category/al-%E1%B8%A5ayat-media-center/. Al-Hayat media center is notable for high video production quality and consistent circulation. Long War Journal editor Bill Roggio commented on the fast turnout of the al-Hayat’s videos. “Al-Qaeda will issue a propaganda statement, what, once every month? With the Islamic State, I saw the aftermath of the battle of Tabqa that gave them full control of a province in Syria — I saw that video two days after the battle.”Bruce Wallace, “ISIS has mastered high-end video production in its new propaganda wing,” PRI, September 11, 2014, http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-11/isis-has-mastered-high-end-video-production-its-new-propaganda-wing.
ISIS’s glossy magazine, Dabiq, is another recruitment tool used by the terror group. To reach a wide range of audiences, the magazine is circulated in print and online, and is available in Arabic, English, French, German, and Russian.Harleen K. Gambhir, “Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State,” Institute for the Study of War, August 15, 2014, 1, https://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Dabiq%20Backgrounder_Harleen%20Final.pdf. Its pages are filled with ISIS propaganda detailing the group’s strategy and encouraging all Muslims to emigrate to the Islamic State.Harleen K. Gambhir, “Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State,” Institute for the Study of War, August 15, 2014, 1, https://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Dabiq%20Backgrounder_Harleen%20Final.pdf.
The magazine’s first issue, released in July 2014,“ISIS Issues Print, Electronic Newspaper,” Al Arabiya English, July 10, 2014,http://english.alarabiya.net/en/media/2014/07/10/ISIS-issues-print-electronic-newspaper-.html; “The Return of Khilafah,” DABIQ, accessed December 16, 2014, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/islamic-state-22dc481biq-magazine-122.pdf. proclaims the arrival of the “caliphate” and explicitly urges all Muslims to make hijrah (migration) to the self-proclaimed Islamic State:
“A call to all Muslim doctors, engineers, scholars, and specialists. [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] said: We make a special call to the scholars, fuqaha’ (experts in Islamic jurisprudence), and callers, especially the judges, as well as people with military, administrative, and service expertise, and medical doctors and engineers of all different specializations and fields. We call them and remind them to fear Allah, for their emigration is wajib ‘ayni (an individual obligation), so that they can answer the dire need of the Muslims for them. People are ignorant of their religion and they thirst for those who can teach them and help them understand it. So fear Allah, O slaves of Allah.”“The Return of Khilafah,” DABIQ, accessed December 16, 2014, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/islamic-state-22dc481biq-magazine-122.pdf.
Dabiq exemplifies ISIS’s attempt at public outreach and strategic messaging.Harleen K. Gambhir, “Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State,” Institute for the Study of War, August 15, 2014, 1, https://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Dabiq%20Backgrounder_Harleen%20Final.pdf. Harleen Gambhir of the Institute for the Study of War suggests that “ISIS’s consolidation of the Islamic State depends on the formation of a strong base of supporters. Dabiq demonstrates that ISIS is looking not only to nearby areas for support, but is undertaking a global outreach strategy to recruit immigrants to build its state.”Harleen K. Gambhir, “Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State,” Institute for the Study of War, August 15, 2014, 1, https://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Dabiq%20Backgrounder_Harleen%20Final.pdf. Throughout the magazine’s pages, ISIS frames its military ‘successes’ as “inevitable results of God’s approval.” By doing so, “ISIS seeks to attract supporters to the Islamic State, accelerating the group’s consolidation of control in Iraq and Syria.”Harleen K. Gambhir, “Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State,” Institute for the Study of War, August 15, 2014, 1, https://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Dabiq%20Backgrounder_Harleen%20Final.pdf.
Recruiters’ Psychological Tactics
It has been suggested that potential jihadists join ISIS in their quest for “personal significance” or due to the existential desire to matter and be respected.Arie W. Kruglanski, “Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion,” Reuters, October 16, 2014, http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/10/16/joining-islamic-state-is-about-sex-and-aggression-not-religion/. According to this theory, ISIS recruitment measures directly appeal to disaffected and disillusioned individuals seeking to “make their mark.”Arie W. Kruglanski, “Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion,” Reuters, October 16, 2014, http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/10/16/joining-islamic-state-is-about-sex-and-aggression-not-religion/. MEMRI deputy director Eliot Zweig concurs, stating, “You see messages of camaraderie” rather than difficulty, gore and suffering. “It is ‘come and join us, join me and we'll fight the good fight together.’”“ISIS recruits fighters through powerful online campaign,” CBS News, August 29, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/isis-uses-social-media-to-recruit-western-allies/. Others claim that recruits are simply “thrill seekers,” or young people craving a “fresh identity.”Bill Briggs, “ISIS Enticement: Why are some American prone to radicalization?” NBC News, October 28, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-enticement-why-are-some-americans-prone-radicalization-n233601. According to terrorism expert Max Abrahms, recruitment over social media lures “ignorant people with respect to religion… [who] would probably fail the most basic test on Islam.”Eric Banco, “Who do people join ISIS? The psychology of a terrorist,” International Business Times, September 5, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/why-do-people-join-isis-psychology-terrorist-1680444; Arie W. Kruglanski, “Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion,” Reuters, October 16, 2014, http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/10/16/joining-islamic-state-is-about-sex-and-aggression-not-religion/.
The depiction of the Islamic State as a free and open society is another recruiting approach. According to John Horgan, a psychologist who studies terrorists, the exploitation of this image “makes radicalization and recruitment much easier.” Recruits believe that ISIS “is an equal opportunity organization.” Indeed, its recruitment tactics appeal to “everything from the sadistic psychopath to the humanitarian to the idealistic driven,” says Horgan.Eric Banco, “Who do people join ISIS? The psychology of a terrorist,” International Business Times, September 5, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/why-do-people-join-isis-psychology-terrorist-1680444. Andrew Poulin, a Canadian who converted to Islam and emigrated to the Islamic State, was featured in one of the group’s propaganda videos, saying: “Before I come here to Syria, I had money, I had a family, I had good friends. It wasn’t like I was some anarchist or somebody who just wants to destroy the world and kill everybody. I was a regular person. We need the engineers, we need doctors, we need professionals. Every person can contribute something to the Islamic State.”Eric Banco, “Who do people join ISIS? The psychology of a terrorist,” International Business Times, September 5, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/why-do-people-join-isis-psychology-terrorist-1680444.
Recruiters also radicalize by exploiting grievances, declaring that the Muslim world has endured humiliation and victimization at the hands of the West.Arie W. Kruglanski, “Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion,” Reuters, October 16, 2014, http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/10/16/joining-islamic-state-is-about-sex-and-aggression-not-religion/. The recruiters paint the choice of every Muslim individual in black and white: either join ISIS and live in dignity, or continue living as a victimized Muslim in a secular land. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his speech introducing the creation of the “caliphate,” declared, “by Allah’s grace—you have a state and Khilafah [caliphate], which will return your dignity, might, rights, and leadership.”“The Return of Khilafah,” Dabiq, accessed December 16, 2014, p. 7, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/islamic-state-22dc481biq-magazine-122.pdf. This Manichean approach feeds into the message of obligation. According to terrorism expert Paul Cruickshank, ISIS recruiters flood social media with the message of “you have to join. It’s your religious duty.”Holly Yan, “Why is ISIS so successful at luring Westerners?” CNN, October 7, 2014, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/07/world/isis-western-draw/.
ISIS’s on-the-ground recruitment strategies have been growing due to a mounting crackdown on the group’s online recruitment methods.Shiv Malik and Sandra Laville, “Isis recruitment moves from online networks to British mosques,” Guardian (London), September 5, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/05/isis-recruitment-moves-to-radical-network-and-mosques. Operating mostly in European, American, and Canadian cities, on-the-ground recruiters are believed to include preachers, jihadist sympathizers, and fighters returning from Syria.Shiv Malik and Sandra Laville, “Isis recruitment moves from online networks to British mosques,” Guardian (London), September 5, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/05/isis-recruitment-moves-to-radical-network-and-mosques. According to a leaked police report, recruiters operate out of mosques, cafes, restaurants, gyms and private homes and apartments.Shiv Malik and Sandra Laville, “Isis recruitment moves from online networks to British mosques,” Guardian (London), September 5, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/05/isis-recruitment-moves-to-radical-network-and-mosques; Andy Eckardt, “900 Austrian Police Raid Mosques and Homes in Terrorist Search,” NBC News, November 28, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/900-austrian-police-raid-mosques-homes-terrorist-search-n257776. Similar to online recruitment, on-the-ground recruiters act as radicalizing agents who provide logistical support to those who wish to emigrate to the Islamic State.Shiv Malik and Sandra Laville, “Isis recruitment moves from online networks to British mosques,” Guardian (London), September 5, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/05/isis-recruitment-moves-to-radical-network-and-mosques.
Some reports suggest that young Muslims are radicalized at “pop-up” meetings, which are never held in the same place twice.Steven Morris, “Father of Cardiff jihadists say his sons were radicalized in ‘pop-up’ schools,” Guardian (London), June 23, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/23/father-jihadists-sons-radicalised-cardiff-popup-schools. Others include extremists leafleting in European Muslim communities.Steven Morris, “Father of Cardiff jihadists say his sons were radicalized in ‘pop-up’ schools,” Guardian (London), June 23, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/23/father-jihadists-sons-radicalised-cardiff-popup-schools.
On-the-ground recruitment is believed to take place in Canada also. Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, claims that potential recruits are paired up with “jihadi mentors.”Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. According to Sohwarwardy, the mentor-recruit relationship can form at “religious seminars, community activities or classes that might look normal to the average Westerner.”Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. Other possible venues for radicalization include “student groups” at colleges and high schools.Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076.
On-the-ground radicalization can be instigated by one’s emotional or physical proximity to an extremist. For example, U.S. citizen Douglas McCain—who died in Syria as an ISIS fighter—had lived in the same building as a classmate who joined Somali militant group al-Shabab.Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076.
The training to become an ISIS soldier is believed to include both ideological and physical components.Alessandria Masi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How the ‘Islamic State’ goes after non-Muslims and recent converts in the West,” International Business Times, September 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-recruiting-westerners-how-islamic-state-goes-after-non-muslims-recent-converts-west-1680076. During religious training, referred to as sharii, ISIS members receive what ISIS-affiliated Syrian cleric Abu Moussa referred to as “the basics about religion… [during which ISIS trainers] cleanse you from religious innovations and Ba’athist ideas.”Hassan Hassan, “The secret world of Isis training camps – ruled by sacred texts and the sword,” Guardian (London), January 24, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/25/inside-isis-training-camps. New recruits are also believed to undergo physical training. A video released by ISIS’s al-Hayat Media Center in October 2014 depicted recruits participating in training exercises in Iraq’s Nineveh province. The jihadists-in-training were filmed while completing weapons training, hand-to-hand combat exercises, and live-fire training.Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State releases video of training camp in Ninewa,” Long War Journal, October 12, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/10/islamic_state_releas.php.
Foreign fighters arriving in ISIS-controlled territory reportedly complete anywhere between a few days of basic weapons training to a year-long intensive training course. The training program for an elite fighting unit, for example, is reported to require 10 levels of training. The first level is believed to include hours of strenuous physical activity such as running, jumping, pushups, and crawling, while higher levels may comprise aquatic training and celestial navigation.Rukmini Callimachi, “How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers,” New York Times, August 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/world/middleeast/isis-german-recruit-interview.html?_r=0; Hassan Hassan, “The secret world of Isis training camps – ruled by sacred texts and the sword,” Guardian (London), January 24, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/25/inside-isis-training-camps.
In addition to training voluntary recruits, ISIS has also reportedly forced captured Syrian pilots to train ISIS fighters using stolen aircraft.“ISIS says forcing detained pilots to train militants: report,” Al Arabiya English, August 30, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/08/30/ISIS-says-it-forces-abduct-pilots-to-train-fighters.html. In October 2014, eyewitness reports claimed that ISIS had three military aircraft in its possession, and that its fighters had been flying the airplanes over captured military bases in northern Aleppo, Syria.“ISIS in Syria train Iraqi pilots in captured jets- Monitor,” Reuters, last modified October 19, 2014, http://rt.com/news/196784-isis-syria-pilots-training/.
ISIS is also believed to force children to train as fighters, a war crime under international human rights law.Cassandra Vinograd, Ghazi Balkiz and Ammar Cheikh Omar, “ISIS Trains Child Soldiers at Camps for ‘Cubs of the Islamic State,’” NBC News, November 7, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-trains-child-soldiers-camps-cubs-islamic-state-n241821. This training is reported to take place in camps with names such as “Zarqawi Cubs Camps,” in tribute to al-Qaeda in Iraq founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.Cassandra Vinograd, Ghazi Balkiz and Ammar Cheikh Omar, “ISIS Trains Child Soldiers at Camps for ‘Cubs of the Islamic State,’” NBC News, November 7, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-trains-child-soldiers-camps-cubs-islamic-state-n241821. According to global security firm Flashpoint Intelligence, there have been multiple youth training camps in and around Mosul, as well as in Damascus, Aleppo, and al-Bukamal in eastern Syria.Cassandra Vinograd, Ghazi Balkiz and Ammar Cheikh Omar, “ISIS Trains Child Soldiers at Camps for ‘Cubs of the Islamic State,’” NBC News, November 7, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-trains-child-soldiers-camps-cubs-islamic-state-n241821.
ISIS fighters also train children how to use AK-47s, and have reportedly used dolls to demonstrate beheadings. “Sometimes they force them to carry [real human] heads in order to cast the fear away from their hearts,” one Iraqi security official told NBC News.Cassandra Vinograd, Ghazi Balkiz and Ammar Cheikh Omar, “ISIS Trains Child Soldiers at Camps for ‘Cubs of the Islamic State’,” NBC News, November 7, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-trains-child-soldiers-camps-cubs-islamic-state-n241821. A September 2014 United Nations report found that ISIS deploys children in “active combat during military operations, including suicide bombing missions.”“Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” United Nations General Assembly, August 13, 2014, 15, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/A.HRC.27.60_Eng.pdf. In February 2016, the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point warned that ISIS was mobilizing children at an “increasing and unprecedented rate.”Mia Bloom, John Horgan, and Charlie Winter, “DEPICTIONS OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN THE ISLAMIC STATE’S MARTYRDOM PROPAGANDA, 2015-2016,” Combatting Terrorism Center, February 18, 2016, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/depictions-of-children-and-youth-in-the-islamic-states-martyrdom-propaganda-2015-2016.
- 1993: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Mohamed al-Maqdisi returned to Jordan, and began plotting against the Hashemite monarchy. There, Zarqawi established an organization named Bayat al-Imam (Allegiance to the Imam). The first mission that Zarqawi directed—against a movie theater in Zarqa that was showing pornographic films—failed when the bomber “forgot about his bomb. It exploded and blew off his legs.”Mary Anne Weaver, “The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi,” The Atlantic, July 1, 2006, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/07/the-short-violent-life-of-abu-musab-al-zarqawi/304983/?single_page=true.
- August 2003: Zarqawi was allegedly responsible for the car bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad on August 7, which killed at least 10 and wounded about 40.“Baghdad Blast Kills 10 at Jordanian Embassy,” CNN, August 7, 2003, http://us.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/08/07/sprj.irq.main/. Two weeks later, Zarqawi was reportedly behind the truck bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 17—including the UN representative – and injured 100.“Truck Bomb Kills Chief U.N. Envoy to Iraq,” CNN, August 20, 2003, http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/08/19/sprj.irq.main/. Finally, on August 29, Zarqawi was behind the car bombing outside of the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq—one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims—that killed revered cleric Ayatollah Mohamad Bakr al-Hakim and 100 others. Ben Wedeman, Ingrib Formanek, David Ensor, Shirzad Bozorgmehr, “Najaf Bombing Kills Shiitle Leader, Followers Say,” CNN, August 30, 2003, http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/08/29/sprj.irq.najaf/index.html?iref=mpstoryview.
- May 2004: In May, Zarqawi “inaugurated his notorious wave of hostage beheadings,” making American citizen Nicholas Berg his first victim.Mary Anne Weaver, “The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi,” The Atlantic, July 1, 2006, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/07/the-short-violent-life-of-abu-musab-al-zarqawi/304983/?single_page=true. Later that month, a suicide bomber with suspected ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi detonated himself near the U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Baghdad, killing the acting president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ezzedine Salim. Salim’s death came 45 days before the occupation forces were set to transfer limited political control back to the Iraqis.Ian Fisher, Christine Hauser, “The Struggle for Iraq: Political Violence; Suicide Bomber Kills President of Iraqi Council,” New York Times, May 18, 2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/18/world/struggle-for-iraq-political-violence-suicide-bomber-kills-president-iraqi.html.
- 2005: Al-Qaeda in Iraq increased the frequency of attacks throughout the year, targeting Coalition forces and Iraqi Shiites. In late 2005, during operations in Iraq, U.S. forces confiscated a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri that described the organization’s long-term global strategy. The letter also criticized al-Zarqawi for videotaping and distributing footage of beheadings, saying that such violence could alienate the Islamic world from al-Qaeda’s cause.Douglas Jehl and Thom Shanker, “Al Qaeda Tells ally in Iraq to Strive for Global Goals,” New York Times, October 7, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/07/politics/07zarqawi.html. Major attacks conducted by AQI that year included:
- February 28: A suicide bombing in Hilla reportedly targeted Shiite police and National Guard recruits, killing 125 and wounding hundreds.“Some of the Deadliest Attacks in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 15, 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-08-15-iraq-bombings-glance_N.htm.
- April 29: Numerous suicide bombings across Iraq killed as many as 50 people“Terrorism: Profile: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” Anti-Defamation League archive website, http://archive.adl.org/terrorism/profiles/al_zarqawi.html#.U5sXIbHOddg.
- July 2: Egypt’s envoy to Iraq, Ihab al-Sherif, was kidnapped and later executed“Terrorism: Profile: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” Anti-Defamation League archive website, http://archive.adl.org/terrorism/profiles/al_zarqawi.html#.U5sXIbHOddg.
- July 16: A suicide bomber attacked a fuel truck in Musayyib, killing at least 98 and wounding at least 80.“Terrorism: Profile: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” Anti-Defamation League archive website, http://archive.adl.org/terrorism/profiles/al_zarqawi.html#.U5sXIbHOddg.
- July 29: A suicide bombing on Iraqi army recruits in Rabia killed 52 and injured 57.“Terrorism: Profile: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” Anti-Defamation League archive website, http://archive.adl.org/terrorism/profiles/al_zarqawi.html#.U5sXIbHOddg.
- September 14: A suicide bomber attacked a group of laborers in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, killing 112.“Some of the Deadliest Attacks in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 15, 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-08-15-iraq-bombings-glance_N.htm.
- September 29: Three suicide bombers detonated car bombs at a market and busy streets in the town of Balad, killing at least 102.“Some of the Deadliest Attacks in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 15, 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-08-15-iraq-bombings-glance_N.htm.
- November 9: Coordinated suicide bombings at three hotels in Amman, Jordan killed 58 and injured more than 90.“Some of the Deadliest Attacks in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 15, 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-08-15-iraq-bombings-glance_N.htm.
- February 22, 2006: Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) bombed the Shiite Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, one of the four major Shiite shrines in Iraq and the burial place for two of the 12 revered Shiite Imams. Reportedly, “a group of men dressed like Iraqi police commandos” walked into the shrine and set off the explosions.Bill Roggio, “Dome of the Golden Mosque Destroyed,” Long War Journal, February 22, 2006, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2006/02/dome_of_the_golden_m_1.php#. The mosque attack set off a wave of intensified Shiite-Sunni attacks across Iraq.Robert F. Worth, “Blast Destroys Shrine in Iraq, Setting Off Sectarian Fury,” New York Times, February 22, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/22/international/middleeast/22cnd-iraq.html.
- November 23, 2006: Car bombs and mortar attacks in Sadr City killed 215, setting of more sectarian violence.Greg Bruno, “Profile: Al-Qaeda in Iraq (a.k.a. Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia),” Washington Post, November 19, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/19/AR2007111900721.html.
- 2007: ISI continued its deadly bombing campaign, targeting predominantly Shiite populations. In January 2007, the U.S. began deploying an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq, completing the deployment in June that year and bringing the total number of troops in Iraq to 150,000.Thom Shanker and Michael R. Gordon, “G.I.’s in Iraq Open Big Offensive against Al Qaeda,” New York Times, June 17, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/world/middleeast/17iraq.html.
- January 22, 2007: A suicide bomber and car bomb targeted a Shiite market in central Baghdad, killing 88.“Some of the Deadliest Attacks in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 15, 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-08-15-iraq-bombings-glance_N.htm.
- February 3, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb in a heavily Shiite populated neighborhood of Iraq, killing 135 in what was then the “deadliest single bombing” since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.“CHRONOLOGY-The Deadliest Bomb Attacks in Iraq,” Reuters, February 3, 2007, http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/02/03/us-iraq-bombings-idUSL0340037820070203.
- March 6, 2007: Two suicide bombers detonated themselves among Shiite pilgrims in Hillah, killing 93.“Some of the Deadliest Attacks in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 15, 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-08-15-iraq-bombings-glance_N.htm.
- April 18, 2007: Five separate bombs, including 4 car bombs, targeted Shiite areas in Baghdad, killing more than 170. One of the bombs struck at a central bus station for Shiites travelling to Sadr City.Kirk Semple, “Bombings Kill at Least 171 Iraqis in Baghdad,” New York Times, April 18, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/18/world/middleeast/18cnd-baghdad.html?pagewanted=all.
- June 19, 2007: A truck bomb exploded outside the Shiite Khulani mosque in Baghdad, killing more than 80 people.“Some of the Deadliest Attacks in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 15, 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-08-15-iraq-bombings-glance_N.htm.
- July 7, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated a truck carrying 4.5 tons of explosives in the Shiite Turkmen village of Amerli, killing as many as 150 people.Stephen Farrell, “Around 150, Death Toll in Iraq Attack among War’s Worst,” New York Times, July 9, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/09/world/middleeast/09iraq.html.
- August 16, 2007: Suicide bombers simultaneously detonated five fuel trucks in the Yazidi Kurdish villages of al-Qataniyah and al-Adnaniyah, killing more than 300 Iraqis, injuring several hundred, and destroying dozens of homes. It was reportedly the worst terrorist attack in Iraq during the post-Saddam Hussein era.Tim Butcher, “Iraq Bombs: 250 Die in Worst Terror Attack,” Telegraph, August 16, 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1560477/Iraq-bombs-250-die-in-worst-terror-attack.html.
- 2009: As U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq amidst relatively low levels of violence at the end of 2008, car bombings and suicide attacks made a comeback in 2009. While the nature of the attacks fit the profile of AQI/ISI-style bombings, the group’s culpability was unclear. The attacks included:
- January 2, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated himself during a meeting of nearly 1,000 tribal leaders in Yusufiya, killing at least 24 and wounding about 40.Timothy Williams and Riyadh Mohamed, “Suicide Attack Kills 24 at Iraqi Tribal Gathering,” New York Times, January 2, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/03/world/middleeast/03iraq.html.
- February 9, 2009: Four American soldiers were killed in Mosul when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle near the soldiers’ Humvee. The attack was the “deadliest single loss in nine months” for U.S. forces in Iraq.Alissa J. Rubin, “Northern Iraq Suicide Blast Kills 4 American Soldiers,” New York Times, February 9, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/world/middleeast/10iraq.html.
- April 6, 2009: Six car bombs detonated in Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing at least 33 and wounding dozens.Steven Lee Myers, “Six Car Bombs Kill at Least 33 in Iraq,” New York Times, April 6, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/world/middleeast/07iraq.html.
- April 10, 2009: A suicide truck bomber struck the main military base in Mosul, killing 5 American soldiers and two Iraqis. It was “the deadliest attack against American soldiers [in Iraq] in 13 months…”Sam Dagher, “Suicide Attack Kills 5 G.I.’s and 2 Iraqis in Northern City,” New York Times, April 10, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/11/world/middleeast/11iraq.html.
- April 23-24, 2009: Three separate suicide bombings in Baghdad and Muqdadiya killed at least 80 and injured 120. The attack in Baghdad was perpetrated by a woman who detonated herself among a group of women and children waiting for emergency food aid.Timothy Williams, “80 Are Killed in 3 Suicide Bombings in Iraq,” New York Times, April 23, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/world/middleeast/24iraq.html. The next day, two suicide bombings near the revered Shiite shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson killed at least 60.Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher, “Storm of Violence in Iraq Strains Its Security Forces,” New York Times, April 24, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/25/world/middleeast/25iraq.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
- July 17, 2009: 3 American soldiers were killed when militants attacked an army base in Basra with mortar rounds.Timothy Williams, “3 U.S. Soldiers Die in Attack at a Base in Southern Iraq,” New York Times, July 17, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/world/middleeast/18iraq.html.
- October 25, 2009: ISIS claimed responsibility for two car bombings that struck the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, killing more than 155 and injuring more than 500.Rod Nordland, “Iraq Reaches Voting Deal as Toll Rises in Bombings,” New York Times, October 26, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/world/middleeast/26iraq.html.
- January 25, 2010: Three bombs exploded within 10 minutes of each other in Baghdad during rush hour, striking the Ishtar Sheraton, Babylon Hotel, and Hamra Hotel – all popular hotels for foreign businessmen and journalists. The blasts killed 36 and wounded more than 70.Anthony Shadid and John Leland, “Baghdad Blasts Shatter Sense of Security in Capital,” New York Times, January 25, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/world/middleeast/26iraq.html.
- April 23, 2010: A series of bombings struck near the headquarters belonging to Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr in Sadr City, Baghdad, killing at least 59 and wounding dozens.Steven Lee Myers and Duraid Adnan, “Wave of Fatal Bombings Widens Fissures in Iraq,” New York Times, April 23, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/world/middleeast/24iraq.html.
- May 10, 2010: A series of shooting and bombing attacks in Baghdad, Fallujah, Samarra, Tarmiya, and Suwayra, killed more than 100 people and wounded hundreds.Steven Lee Myers, “Coordinated Attacks in Iraqi Cities Kill More Than 100,” New York Times, May 10, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/world/middleeast/11iraq.html.
- October 31, 2010: Gunmen strapped with suicide vests attacked a Catholic church in Baghdad, taking more than 100 people hostage. During the ensuing siege, at least 30 hostages were killed and 41 wounded.John Leland, “Iraqi Forces Storm a Church with Hostages in a Day of Bloodshed,” New York Times, October 31, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/world/middleeast/01iraq.html.
- November 2, 2010: Militants set off a wave of car bombs and roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that targeted Sunni and Shiite area across Baghdad, killing at least 63 and wounding about 285.Jack Healy, “Coordinated Bombings Strike across Baghdad,” New York Times, November 2, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/03/world/middleeast/03iraq.html.
- May 5, 2011: A suicide bomber detonated himself at a police training center in the majority Shiite city of Hilla, killing 25 and wounding at least 75.Michael S. Schmidt, “Qaeda Affiliate Is Blamed in Iraq Suicide Bombing,” New York Times, May 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/world/middleeast/06hilla.html.
- August 15, 2011: The Islamic State of Iraq was suspected of carrying out a series of 42 “apparently coordinated” attacks using suicide bombs, car bombs, and gunmen. At least 89 people were killed and 315 wounded. The attacks targeted Iraqi policemen and soldiers, as well as a market in Kut, and a mosque in Yusufiya.Michael S. Schmidt, “Threat Resurges in Deadliest Day of Year for Iraq,” New York Times, August 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/world/middleeast/16iraq.html.
- August 20, 2011: AQI announced that it was launching a campaign whereby it would carry out 100 attacks, calling it “the battle of revenge for Sheik Osama bin Laden and other senior leaders.”Michael S. Schmidt, “Iraq Militants Say Violence Is to Avenge Bin Laden,” New York Times, August 20, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/world/middleeast/21iraq.html.
- December 23, 2011: Two car bombs exploded near the State Security Directorate in Damascus, killing at least 44. Syria’s state news agency claimed that two suicide bombers affiliated with al-Qaeda were responsible for the attack, though members of the Syrian opposition accused the Assad regime of planning the attacks in order to crackdown harder on its opponents.Kareem Fahim, “Syria Blames Al Qaeda after Bombs Kill Dozens in Damascus,” New York Times, December 23, 2011, ttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/24/world/middleeast/syria-says-suicide-bombers-attack-in-damascus.html?_r=0.
- January 6, 2012: The Syrian government reported that a suicide bomber detonated himself in the Midan neighborhood in Damascus, killing 26 and wounding dozens. Again, the opposition accused the Syrian government of perpetrating the attacks to bolster its narrative that al-Qaeda was gaining influence among the opposition.Anthony Shadid, “Bomb Kills Dozens in Damascus, Stoking Suspicions,” New York Times, January 6, 2012, http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/01/07/world/middleeast/bomb-attack-in-syrian-capital-kills-25.html. The Nusra Front eventually claimed responsibility for the attack.“Unknown Islamist group claims suicide attacks in Syria,” Agence France-Presse, February 29, 2012, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/29/197781.html.
- January 14, 2012: Militants detonated a bomb near a tent in Basra where Shiite pilgrims celebrating the holiday of Arbaeen were eating breakfast. The explosion killed at least 53 and wounded more than 130.Michael S. Schmidt, “Blast Kills Dozens of Shiite Worshipers in Southern Iraq,” New York Times, January 14, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/world/roadside-bomb-kills-dozens-in-southern-iraq.html.
- February 10, 2012: Several car bombs exploded minutes apart from each other at a military security headquarters and police compound in Aleppo, killing 28 people and wounding more than 200.Neil MacFarquhar, “2 Security Complex Car Bombings Kill Dozens, Syria Says,” New York Times, February 10, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/11/world/middleeast/blasts-in-aleppo-syria-homs-violence-said-to-continue.html?pagewanted=all. The Nusra Front eventually claimed responsibility for the attack.“Unknown Islamist group claims suicide attacks in Syria,” Agence France-Presse, February 29, 2012, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/29/197781.html.
- March 17, 2012: Two powerful car bombs exploded near Syrian intelligence and security buildings in Damascus, killing more than 25 people and injuring nearly 100.Anne Barnard, “Two Blasts Strike Near Security Agencies in Syria,” New York Times, March 17, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/world/middleeast/damascus-syria-two-large-explosions-reported.html.
- April 17, 2012: A suicide bomber detonated himself near a mosque in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, killing at least 9 and wounding dozens.J. David Goodman and Hwaida Saad, “Suicide Attack Kills 9 Near Damascus as Cease-Fire Erodes,” New York Times, April 27, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/world/middleeast/suicide-attack-kills-9-near-damascus-as-cease-fire-erodes.html.
- April 24, 2012: Jabhat al-Nusra claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack on the Iranian Cultural Consulate in Damascus. According to the group, one of its security battalions attached explosives to a Syrian army vehicle and detonated them when it arrived at the consulate.“Islamist group says behind Damascus bombing,” Reuters, May 1, 2012, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-01/news/sns-rt-syria-bombclaiml5e8g196r-20120501_1_al-nusra-front-syrian-president-bashar-al-assad-islamist-group.
- April 30, 2012: Two suicide bombers reportedly detonated vehicles laden with explosives near a Syrian military compound and the Carlton Hotel in Idlib, killing at least 9 and wounding dozens.“Syrian city hit by two suicide bombings,” Associated Press, April 30, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/30/syria-two-suicide-bombings-idlib.
- May 10, 2012: Two suicide bombers carried out car bombings that targeted “a notorious military intelligence compound” and another security building in Damascus, reportedly killing 55 and wounding 400.Neil MacFarquhar, “Dozens Killed in Large Explosions in Syrian Capital,” New York Times, May 10, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/world/middleeast/damascus-syria-explosions-intelligence-headquarters.html.
- May 12, 2012: Syrian security forces reportedly killed a suicide bomber who was attempting to drive a minibus packed with explosives into a densely populated neighborhood in Aleppo.Rick Gladstone, “Syria: A Suicide Bomber is Foiled in Aleppo, the State News Agency Says,” New York Times, May 12, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/12/world/middleeast/syria-suicide-bomber-foiled-in-aleppo-news-agency-says.html.
- May 19, 2012: A suicide bomber reportedly detonated a car bomb near a Syrian military post in Deir Ezzor, killing 9 people and wounding nearly 100.Joseph Logan, “Syria bomb kills 9, Damascus blames foreign plot,” Reuters, May 19, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/19/us-syria-carbomb-idUSBRE84I04F20120519.
- June 1, 2012: In retaliation for the Syrian government’s massacre in Houla, the Nusra Front reportedly carried out multiple attacks on Syrian military targets, including a suicide attack on the al Nayrab Camp in Idlib, as well as ambush and IED attacks on military units responding to the attack at al Nayrab.Bill Roggio, “Al Nusrah Front Claims Latest Suicide Attack in Syria,” Long War Journal, June 13, 2012, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/06/al_nusrah_front_clai_2.php#.
- June 26, 2012: The Nusra Front claimed responsibility for an attack on the private Syrian television station Alikhbaria, killing 7 people and reportedly destroying the station.Elizabeth A. Kennedy, “Syria Crisis: Al-Nusra Front Jihadists Claim Responsibility for Attacks,” Associated Press, July 4, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/04/al-nusra-front-syria_n_1649248.html; Robert Mackey, “Attack on Pro-Assad Television Studio Raises Questions on Rules of War,” New York Times, June 27, 2012, http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/attack-on-pro-assad-television-studio-raises-questions-on-rules-of-war/?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=General&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=Blogs.
- July 19, 2012: The Nusra Front claimed responsibility for kidnapping and executing Syria television presenter Mohamed al-Saeed. The group warned supporters of the Syrian regime that “…the swords of the mujahideen will cut off their heads and purify the Levant from their obscenity.”“Mohammed Al-Saeed Dead: Militant Group Claims Kidnapping, Killing of Syrian TV Presenter,” Reuters, August 5, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/05/mohammed-al-saeed-dead-militant-group-kidnapping-killing_n_1743392.html. On the same date, the Nusra Front claimed that it conducted a suicide bombing on a security post in Ma’arat al-Nu’man, killing 60 Syrian soldiers.Thomas Joscelyn, “Suicide Bombings Become Commonplace in Syria,” Long War Journal, August 24, 2012, http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/suicide-bombings-become-commonplace-in-syria.
- September 8, 2012: A suicide bomber from the Nusra Front reportedly attacked al-Haya hospital in Aleppo. The group claimed that it killed more than 200 military officers and soldiers, while the Syrian government reported that 27 soldiers died and 64 were wounded.Bill Roggio, “Al Nusrah Front Claims 5 Suicide Attacks in Syria in Past Month,” Long War Journal, September 25, 2012, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/09/al_nusrah_front_clai_4.php#.
- October 9, 2012: The Nusra Front claimed responsibility for multiple suicide attacks against an air force intelligence branch in Harasta, a suburb of Damascus. The group claimed that one suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with 9 tons of explosives, while another attacker drove an ambulance loaded with explosives to the scene 25 minutes later.Anne Barnard and Christine Hauser, “Qaeda-Linked Group Claims Responsibility for Syrian Blasts,” New York Times, October 9, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/world/middleeast/qaeda-linked-group-says-it-struck-compound-on-edge-of-damascus.html.
- January 11, 2013: The Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham led an offensive on the Taftanaz air base in Idlib province, seizing large caches of weapons and ammunition – and also taking out the base that served as the launching point for “barrel bomb” attacks against civilians.Anne Barnard, “Syrian Rebels Say They Seized Helicopter Base in the North,” New York Times, January 11, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/world/middleeast/syria-war-developments.html.
- March 11, 2013: ISI claimed responsibility for ambushing and gunning down more than 40 Syrian soldiers in Anbar Province who had temporarily travelled to Iraq for safety.Hania Mourtada and Rick Gladstone, “Qaeda Group in Iraq Says It Killed Syrian Soldiers,” New York Times, May 11, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/world/middleeast/islamic-state-of-iraq-says-it-killed-syrian-soldiers.html.
- April 8, 2013: A car bomb exploded near the Syrian Central Bank in Damascus, killing at least 15 and wounding 53. Anne Barnard, “Wider Use of Car Bombs Angers Both Sides in Syrian Conflict,” New York Times, April 8, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/world/middleeast/syria-explosion-damascus.html.
- June 17, 2013: A suicide bomber detonated a truck, allegedly laden with 6 tons of explosives, near a Syrian military base in Aleppo, killing up to 60 soldiers.Rick Gladstone, “Large Truck Bomb Reported to Kill 60 Syrian Troops,” New York Times, June 17, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/world/middleeast/large-truck-bomb-reported-to-kill-60-syrian-troops.html.
- June-July 2013: ISIS escalated attacks against members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in an apparent attempt to take out the FSA’s leadership. ISIS reportedly killed “prominent” FSA commander Kamal Hamami for planning operations without consulting it. The organization also beheaded two FSA soldiers and left their heads next to a garbage can.Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “Syrian Rebel Infighting Undermines Anti-Assad Effort,” New York Times, July 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/13/world/middleeast/syrian-rebel-infighting-undermines-anti-assad-effort.html?pagewanted=all.
- July 23, 2013: As part of its “Breaking the Walls” campaign, AQI militants staged “carefully synchronized operations” to break members of the organization out of the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons. Al-Qaeda claimed that 500 inmates had been freed from the prisons, while Iraqi officials put the total at 800—with 400 of them recaptured or killed.Michael R. Gordon and Duraid Adnan, “Brazen Attacks at Prisons Raise Worries of Al Qaeda’s Strength in Iraq,” New York Times, July 23, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/world/middleeast/al-qaeda-asserts-responsibility-for-iraqi-prison-breaks.html.
- July 26, 2013: Fighters from the Nusra Front and Ansar al-Khalafa al-Islamiya Brigade reportedly killed as many as 150 Syrian soldiers during a battle in Khan al-Assal, a suburb of Aleppo. 51 of the soldiers were summarily executed after surrendering, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.Hania Mourtada and Rick Gladstone, “Soldiers’ Mass Execution Reported by Syria Group,” New York Times, July 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/world/middleeast/soldiers-mass-execution-reported-by-syria-group.html.
- August 28, 2013: A series of more than a dozen explosions hit Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad during the morning commute, killing at least 65 and wounding dozens more. The attacks followed a string of recent beheadings that were claimed by AQI.Yasir Ghazi and Tim Arango, “Deadly Blasts Stoke Fears of Sectarian Strife in Iraq,” New York Times, August 28, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/world/middleeast/iraq-explosions.html.
- September 12, 2013: Ayman al-Zawahiri released a message the day after the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, called on his followers to carry out “a few disparate attacks” against the American homeland and to “bleed America economically.” Part of his message referred to the war in Syria, where he told jihadists not to cooperate with secular rebel forces.Alan Cowell, “Attack U.S., Qaeda Chief Tells Muslims in a Speech,” New York Times, September 13, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/14/world/al-qaeda-leader-ayman-al-zawahiri-urges-muslims-to-attack-america.html.
- December 21, 2013: 18 Iraqi soldiers, including a high-ranking commander, were killed during a raid on a training camp where ISIS was teaching recruits how to make roadside explosives.Duraid Adnan, “18 Soldiers in Iraq Are Killed during Raid on Rebel Group’s Training Camp,” New York Times, December 21, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/22/world/middleeast/in-iraq-18-soldiers-are-killed-during-raid-on-rebel-groups-training-camp.html.
- January 2014: After days of intense fighting, ISIS militants took over major parts of Fallujah, destroyed the police headquarters, and declared the city an Islamic state.Yasir Ghazi and Tim Arango, “Iraq Fighters, Qaeda Allies, Claim Falluja as New State,” New York Times, January 3, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/world/middleeast/fighting-in-falluja-and-ramadi.html. ISIS was accused of carrying out mass executions against civilians, prisoners, and other rebel fighters in Aleppo, Idlib, and Raqq. According to reports, bodies were found handcuffed and blindfolded at a children’s hospital used as a base by ISIS.Nick Cumming-Bruce, “U.N. Says Executions in Syria by Rebels May Be War Crimes,” New York Times, January 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/world/middleeast/syria.html.
- February 2014: British jihadist Abdul Waheed Majeed reportedly carried out a suicide truck bombing at the Aleppo Central Prison. If true, Majeed’s attack was the “first known case of a British suicide bomber in Syria.”Robert Mackey and Christine Hauser, “Deferential Remarks in Martyrdom Video Said to Show Briton’s Last Words before Suicide Attack in Syria,” New York Times, February 14, 2014, http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/deferential-remarks-in-martyrdom-video-said-to-show-britons-last-words-before-suicide-attack-in-syria.
- February 23, 2014: A suicide bomber from ISIS reportedly launched an attack against a rebel base, killing Abu Khalid al-Suri, who was chosen by Ayman al-Zawahiri to mediate disputes between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS.Ben Hubbard, “Jihadist Mediator Killed in Suicide Attack by Rival Extremists,” New York Times, February 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/world/middleeast/jihadist-mediator-killed-in-suicide-attack-by-rival-extremists.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Middle%20East&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article.
- May 2014: American citizen Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Huraira al-Amriki, reportedly carried out a suicide truck bombing on a mountaintop restaurant in Syria that was a gathering spot for Syrian soldiers.Frances Robles and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Before Syrian Suicide Blast, a Quiet Life in the Suburbs,” New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/Moner-Mohammad-Abusalha-Vero-Beach-Florida-Syria.html. On May 15, a car bombing carried out by ISIS near the Turkish border killed at least 43 people. The bombing was reportedly intended to target the Tawhid Brigade—part of the rebel coalition called the Islamic Front—which controlled the border crossing.Anne Barnard, “Car Bomb Kills More than 40 at Syrian Border Crossing,” New York Times, May 15, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/world/middleeast/car-bomb-syrian-border-crossing.html. Also in May, French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche, who reportedly fought in Syria with ISIS, shot and killed 3 people at a Jewish museum in Brussels. The attack was the first instance of a European Islamist fighter returning home from the war to commit acts of violence.Scott Sayare, “Suspect Held in Jewish Museum Killings,” New York Times, June 1, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/world/europe/suspect-arrested-in-jewish-museum-killings-in-belgium.html.
- June 10, 2014: ISIS insurgents took over Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, as Iraqi soldiers fled on foot and left behind their weapons, vehicles and uniforms. After seizing Mosul and securing its hold over Nineveh Province, the militants moved south toward Baghdad, taking over parts of Salahuddin Province along the way.Suadad Al-Salhu and Tim Arango, “Sunni Militants Drive Iraqi Army Out of Mosul,” New York Times, June 10, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/world/middleeast/militants-in-mosul.html. Five days after its offensive, ISIS claimed that it had executed 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, many of whom were Shiites. Those claims could not be immediately verified, though the Iraqi military admitted that at least 800 soldiers had been taken prisoner.Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin, “Militants Claim Mass Execution of Iraqi Forces,” New York Times, June 15, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/16/world/middleeast/iraq.html?hp. ISIS also robs local banks and seizes U.S. military equipment left for the Iraqi army.Jack Moore, “Mosul Seized: Jihadis Loot $429m from City's Central Bank to Make Isis World's Richest Terror Force,” International Business Times, June 11, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/mosul-seized-jihadis-loot-429m-citys-central-bank-make-isis-worlds-richest-terror-force-1452190.
- June 11, 2014: ISIS insurgents took over Tikrit, home town of Saddam Hussein and his clan.“The jihadist offensive in Iraq: a timeline,” Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2014, http://www.afp.com/en/node/2730918.
- July 1, 2014: The UN stated that more than 2,400 Iraqis were killed in June, the most fatalities in one month in Iraq since April 2005.“Key Events on Sunni Militants Surge in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 18, 2014, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/key-events-sunni-militants-surge-iraq.
- August 1-5, 2014: ISIS militants crucify, behead and shoot over 700 members of the Shaitat tribe in eastern Syria, in what is one of ISIS’s bloodiest advances.Liz Sly, “Syria tribal revolt against Islamic State ignored, fueling resentment,” The Washington Post, October 20, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/syria-tribal-revolt-against-islamic-state-ignored-fueling-resentment/2014/10/20/25401beb-8de8-49f2-8e64-c1cfbee45232_story.html.
- August 2-3, 2014: ISIS defeated Kurdish peshmerga fighters and takes over several towns previously held by the Kurds, including the towns of Sinjar and Zumar near Iraq’s border with Syria, as well as two small oil fields. During its conquest, ISIS kills up to 500 Yazidis, ethnic Kurds whom ISIS despises as “devil worshipers”Loveday Morris, “Islamic State seizes town of Sinjar, pushing out Kurds and sending Yazidis fleeing,” Washington Post, August 3, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/islamic-state-seize-town-of-sinjar-pushing-out-kurds-and-sending-yazidis-fleeing/2014/08/03/52ab53f1-48de-4ae1-9e1d-e241a15f580e_story.html. and heretics subject to deathDiaa Hadid and Bassem Mroue,“Syrian Kurdish fighters rescue stranded Yazidis,” Associated Press, August 12, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/syrian-kurdish-fighters-rescue-stranded-yazidis-172250184.html. for practicing an ancient, pre-Abrahamic religion. Upon entering Sinjar, ISIS noted the occasion by exploding a Shiite shrine and demanding that Sinjar residents convert to Islam or be killed.Loveday Morris, “Islamic State seizes town of Sinjar, pushing out Kurds and sending Yazidis fleeing,” Washington Post, August 3, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/islamic-state-seize-town-of-sinjar-pushing-out-kurds-and-sending-yazidis-fleeing/2014/08/03/52ab53f1-48de-4ae1-9e1d-e241a15f580e_story.html. As many as 200,000 local residents fled, including other Yazidis.“UN warns of 'humanitarian tragedy' as militants seize town in northern Iraq,” UN News Centre, August 3, 2014, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48397#.VAmZFGRdVXa. Many of the Yazidis (estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000) took refuge on Mount Sinjar. There, the Yazidis lacked sufficient food, water, and medicine, and were besieged by ISIS and threatened with death if they came down from the mountains. The UN warned of a “humanitarian tragedy.”“UN warns of 'humanitarian tragedy' as militants seize town in northern Iraq,” UN News Centre, August 3, 2014, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48397#.VAmZFGRdVXa. As one besieged Yazidi noted, “We cannot get out of here; we cannot move. It's all [ISIS] fighters around us. If we move down they will kill us.”Mohammed A Salih and Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Surrounded by Islamic State fighters, members of the Yazidi religious minority fear an onslaught of violence,” Al Jazeera, last modified August 5, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/08/iraqi-yazidis-if-move-they-will-kill-us-20148513656188206.html.
- August 2-7, 2014: Fighters from ISIS and the Nusra Front overrun the Lebanese town of Arsal by the Syrian border, killing several Lebanese soldiers, following repeated tensions with the Lebanese military.“Chaos as Syria rebels raid Lebanon border town of Arsal,” BBC News, August 3, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28624524. The fighters withdraw from Arsal on August 7 after Sunni clerics negotiate a truce, but they take a reported 19 captive Lebanese soldiers with them.“Syrian Islamist rebels 'withdraw from Lebanese town after truce,’” BBC News, August 7, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28693530.
- August 7, 2014: ISIS fighters took control of Qaraqosh, the largest Christian municipality in Iraq. Tens of thousands of its residents fled.“The jihadist offensive in Iraq: a timeline,” Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2014, http://www.afp.com/en/node/2730918.
- August 7, 2014: ISIS took the strategically vital Mosul dam, driving out peshmerga forces from several towns. Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis flee the area.“Key Events on Sunni Militants Surge in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 18, 2014, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/key-events-sunni-militants-surge-iraq.
- August 11, 2014: ISIS militants defeated Kurdish peshmerga forces in the municipality of Jalawla.“The jihadist offensive in Iraq: a timeline,” Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2014, http://www.afp.com/en/node/2730918.
- August 20, 2014: ISIS released a video, entitled “A Message to America,” showing a masked ISIS militant beheading kidnapped American journalist James Foley and, speaking with a British accent, threatening to kill another such journalist, Steven Sotloff, if U.S. President Barack Obama did not stop U.S. military operations in Iraq.“The jihadist offensive in Iraq: a timeline,” Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2014, http://www.afp.com/en/node/2730918.
- August 30, 2014: ISIS posted a video of their fighters beheading one of the Lebanese soldiers they kidnapped when they and the Nusra Front captured and briefly held the Lebanese border town of Arsal in early August. The soldier, Ali al-Sayyed, was a Sunni Muslim. ISIS also posted another video of nine other captive soldiers pleading for their lives and calling on their families to hold street protests to seek the release of Islamist prisoners by the Lebanese government. ISIS has sought the release of Imad Ahmad Jomaa, an ISIS commander (formerly in the Nusra Front) who was arrested in Arsal in early August, as well as several other imprisoned Islamists.“ISIS Militants Behead Lebanese Soldier and Hold 18 More,” Reuters, August 30, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/world/middleeast/isis-militants-behead-lebanese-soldier-and-hold-more.html.
- September 2, 2014: Amnesty International reports that ISIS “has carried out ethnic cleansing on a historic scale in northern Iraq… systematically target[ing] non-Arab and non-Sunni Muslim communities, killing or abducting hundreds, possibly thousands, and forcing more than 830,000 others to flee the areas it has captured” since June 10, 2014.“Iraq: Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: the Islamic State’s systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq,” Amnesty International, September 2, 2014, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE14/011/2014/en/1af20d2f-501a-4d5d-b7fc-b52719e8dfdf/mde140112014en.html.
- September 3, 2014: ISIS released another video, entitled “A Second Message to America,” showing a masked ISIS militant beheading kidnapped American journalist Steven Sotloff, as previously threatened. Before being killed, Sotloff said that he was “paying the price” for U.S. military intervention in Iraq. After the beheading, the ISIS militant, speaking with a British accent, said to U.S. President Barack Obama, “Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.” The militant also “warn[ed] those governments who've entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.”Chelsea J. Carter and Ashley Fantz, “ISIS video shows beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff,” CNN, September 3, 2014, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/02/world/meast/isis-american-journalist-sotloff/index.html?iid=article_sidebar. He also threatened another captive, David Cawthorne Haines, a British aid worker kidnapped last year on the Turkish-Syrian border.Greg Miller, “U.S. confirms authenticity of second journalist beheading video,” Washington Post, September 3, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/islamic-state-claims-to-have-beheaded-american-journalist-steven-sotloff/2014/09/02/ae5e8ffa-32c3-11e4-9e92-0899b306bbea_story.html. The Washington Post reported that the U.S. government believes “as many as a dozen Americans may be fighting alongside [ISIS] and that the group holds at least two other American hostages, both aid workers.”Greg Miller, “U.S. confirms authenticity of second journalist beheading video,” Washington Post, September 3, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/islamic-state-claims-to-have-beheaded-american-journalist-steven-sotloff/2014/09/02/ae5e8ffa-32c3-11e4-9e92-0899b306bbea_story.html.
- September 6, 2014: Images on Twitter depict ISIS executing a second Lebanese soldier kidnapped when the group and the Nusra Front overran the Lebanese town of Arsal by the Syrian border last month. The soldier was identified as Abbas Medlij, a Shiite Muslim.“Islamic State says executes second Lebanese soldier,” Reuters, September 6, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/06/us-lebanon-security-iduskbn0h10ko20140906. ISIS and the Nusra Front reportedly continue to hold 17 Lebanese soldiers captive.
- September 13, 2014: ISIS releases another video in which British aid worker David Cawthorne Haines is executed. Some analysts see it as a warning to the British Government for supporting the US-led coalition against ISIS. The video is filmed in the same setting as the previous videos that ISIS has created: a nondescript area of what seems to be arid land beneath a blue sky. As in the other beheading videos disseminated by ISIS, “Jihadi John”, stands by a kneeling Haines. The still anonymous British terrorist says to the camera that “this British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the pesh merga against the Islamic State. Ironically, he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force that is responsible for delivering those arms.” At the end of the video, “Jihadi John” names the next victim as British citizen Alan Henning.Rukmini Callimachi and Kimko de Freytas-Tamura, “ISIS Video Shows Execution of David Cawthorne Haines, British Aid Worker,” New York Times, September 13, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/world/middleeast/islamic-state-says-it-has-executed-david-cawthorne-haines-british-aid-worker.html.
- September 18, 2014: Australian police foil a “beheading plot” by Australian militants connected to ISIS.Matt Siegel, “Australian PM says police raids follow IS linked beheading plot,” Reuters, September 18, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/18/us-australia-security-raids-idUSKBN0HC2FJ20140918.
- September 23, 2014: The Algerian group linked to ISIS, Jund al-Khalifah, decapitates French mountaineer Hervé Gourdel, who they had held hostage for three days. The group say that they chose to behead Gourdel after the French government ignored the group’s call to end airstrikes on ISIS.Al Jazeera Staff, “ISIS Linked Group Executes French Hostage,” Al Jazeera, September 24, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/9/24/algeria-isis-decapitated.html.
- September 23, 2014: Fighting between incoming ISIS militants and Kurdish forces intensifies in the Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria along the Turkish border. By September 24, at least 140,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees had crossed the border into Turkey.“Kurds flee as clashes rage in northern Syria,” Al Jazeera, September 23, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/syria-kurds-kobane-201492410309256379.html.
- September 23, 2014: An 18-year old terror suspect in Australia is fatally shot by police after he attempts to stab two counter-terrorism officials. The suspect had displayed an ISIS flag and was shouting insults about Prime Minister Tony Abbott before his death.Reuters, “Man shot in attack on counterterrorism officials in Australia,” New York Times, September 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/world/asia/man-shot-in-attack-on-counterterrorism-officers-in-australia.html.
- September 24, 2014: On this same day, ISIS militants blow up the “Green Church” in Tikrit, Iraq, an ancient and holy site for Christians.David D. Kirkpatrick, “Iraq: militants destroy historic church,” New York Times, September 24, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/25/world/middleeast/iraq-militants-destroy-historic-church.html.
- September 26, 2014: Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi tells US officials that ISIS had planned to attack subways in Paris and the United States. Western officials were skeptical of the news, and al-Abbadi was unable to provide concrete evidence for his claim.“Iraqi PM reveals ‘ISIL plot to attack west’,” Al Jazeera, September 26, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/09/iraqi-pm-reveals-isil-plot-attack-west-2014925212535183281.html.
- September 26, 2014: ISIS militants persist in their conquest of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, amidst airstrikes. Mass numbers of Kurdish Syrian refugees continue to pile into Turkey.
- September 29, 2014: Shelling from ISIS during its attack on Kobani falls into Turkey, prompting the Turkish military to send tanks to its border with Syria.Erin Banco, “US Airstrikes in Syria Cripple ISIS Funding by Hitting Oil Refineries,” International Business Times, September 30, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/us-airstrikes-syria-cripple-isis-funding-hitting-oil-refineries-1696902.
- October 2, 2014: The UN publishes a report stating that upwards of 5,500 people have been killed by ISIS in Iraq alone since June, 2014. This includes hundreds of the Yazidi minority who were “slaughtered en masse.”Nick Cumming-Bruce, “5,500 Iraqis Killed Since Islamic State Began Its Military Drive, U.N. Says,” New York Times, October 2, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/03/world/middleeast/un-reports-at-least-26000-civilian-casualties-in-iraq-conflict-this-year.html?_r=0.
- October 3, 2014: ISIS releases a video depicting the beheading of English taxi-driver Alan Henning. The video takes place in the same area that James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines were beheaded. In the video, Henning, wearing the usual orange jumpsuit, says: “Hi, I am Alan Henning. Because of our Parliament’s decision to attack the Islamic State, I — as a member of the British public — will now pay the price for that decision.” Right before the decapitation, ‘Jihadi John’, the executioner, says: “Obama, you have started your air bombardment in Sham [an area referring to Syria and Lebanon] which keeps on striking our people. It is only right that we continue to strike the necks of your people.” According to some analysts, ISIS seemed to have waited to behead Henning until after the start of Britain’s airstrikes on the group. The video ends with Jihadi John threatening the execution of American hostage Peter Kassig if the airstrikes on ISIS do not cease.Rukmini Callimachi and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, “ISIS releases video of execution of British aid worker,” New York Times, October 3, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/04/world/middleeast/islamic-state-releases-video-of-execution-of-alan-henning-british-aid-worker.html; “ISIL release beheading video of aid worker,” Al Jazeera, October 3, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/10/3/video-islamic-stategroupbeheadsbritishhostage.html.
- October 5, 2014: A document found by Iraqi special forces, believed to be written by Abdullah Ahmed al-Meshedani, a member of ISIS’s six-man war cabinet, states that ISIS plans to steal Tehran’s ‘nuclear secrets’ and wage war on Iran’s Shiite government. Meshedani writes that ISIS will depend on Russia to “give up Iran and its nuclear…. secrets” by offering Russia access to Iraqi gas fields controlled by the group. First, Meshedani writes, Moscow must give up its support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, and join in the Gulf States’ coalition against Iran. The document also lists 70 plans of ethnic cleansing to target Shiite Iraqi authorities- as well as Shiite Iran- in the interest of building the ‘new caliphate’. The manifesto also calls for the assassination of Iranian diplomats, teachers and businessmen, along with Iraqi military chiefs, Iranian-backed militias fighting for the Iraqi government, and Shiite officials.“Rport: ISIS plots to seize Iran’s nuclear secrets,” Al Arabiya News, October 5, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/10/05/ISIS-plots-to-seize-Iran-s-nuclear-secrets-.html.
- October 5, 2014: The fighting in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani intensifies, with ISIS sending rockets into the town and neither side claiming victory. Kurdish pesh merga forces state that Western-led airstrikes are not enough to stop ISIS militants from taking Kobani.“ISIL shells besieged Kurdish town in Syria,” Al Jazeera, October 5, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/10/isil-syria-kurdish-town-kobane-2014105113130688232.html.
- October 8, 2014: ISIS militants shoot down an Iraqi military helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile- killing two onboard- for the second time in less than a week. The helicopter was believed to be a Bell 407 aircraft, generally used for surveillance.Kirk Semple and Omar al-Jawoshy, “ISIS Militants Shoot Down Iraqi Helicopter, Killing 2,” New York Times, October 8, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/world/middleeast/isis-iraq-violence.html?partner=rss&emc=rss.
- October 14, 2014: An ISIS bomber kills 24 and wounds 40 at a crowded checkpoint into a majority Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. Among the dead was Ahmed al-Khafaji, Shiite member of Parliament and member of the Badr Organization, a Shiite group that controls a Shiite insurgency fighting ISIS.Kirk Semple and Omar al-Jawoshy, “ISIS Bomber Hits Baghdad, Killing 24,” New York Times, October 14, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/15/world/middleeast/-isis-bomber-hits-baghdad-killing-24-.html.
- October 19, 2014: A Syrian revel commander is reportedly shot and wounded in a kidnapping attempt by ISIS militants within Turkish borders. In the southern Turkish city of Urfa, ISIS has safe houses and is believed to “operate without impunity.” It was in Urfa that ISIS militants kidnapped Abu Issa, but ultimately failed to bring him into Turkey. There is increasing international condemnation on Turkey concerning Turkey’s apparent relaxed stance on ISIS militants in the South of the country, including ISIS’s smuggling operations from Turkey into Syria.Ruth Sherlock, “Islamic State foiled in attempt to kidnap Syrian rebel leader in Turkey,” Guardian (London), October 19, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11173013/Islamic-State-foiled-in-attempt-to-kidnap-Syrian-rebel-leader-in-Turkey.html.
- October 20, 2014: 40 people are killed in Iraq by ISIS in a quadruple car bombing and a suicide bombing inside a mosque. Local officials remarked that the attacks were specifically aimed against Shiites, as they took place near holy Shiite shrines and a Shiite mosque.Kirk Semple, “40 Are Killed in Attacks Targeting Shiites in Iraq,” New York Times, October 20, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/21/world/middleeast/dozens-are-killed-in-attacks-on-shiite-targets-in-iraq.html.
- October 21, 2014: ISIS releases a video in which seventeen-year-old Australian Abdullah Elmir, nom de guerre Abu Khaled, speaks to the camera with dozens of young jihadists by his side. He says: “I say this about your coalition: you threaten us with your countries, bring every nation that you wish to us, bring every nation that you want to come and fight us… we will not put down our weapons until we reach your lands, until we take the head of every tyrant and until the black flag is flying high in every single land, until we put the black flag on top of Buckingham Palace, until we put the black flag on top of the White House.”“Australian teenager with ginger hair joins ISIS,” news.com.au, October 21, 2014, http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/australian-teenager-with-ginger-hair-joins-isis/story-fnh81ifq-1227097303972. In Canada, a gunman whose photo is tweeted by an ISIS-linked account kills a reservist before storming into Ottawa’s parliament.Faith Karimi, “Canada Shooting Raises Fears of ISIS Connection,” CNN News, October 23, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/23/world/canada-isis-role/.
- October 26, 2014: Casualties over the fight for Kobani reveal at least 302 Kurdish fighters and 21 civilians have been killed in 40 days of fighting over the town, two of the civilians killed by beheadings.Nick Paton Walsh, Zeynep Bilginsoy and Chandrika Narayan, “More than 800 Killed in 40 Days of Clashes in Syrian City of Kobani,” CNN News, October 26, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/26/world/meast/kobani-isis-deaths/. Evidence surfaces that ISIS may be using advanced surface-to-air missile systems to shoot down coalition missiles.Kirk Semple and Eric Schmitt, “Missiles of ISIS May Pose Peril for Aircrews in Iraq,” New York Times, October 26, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/world/middleeast/missiles-of-isis-may-pose-peril-for-aircrews.html.
- October 30, 2014: Human Rights Watch releases a report on the group, saying that summary executions of ISIS prisoners “amount to war crimes and most likely crimes against humanity.”“Iraq: ISIS Executed Hundreds of Prison Inmates,” Human Rights Watch, October 30, 2014, http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/30/iraq-isis-executed-hundreds-prison-inmates.
- October 31, 2014: ISIS fighter claims the group controls 90% of the city of Kobani.“ISIS Bomb Threat to Kurdish Forces Bound For Syria's Kobani,” NBC News, October 31, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-bomb-threat-kurdish-forces-bound-syrias-kobani-n238406. That same day, the United Nations releases a press statement condemning ISIS and expressing “deep outrage” at the group’s actions.“U.N. Expresses ‘Deep Outrage’ at ISIS,” CBS News, October 31, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/u-n-expresses-deep-outrage-at-isis/.
- November 1, 2014: Turkey allows precisely 150 Iraqi Kurdish forces to arrive in the Syrian city of Kobani.Mariam Karouny and Michael Georgy, “Iraqi Kurds Reinforce Kobani; U.S. Planes Pound Islamic State Targets,” Reuters, November 1, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/01/us-mideast-crisis-idUSKBN0IK15M20141101. ISIS summarily executes 50 members of the Sunni Al Bu Nimr tribe.Associated Press, “ISIS Militants Kill 50 Tribesmen, Women and Children, Officials Say,” Fox News, November 2, 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/11/02/isis-militants-line-up-kill-50-tribesmen-and-women-in-iraq-town/.
- November 2, 2014: ISIS continues summarily killing members of the Sunni Al Bu Nimr tribe. 50 members are found dead in a water well. ISIS summarily executes 50 additional members of the tribe and kidnaps 65 members of the tribe. According to the Iraqi government, ISIS has thus far killed 322 members of the Al Bu Nimr tribe.“Islamic State 'Kills 322' From Single Sunni Tribe,” BBC, November 2, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29871068. Canada launches its first airstrike against ISIS.“Canada Launches First Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq,” NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/canada-launches-first-airstrikes-against-isis-iraq-n239741.
- November 3, 2014: Human Rights Watch releases a report on ISIS’s practice of kidnapping and torturing child hostages from the city of Kobani.“Syria: ISIS Tortured Kobani Child Hostages,” Human Rights Watch, November 4, 2014, http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/11/04/syria-isis-tortured-kobani-child-hostages.
- November 13, 2014: Rumors of al-Baghdadi’s death are put to rest following a speech in which the leader calls for “volcanoes of jihad.” It is unclear if the video was made before or after the airstrike carried out on November 8, in which many high-level ISIS militants were killed. In the video, Baghdadi mocks the U.S. for sending its soldiers “to their death and destruction.”Erin Cunningham, “Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi calls on followers to unleash “volcanoes of jihad,” Washington Post, November 13, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/defiant-message-from-islamic-state-leader-but-silence-over-airstrike-injury-reports/2014/11/13/a19f4d9e-6b54-11e4-9fb4-a622dae742a2_story.html. Baghdadi also shares the “good news” of the expansion of the caliphate. According to Baghdadi, jihadist groups from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Algeria have pledged allegiance to ISIS.Leila Fadel, “With Cash and Cachet, The Islamic State Expands Its Empire,” NPR All Things Considered, November 18, 2014, http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=364942091.
- November 16, 2014: ISIS releases a video showing that they have beheaded American hostage Peter Kassig.“Gruesome Islamic State video Announces Death of Peter Kassig,” The Clarion Project, November 16, 2014, http://www.clarionproject.org/news/gruesome-islamic-state-video-announces-death-peter-kassig. Kassig’s death appears at the end of a 16-minute video titled “Although the disbelievers dislike it,” in which ISIS members behead a group of Syrian soldiers.“Gruesome Islamic State video Announces Death of Peter Kassig,” The Clarion Project, November 16, 2014, http://www.clarionproject.org/news/gruesome-islamic-state-video-announces-death-peter-kassig. The scenes in which the soldiers are beheaded are edited in a way to increase the viewer’s horror: slow-motion shots of the beheadings and sound effects of panicked breathing and slitting throats. In the video, Jihadi John speaks over Peter Kassig’s beheaded corpse: “This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen of your country. Peter, who fought against the Muslims in Iraq while serving as a soldier under the American Army, doesn’t have much to say. His previous cellmates have already spoken on his behalf…You claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago. We said to you then that you are liars.”Rukmini Callimachi, “Obama Calls Islamic State’s Killing of Peter Kassig ‘Pure Evil’,” New York Times, November 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/17/world/middleeast/peter-kassig-isis-video-execution.html. Jihadi John continues: “your forces will return greater in number than they were before. We also remind you of the haunting words of our Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who told you: 'The spark has been lit here in Iraq and its heat will continue to intensify by Allah’s permission until it burns the crusader army.'”“Gruesome Islamic State video Announces Death of Peter Kassig,” The Clarion Project, November 16, 2014, http://www.clarionproject.org/news/gruesome-islamic-state-video-announces-death-peter-kassig.
- December 2, 2014: ISIS supporters in Saudi Arabia release a video purportedly showing the shooting of a Danish national in Saudi Arabia. The video includes clips of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as well as ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani calling on Saudis to “kill and spit upon” Westerners fighting ISIS.Reuters, “ISIL followers say they were behind Riyadh shooting,” Arabian Business, December 2, 2014, http://www.arabianbusiness.com/isil-followers-say-they-were-behind-riyadh-shooting-573799.html.
- December 13, 2014: ISIS militants shoot down an Iraqi helicopter, killing two pilots onboard. It is suspected that the militants used a shoulder-fired rocket launcher. ISIS shot down two other Iraqi military helicopters in October 2014.The Associated Press, “Islamic State Group Shoots Down Iraqi Helicopter,” New York Times, December 13, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/12/13/world/middleeast/ap-ml-islamic-state.html.
- December 15, 2014: ISIS authorities release a penal code titled “Clarification [regarding] the Hudud [Koranic punishments].” The document details the appropriate punishment- according to sharia- for various illegal acts, including homosexuality: “death for the person committing the act, as well as for the one receiving it,” and banditry: “cutting of the right hand and the left leg.” ISIS claims to have distributed the penal code as a reminder to the people living in the “caliphate,” and warns that it will be vigilantly enforced.“Islamic State (ISIS) Publishes Penal Code, Says It Will Be Vigilantly Enforced,” MEMRI, December 17, 2014, http://www.memrijttm.org/memri-jttm-islamic-state-isis-publishes-penal-code-says-it-will-be-vigilantly-enforced.html.
- December 15, 2014: Up to 40 people are taken hostage by an Islamist gunman at a Lindt Chocolate café in Sydney, Australia. The hostages are forced to hold a black flag with Arabic inscription to the window, raising fears that ISIS is responsible for the attack. Dozens of police surround and eventually storm the premises.“Gunman takes hostages in Sydney café, displays black ‘jihadist’ flag,” Reuters, December 15, 2014, http://rt.com/news/214395-australia-sydney-hostages-isis/. After a shootout between police and the gunman, three people (including the gunman) are killed, with four injured. The gunman, Man Haron Manis, is described as a 50 year-old Iranian who had received political asylum in Australia in 1996.“Sydney Siege: Three Dead After Commandos Storm Café,” BBC, December 15, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-30485355.
- December 15, 2014: ISIS militants capture two key army bases in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria. The two bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, are significant losses for the Syrian army, who had them under its control for more than two years. The battle results in dozens of casualties on each side.Associated Press, “Islamist rebels capture 2 key army bases in Syria,” Al Arabiya, December 15, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/12/15/Islamist-rebels-capture-2-army-bases-in-northwest-Syria.htm.
- December 17, 2014: A mass grave containing over 230 bodies is discovered in eastern Syria. The dead are believed to have belonged to al-Sheitaat, a Sunni tribe against ISIS. The deaths bring the number of al-Sheitaats killed by ISIS over 900.Jack Moore, “Isis massacre: 230 al-Sheitaat tribesman found in mass grave in eastern Syria,” The International Business Times, December 17, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-massacre-230-al-sheitaat-tribesmen-found-mass-grave-eastern-syria-1480000.
- December 17, 2014: ISIS fighter Abu Anas Al-Libi murders over 150 women and girls- some of whom are pregnant- for refusing to partake in sexual acts and marriage with ISIS fighters. The women and girls’ bodies are buried in mass graves west of Baghdad.“ISIS kills more than 150 women, girls for refusing ‘Jihad marriage,’ Al Arabiya, December 17, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/12/17/ISIS-fighters-kills-more-than-150-women-for-refusing-Jihad-marriage-.html.
- December 18, 2014: Tunisian militants aligned with ISIS appear in a video, threatening attacks before Tunisia’s upcoming presidential runoff. The armed militants urge Tunisians to expand the Islamic State across North Africa, and claim that Tunisians “will not live secured as long as Tunisia is not governed by Islam.” The militants also claim responsibility for the 2013 assassinations of left-wing politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.Carlotta Gall, “Tunisia” ISIS Fighters Claim 2 Killings,” New York Times, December 18, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/world/africa/tunisia-isis-fighters-claim-2-killings.html.
- December 24, 2014: ISIS militants capture a Jordanian pilot flying over ISIS-controlled territory in northern Syria by shooting down his jet with an anti-aircraft missile. The Jordanian pilot is identified as Moaz Youssef al-Kasabeh. ISIS militants post photographs of the captured pilot surrounded by masked gunmen on Twitter. They also upload photos of the jet’s debris, as well as Kasabeh’s military identification card.Ben Hubbard, “ISIS Captures Jordanian Fighter Pilot in Syria,” New York Times, December 24, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/world/middleeast/isis-syria.html. This represents the first US-led coalition aircraft to be lost on ISIS-controlled territory. “IS captures Jordanian pilot after warplane crashes in Syria,” BBC, December 24, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30596474.
- January 27, 2015: ISIS claims responsibility for an attack at the five-star Corinthia hotel in Tripoli, Libya. Nine people are killed, including five foreign nationals. It is the first attack on western interests in Libya. ISIS’s profile in Libya increases along with Islamic State Tripoli (IS Tripoli) in western Libya and ISIS-affiliated branches, Barqua in the east and Fezzan in the south. Many analysts attribute ISIS’s rise in Libya to the anarchic state of the country. This is partly due to the ongoing battle between the internationally recognized government in the eastern city of Tobruk and Libya’s National Salvation government, which is alliedwith the Islamist-backed Fajr Libya in Tripoli in the west. Jack Moore, “ISIS Attack on Tripoli Hotel Opens New Front Against West,” Newsweek, January 27, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/isis-attack-tripoli-hotel-opens-new-front-against-west-302567.
- January 30, 2015: ISIS attacks oil-rich Kirkuk in northern Iraq after months of fighting the Peshmerga, fighters protecting the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The attack is possibly a diversion against Kurdish efforts to take Mosul, ISIS’s stronghold. Among those killed by ISIS are Brigadier General Shirko Fateh, the highest-ranking operational commander of the Peshmerga brigade.Yosuf Basil, Jomanah Karadsheh, and Laura Smith-Skar, “ISIS launches attack on oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk,” CNN, January 30, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/30/middleeast/isis-attack/.
- January 31, 2015: The second Japanese hostage, journalist Kenji Goto, is reported executed. A video is released online showing his decapitated body. The video begins with the man known as “Jihadi Joe” brandishing his knife, stating, “[Prime Minister] Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are round. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”Steve Almsay, “ISIS: Japanese hostage beheaded,” CNN, February 3, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/31/middleeast/isis-japan-jordan-hostages/.
- February 3, 2015: ISIS posts a video and still images of Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage. Al-Kasasbeh was a member of an important Jordanian tribe and the first prisoner from the coalition bombing ISIS. Jordanian officials say that he was actually killed on January 3. In response to the group’s most cruel execution to date, Jordan executes Sajida al-Riswahi, convicted of attempting a suicide bombing and the prisoner ISIS had earlier asked for in a prisoner swap for Japanese hostage Haruka Yukawa. Jordan also executes Ziad al-Karbouli, a top lieutenant of al-Qaeda in Iraq, convicted of helping to plan 2005 bombings in Amman that killed more than 57 people. Both were already sentenced to death for terrorism.Rod Nordland and Ranya Kadri, “Jordanian Pilot’s Death, Shown in ISIS Video, Spurs Jordan to Execute Prisoners,” New York Times, February 3, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/world/middleeast/isis-said-to-burn-captive-jordanian-pilot-to-death-in-new-video.html?_r=0.
- February 10, 2015: The U.S. government confirms the death of Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker and the last American hostage held by ISIS.Adam Goldman, “Kayla Mueller, American Hostage of the Islamic State, is confirmed dead,” Washington Post, February 10, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-believes-kayla-mueller-hostage-of-islamic-state-is-dead/2015/02/10/76eef7f0-b12e-11e4-886b-c22184f27c35_story.html. ISIS claims that she was killed when a Jordanian fighter plane bombed a building where she was being held. The claim cannot be confirmed and no proof was offered. Mueller had been captured in August 2013 at a Doctors Without Borders hospital. ISIS had threatened to kill her if several million euros were not paid in ransom by her family.Adam Goldman, “Islamic State claims American hostage killed in bombing in Syria,” Washington Post, February 6, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/islamic-state-claims-american-hostage-killed-bombing-Syria/2015/02/06/0b37def6-70cd-11e4-893f-86bd390a3340_story.html/.
- February 11, 2015: U.S. President Barack Obama requests that Congress pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIS. The administration’s draft AUMF only authorizes flexible ground operations with coalition support for three years.President Barack Obama, “Letter from the President – Authorization for the Use of United States Armed Forces in connection with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” White House, February 11, 2015, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connectio. According to some congressional sources, the anti-ISIS AUMF will extend beyond Iraq and Syria.Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts, “Isis war to extend far beyond Iraq and Syria under Obama’s proposed plan,” Guardian (London), February 10, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/10/obama-plan-war-against-isis-syria-iraq.
- February 12, 2015: ISIS makes advances on the western Iraqi province of Anbar where their first attack is a suicide bombing at a police station. This is only miles away from the Ayn al-Asad airbase, where 320 coalition personnel are training Iraqi troops and tribal fighters.Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim, “Islamic State advances near Iraq base where U.S. advisers are stationed,” Washington Post, February 12, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/islamic-state-advances-near-iraq-base-where-us-advisers-are-stationed/2015/02/12/b543acf8-b2eb-11e4-bf39-5560f3918d4b_story.html?tid=pm_world_pop.
- February 13, 2015: ISIS launches a suicide attack on the al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province, where U.S. and coalition troops are training Iraqi forces. A Pentagon spokesman states that an estimated 20-25 extremists, disguised as Iraqi soldiers, are involved in the attack. Most are killed by their suicide vests or by Iraqi government forces. No Iraqi or U.S. troops are killed, nor were U.S. soldiers involved in the gunfight. This comes after ISIS took control of a nearby town, their first territorial gain in months.Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor, “US: Islamic State Fighters Killed by Iraqi Forces,” Associated Press, February 13, 2015, http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ISLAMIC_STATE_AIR_BASE_ATTACK?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2015-02-13-15-02-18.
- February 15, 2015: ISIS uploads a video showing the gruesome killing of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian laborers in Libya. The men were kidnapped from the city of Sirt, led to a beach, and made to kneel before they were beheaded by multiple ISIS members. The group identifies its newly conquered land in Libya as the “Tripoli” Province of ISIS, leading analysts to believe that Libya is emerging as a ‘second front’ for the organization.Jared Malson, “Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya Shows ISIS Branching Out,” Time, February 15, 2015, http://time.com/3710610/libya-coptic-christians-isis-egypt/.
- February 17, 2015: ISIS militants burn to death 45 Iraqis, many of them suspected to be security forces.“Islamic State militants ‘burn to death 45 in Iraq’,” BBC News, February 17, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31502863.
- February 18, 2015: A top Iraqi diplomat alleges that ISIS is harvesting and selling the organs of those it murders. Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Mohamed Alhakim declares: “We have bodies. Come and examine them. It is clear they are missing certain parts.”“ISIS harvests organs to fund terror: Iraqi ambassador,” New York Post, February 18, 2015, http://nypost.com/2015/02/18/isis-accused-of-harvesting-organs-to-fund-terror/.
- February 23, 2015: ISIS militants burn the Mosul public library, which reportedly housed over 8,000 rare books and manuscripts.Riyadh Mohammed, “ISIS Burns 8000 Rare Books and Manuscripts in Mosul,” Fiscal Times, February 23, 2015, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/02/23/ISIS-Burns-8000-Rare-Books-and-Manuscripts-Mosul.
- February 23, 2015: ISIS’s media department releases a new video depicting caged Kurdish prisoners being paraded down ISIS-controlled streets.Yousuf Basil and Holly Yan, “New ISIS video shows Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers in cages in Iraq,” CNN, February 23, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/22/middleeast/isis-crisis/.
- February 26, 2015: In the culmination of a multi-day offensive on Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, ISIS militants kidnap further hostages, bringing the total number of Assyrian Christian hostages to 262.Laura Smith-Spark, “Activist: ISIS now holds 262 Christians hostages in Syria,” CNN, February 26, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/26/middleeast/isis-syria-iraq/.
- March 1, 2015: ISIS supporters threaten to kill Twitter employees as the company deletes some violent ISIS videos on the site and suspends a number of accounts.David Mack, “ISIS Threatens Twitter Founder And Employees Over Blocked Accounts,” BuzzFeed News, March 1, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/davidmack/isis-twitter-threat#.vpZWq1jA0.
- March 5-6, 2015: ISIS attacks the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq, razing the city and bulldozing archaeological ruins.Michael Martinez and Mohammed Tawfeeq, “ISIS bulldozes ruins of ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, Iraqi ministry says,” CNN, March 6, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/05/world/iraq-isis-destroys-ancient-city-nimrud/; Anne Barnard, “ISIS Attacks Nimrud, a Major Archaeological Site in Iraq,” New York Times, March 5, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/06/world/middleeast/isis-attacks-iraqi-archaeological-site-at-nimrud.html?_r=0.
- March 7, 2015: ISIS razes the ancient city of Hatra in northern Iraq, destroying archaeological ruins.“ISIS Starts to Dismantle Iraqi Archaeological Site of Hatra: Officials,” NBC News, March 7, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-starts-dismantle-ancient-iraqi-archaeological-site-hatra-n319231.
- March 11, 2015: A new ISIS video shows a child executing what the group claims is an Israeli spy.Elise Labott and Abeer Salman, “New ISIS video claims to show child killing Palestinian captive,” CNN, March 11, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/10/middleeast/isis-video-israeli-killed/.
- March 21, 2015: ISIS releases an online call to lone-wolf attacks against U.S. service members. The group reportedly releases the names of 100 targets in particular.Michael S. Schmidt and Helene Cooper, “ISIS Urges Sympathizers to Kill U.S. Service Members It Identifies on Website,” New York Times, March 21, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/world/middleeast/isis-urges-sympathizers-to-kill-us-service-members-it-identifies-on-website.html.
- Early April 2015: ISIS reportedly sends an email to the personal account of Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan threatening his life. According to media, the email came from a Gmail account and the author said he ISIS paid him to kill Rajan but he would spare Rajan for more money.Sneha Shankar, “ISIS Threatens To ‘Eliminate’ India’s Central Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan: Report,” International Business Times, April 16, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-threatens-eliminate-indias-central-bank-governor-raghuram-rajan-report-1884373.
- April 6, 2015: ISIS kills 52 men, mostly Iraqi police officers, at the al-Qaim border crossing with Syria. ISIS captured the victims when it overran the border area the year before.Hamdi Alkhshali and Mohammed Tawfeeq, “ISIS kills 52 men in Iraq,” CNN, April 9, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/09/world/isis-killings/.
- April 10, 2015: ISIS launches an assault, including suicide and car bombers, on Ramadi, Iraq. The group seizes northern parts of the city by the end of the day. At least 10 Iraqi soldiers are killed and General Qassim al-Muhammadi, Iraq’s military head in Anbar province, is wounded.Greg Botelho and Mohammed Tawfeeq, “ISIS takes parts of Ramadi, kills 10, wounds Iraqi general,” CNN, April 10, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/10/middleeast/iraq-isis/.
- Mid-April 2015: ISIS releases a propaganda video threatening a “9/11-style attack” on the United States. ISIS supporters spread the message on Twitter using the hashtag “We Will Burn America.”Bridie Jabour, “Australian doctor appears in Isis video urging others to join him in Syria,” Guardian (London), April 26, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/apr/26/australian-doctor-stars-in-isis-video-urging-others-to-join-him-in-syria.
- June 09-10, 2015: ISIS’s Egyptian wilayat targets the Multinational Force and Observers airbase in North Sinai using rocket fire.Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS-Linked Regional Activity: June 2015,” Institute for the Study of War, June 27, 2015, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-linked-regional-activity-june-2015.
- June 12, 2015: ISIS’s wilayat in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region conducts public beheadings, killing five.Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS-Linked Regional Activity: June 2015,” Institute for the Study of War, June 27, 2015, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-linked-regional-activity-june-2015.
- June 17- 29, 2015: ISIS’s Yemeni wilayat detonates VBIEDs at Shiite religious sites and Houthi political and military assets.Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS-Linked Regional Activity: June 2015,” Institute for the Study of War, June 27, 2015, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-linked-regional-activity-june-2015.
- June 26, 2015: ISIS’s Saudi wilayat attacks a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City.Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS-Linked Regional Activity: June 2015,” Institute for the Study of War, June 27, 2015, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-linked-regional-activity-june-2015.
- June 26, 2015: ISIS takes credit for an attack on tourists at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel and the Sofil Hostel in Sousse, Tunisia.Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS-Linked Regional Activity: June 2015,” Institute for the Study of War, June 27, 2015, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-linked-regional-activity-june-2015.
- June 30, 2015: Yemen-based ISIS militants claim responsibility for a car bomb in Sanaa that kills 28.J. Dana Stuster, “Islamic State Claims Another Deadly Attack in Sanaa,” Foreign Policy, June 30, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/30/islamic-state-claims-another-deadly-attack-in-sanaa/. In northern Syria, ISIS insurgents launch a renewed attack on the Kurdish town of Tal Abyad after being repelled two weeks prior.“Islamic State 'attacks Syrian town of Tal Abyad',” BBC News, June 30, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33329308.
- July 2, 2015: ISIS militants decimate cultural artefacts in the Syrian city of Palmyra, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Salma Abdelaziz, “ISIS publicly smashes Syrian artifacts,” CNN, July 3, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/world/isis-syrian-artifacts/.
- July 3, 2015: ISIS releases a video of a row of young men being beheaded in the empty amphitheater in Syria’s Palmyra.Kimberly Hutcherson, “ISIS video shows execution of 25 men in ruins of Syria amphitheater,” CNN, July 4, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/04/middleeast/isis-execution-palmyra-syria/.
- July 16, 2015: The International Business Times reports that ISIS has crucified 12 people for allegedly failing to fast during the holy month of Ramadan.Johnlee Varghese, “Ahead of Eid-al-Fitr, Isis Crucifies 12 for Breaking Ramadan Fast,” International Business Times, July 16, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.in/ahead-eid-al-fitr-isis-crucifies-12-breaking-ramadan-fast-639498.
- July 17, 2015: ISIS’s Sinai Province claims responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian vessel.Doug Bolton, “Isis claims responsibility for rocket attack against Egyptian navy ship in Mediterranean Sea,” Independent (London), July 17, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-claims-responsibility-for-a-rocket-attack-against-an-egyptian-navy-ship-in-the-mediterranean-sea-10394112.html.
- July 17, 2015: Kurdish officials, field investigators, and a Western technician report that ISIS militants have used rudimentary chemical weaponry against Kurdish territory in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks.C. J. Chivers, “ISIS Has Fired Chemical Mortar Shells, Evidence Indicates,” New York Times, July 17, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/18/world/middleeast/islamic-state-isis-chemical-weapons-iraq-syria.html?_r=0.
- August 7, 2015: ISIS captures and holds dozens of Christians in Syria’s Homs province. Dana Ballout and Mohammad Nour Al Akraa, “Islamic State Seizes Dozens of Syrian Christians in Homs Province,” Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-seizes-dozens-of-syrian-christians-in-homs-province-1438960189.
- August 9, 2015: ISIS reportedly plots to assassinate the Queen of England. Julia Glum, “ISIS To Bomb Queen? Islamic State Extremists Plan To Assassinate Monarch During VJ Day Events: Report,” International Business Times, August 9, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-bomb-queen-islamic-state-extremists-plan-assassinate-monarch-during-vj-day-2045482.
- August 14, 2015: U.S. officials confirm suspicions that ISIS used a mustard agent on its enemies in Syria.Barbara Starr, Jim Sciutto and Elise Labott, “U.S. confirms ISIS used mustard agent,” CNN, August 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/14/politics/isis-mustard-agent/index.html.
- August 18, 2015: ISIS militants publically execute the archeologist of Syria’s ancient city Palmyra.Ben Hubbard, “Syrian Expert Who Shielded Palmyra Antiquities Meets a Grisly Death at ISIS’ Hands,” New York Times, August 19, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/world/middleeast/isis-palmyra-syria-antiquities-scholar-beheaded.html?_r=1.
- August 21, 2015: ISIS fighters use chemical weapons during a battle near Aleppo, Syria, according to an August 23 finding by the Wall Street Journal.Raja Abdulrahim, “Islamic State Accused of New Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria,” Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-accused-of-using-chemical-weapons-in-syria-1440353562.
- August 25, 2015: ISIS releases a video showing its members destroying the Baalshamin temple in Palmyra, Syria.“ISIS destroys Palmyra temple, continues Syrian assault,” CNN, August 25, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/08/25/isis-destroying-palmyra-relics-syria-wedeman-pkg-nr.cnn/video/playlists/isis-destroys-antiquities/. Satellite imagery confirms the destruction.Flora Drury, “2,000 years of history wiped off the face of the Earth: Satellite images prove ISIS extremists have flattened ancient Syrian temple in Palmyra amid fears the rest of the city will follow,” Daily Mail (London), August 29, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3215148/Satellite-images-confirm-ISIS-extremists-destroyed-2-000-year-old-Syrian-temple-Baal-Shamin-amid-fears-raze-Palmyra-s-treasures-ground.html.
- August 30, 2015: ISIS fighters severely damage the Temple of Baal, another major religious shrine in Palmyra.Kenneth Rosen, “ISIS Damages Temple of Baal in Palmyra,” New York Times, August 30, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/31/world/middleeast/isis-damages-a-temple-in-palmyra.html?_r=0. By August 31, the United Nations confirms that the Temple of Baal has been destroyed.Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “Palmyra Temple Was Destroyed by ISIS, U.N. Confirms,” New York Times, August 31, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/world/middleeast/isis-militants-severely-damage-temple-of-baal-in-palmyra.html.
- September 1, 2015: The U.N. confirms that ISIS militants have destroyed the ancient Temple of Baal in Palmyra, Syria.Anna Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “Palmyra Temple Was Destroyed by ISIS, U.N. Confirms,” New York Times, August 31, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/world/middleeast/isis-militants-severely-damage-temple-of-baal-in-palmyra.html?_r=0.
- September 1, 2015: ISIS releases a video depicting the burning alive of four Iraqi men accused of working with Shiite militias.Laurie Hanna, “ISIS burns 4 Iraqi men to death after accusing them of being spies,” New York Daily News, September 1, 2015, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/islamic-state-burn-men-death-latest-video-nasty-article-1.2344059.
- September 15, 2015: Two car bomb attacks kill more than 20 and injure more than 100 others in Syria’s northeastern Kurdish city of Hasakah. The local Kurdish forces blame the attack on ISIS.“Dozens killed in ISIS-led terrorist attacks in Syria’s Hasakah,” ARA News, September 15, 2015, http://aranews.net/2015/09/dozens-killed-in-isis-led-terrorist-attacks-in-syrias-hasakah/.
- September 15, 2015: Danish teenager Lisa Borch receives nine years in prison for stabbing her mother to death after becoming radicalized by watching ISIS beheading videos online.“Blonde Danish teenager, 15, murdered her mother with a kitchen knife after watching ISIS videos of the beheading of British hostages online,” Daily Mail (London), September 15, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3235062/Blonde-Danish-teenager-15-murdered-mother-kitchen-knife-watching-ISIS-videos-beheading-British-hostages-online.html.
- September 16, 2015 – September 17, 2015: ISIS releases five videos amid the refugee crisis in Europe, urging the Syrian and other refugees to leave Europe and travel to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.Aaron Y. Zelin, “New video message from The Islamic State: “A Message To the Refugees of the Abode of Infidelity – Wilāyat Ḥaḍramawt”,” Jihadology.net, September 16, 2015; Aaron Y. Zelin, “New video message from The Islamic State: “Muslim Asylum Seekers to the Abode of the Disbelievers – Wilāyat Ḥimṣ”,” Jihadology.net, September 17, 2015, http://jihadology.net/2015/09/17/new-video-message-from-the-islamic-state-muslim-asylum-seekers-to-the-abode-of-the-disbelievers-wilayat-%E1%B8%A5im%E1%B9%A3/; Aaron Y. Zelin, “New video message from The Islamic State: “To [Those That] Abandoned the [Refugee] Camps – Wilāyat al-Khayr”,” Jihadology.net, September 16, 2015, http://jihadology.net/2015/09/16/new-video-message-from-the-islamic-state-to-those-that-abandoned-the-refugee-camps-wilayat-al-khayr/; Aaron Y. Zelin, “New video message from The Islamic State: “Warning To the Refugees From the Deceptions of the Crusaders – Wilāyat al-Janūb”,” Jihadology.net, September 16, 2015, http://jihadology.net/2015/09/16/new-video-message-from-the-islamic-state-warning-to-the-refugees-from-the-deceptions-of-the-crusaders-wilayat-al-janub/.
- September 15, 2015: Two car bomb attacks kill more than 20 and injure more than 100 others in Syria’s northeastern Kurdish city of Hasakah. The local Kurdish forces blame the attack on ISIS.“Dozens killed in ISIS-led terrorist attacks in Syria’s Hasakah,” ARA News, September 15, 2015, http://aranews.net/2015/09/dozens-killed-in-isis-led-terrorist-attacks-in-syrias-hasakah/.
- November 13, 2015: Eight assailants carry out multiple simultaneous attacks in Paris, killing 130 and seriously injuring more than 350. French President Francois Hollande labels the attacks an “act of war” and orders a national state of emergency. ISIS claims responsibility.“Paris attacks: What happened on the night,” BBC News, accessed December 9, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34818994.
- November 18, 2015: ISIS releases a propaganda video threatening New York City in the wake of the Paris attacks. A voice in the video says, “…What’s coming next will be far worse and more bitter.”Shawn Cohen, Isabel Vincent and Tina Moore, “ISIS threatens NYC in new propaganda video,” New York Post, November 18, 2015, http://nypost.com/2015/11/18/isis-threatens-nyc-in-new-propaganda-video/.
- December 2, 2015: Two shooters kill 14 at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. The perpetrators, a husband and wife named Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, are shot dead.
The shooters were reportedly ISIS sympathizers. Malik pledged allegiance to ISIS via Facebook while carrying out the attack. Farook’s later father told an Italian newspaper: “[Farook] said he shared the ideology of (ISIS leader Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi to create an Islamic state….” The shooting represents the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.“San Bernardino shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook during shooting,” Fox 59, December 4, 2015, http://fox59.com/2015/12/04/san-bernardino-shooter-pledged-allegiance-to-isis-in-facebook-post-as-shooting-was-happening/; Faith Karimi, Catherine E. Schoichet, and Dana Ford, “San Bernardino shooters were radicalized 'for quite some time,' FBI says,” CNN, December 7, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/07/us/san-bernardino-shooting/;“San Bernardino shooting updates,” Los Angeles Times, December 9, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-san-bernardino-shooting-live-updates-htmlstory.html.
- December 3, 2015: ISIS releases a video purporting to depict the beheading of a Russian spy. The executioner addresses Russians, saying, “You will not find peace in your homes. We will kill your sons ... for each son you killed here. And we will destroy your homes for each home you destroyed here.”Greg Botelho, “ISIS video claims beheading of Russian spy, threatens Russian people,” CNN, December 3, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/middleeast/isis-russian-beheading-claim/index.html?eref=rss_latest.
- January 5, 2016: ISIS releases a video in which a British-accented man, believed to be Abu Rumaysah, threatens the United Kingdom.Dana Ford, “Reports identify British-sounding militant in new ISIS video,” CNN, January 5, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/05/middleeast/isis-propaganda-video-british-militant/.
- Early January 2016: ISIS launches counterattacks on Iraqi soldiers in Ramadi.Pat St. Claire, “ISIS suicide bombers attack Iraqi forces at base near Ramadi,” CNN, January 3, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/02/middleeast/iraq-ramadi-isis-suicide-attack-on-army-base/.
- March 22, 2016: ISIS operatives carry out three bombings in Brussels, Belgium, in the worst attack in that country’s history. At 8 a.m., two bombs explode at the airport in Zaventem. At 9 a.m., one bomb detonates at the Maalbeek metro station. The attacks kill 32 and wound 270.Agence France-Presse, “Brussels airport delays reopening, as attacks toll lowered to 32,” Yahoo News, March 30, 2016, https://www.yahoo.com/news/belgium-resumes-hunt-airport-suspect-criticism-mounts-004723635.html?ref=gs; Patrick Sawer and David Chazan, “British victim of Brussels attacks confirmed dead as slow identification of bodies continues,” Telegraph (London), March 25, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/25/brussels-attacks-british-it-expert-david-dixon-confirmed-dead/; Alissa J. Rubin, Aurelien Breeden, and Anita Raghavan, “Strikes Claimed by ISIS Shut Brussels and Shake European Security,” New York Times, March 22, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/23/world/europe/brussels-airport-explosions.html.
- April 2016: ISIS executes at least 250 women for refusing to enter into temporary marriages with ISIS militants. Vishakha Sonawane, “ISIS Executes At Least 250 Women For Refusing ‘Temporary Marriage’ In Iraq’s Mosul,” International Business Times, April 24, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-executes-least-250-women-refusing-temporary-marriage-iraqs-mosul-2357113.
- April 7, 2016: ISIS militants kidnap over 300 cement workers from a cement plant near Damascus, Syria.Greg Botelho and Mohammed Tawfeeq, “ISIS captures hundreds of Syrian cement factory workers, report says,” CNN, April 7, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/07/middleeast/syria-war/.
- June 5, 2016: ISIS’s Amaq News Agency claims the killing of a Christian in Northwestern Bangladesh and a Buddhist monk in the country’s southeast.“'Amaq Reports IS Fighters Killing Christian in Bonpara in Northwestern Bangladesh, Buddhist in Southeast,” SITE Intelligence, June 5, 2016, https://news.siteintelgroup.com/Jihadist-News/amaq-reports-is-fighters-killing-christian-in-bonpara-in-northwestern-bangladesh-buddhist-in-southeast.html.
- June 7, 2016: ISIS claims responsibility for its first car bombing in the largely Shiite city of Karbala, Iraq. The attack kills 10 and wounds 25.Ghassan Adnan and Asa Fitch, “Islamic State Claims Deadly Car Bombing in Iraq,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-claims-deadly-car-bombing-in-iraq-1465320253?mod=e2tw.
- June 8, 2016: Two Palestinian terrorists, allegedly inspired by ISIS, kill four Israeli civilians and wound 15 at a food mall in Tel Aviv.Yaniv Kubovich, Ido Efrati and Barak Ravid, “Four Killed, Six Wounded in Shooting Attack at Tel Aviv Shopping Center,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), June 8, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.723941; William Booth, “Israel says Tel Aviv attackers were ‘inspired’ by ISIS — and planned to dip knives in rat poison,” Washington Post, July 4, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/04/israel-says-tel-aviv-attackers-were-inspired-by-isis-and-dipped-their-knives-in-rat-poison/.
- June 12, 2016: In the deadliest mass shooting on American soil, U.S. citizen Omar Mateen murders 49 and wounds 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. While carrying out the attack, Mateen calls 911 and pledges allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.“Orlando gay nightclub shooting: 50 killed, suspect is Omar Mateen,” BBC News, June 12, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36512308; Kevin Sullivan, Ellen Nakashima, Matt Zapotosky and Mark Berman, “Orlando shooter posted messages on Facebook pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS and vowing more attacks,” Washington Post, June 15, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/investigation-into-orlando-shooting-continues-no-impending-charges-expected/2016/06/15/c3eccf5e-3333-11e6-8758-d58e76e11b12_story.html. Later on June 12, ISIS claims responsibility for the shooting, writing on its Amaq news agency Telegram channel that “an Islamic State fighter” had “targeted a nightclub for homosexuals….”Jared Malsin, “What We Know About ISIS’s Role in the Orlando Shooting,” TIME, June 12, 2016, http://time.com/4365507/orlando-shooting-isis-claims-responsibility-terror/. On June 13, ISIS releases another claim of responsibility on its official Al Bayan radio station, referring to Mateen as “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.”“IS Calls Orlando Nightclub Shooter "One of the Soldiers of the Caliphate in America,” SITE Intelligence, June 13, 2016, https://news.siteintelgroup.com/Jihadist-News/is-calls-orlando-nightclub-shooter-one-of-the-soldiers-of-the-caliphate-in-america.html; Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Claims Responsibility for Orlando Attack in Radio Statement,” New York Times, June 13, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/live/orlando-nightclub-shooting-live-updates/isis-radio-station/.
- June 13, 2016: Larossi Abballa stabs to death two married French police officers, and pledges allegiance to ISIS directly after the attack.Nancy Ing and Cassandra Vinograd, “Magnanville Attacker Was Convicted Jihadi Larossi Abballa: Source,” NBC News, June 14, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/magnanville-attacker-was-convicted-jihadi-larossi-abballa-source-n591756. ISIS officially claims responsibility.Alissa J. Rubin, “ISIS Claims Responsibility for Killing of French Police Officer,” New York Times, June 13, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/world/europe/france-stabbing-police-officer-magnanville.html.
- June 28, 2016: Three suicide bombers attack Turkey’s Ataturk international airport, killing 45 and wounding more than 230. Turkish authorities allege ISIS leadership was involved in planning the attack.Associated Press, “Istanbul Airport Attack Death Toll Rises to 45, Dozens Still Hospitalized,” NBC News, July 2, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/istanbul-ataturk-airport-attack/istanbul-airport-attack-death-toll-rises-45-dozens-still-hospitalized-n602946; Faith Karimi, Steve Almasy and Gul Tuysuz, “ISIS leadership involved in Istanbul attack planning, Turkish source says,” CNN, June 30, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/europe/turkey-istanbul-ataturk-airport-attack/. On the same day, ISIS militants carry out the group’s first successful attack in Malaysia, launching a grenade at a nightclub in Kuala Lumpur. The attack wounds eight.Marc Lourdes, “Islamic State launches first successful attack in Malaysia,” CNN, July 4, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/04/homepage2/islamic-state-attack-malaysia/.
- July 1, 2016: ISIS operatives kill 20 people in a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after taking them hostage.Andrew Marszal and Chris Graham, “20 hostages killed in 'Isil' attack on Dhaka restaurant popular with foreigners,” Telegraph (London), July 2, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/01/gunmen-attack-restaurant-in-diplomatic-quarter-of-bangladeshi-ca/.
- July 3, 2016: ISIS militants detonate a minivan packed with explosive in central Baghdad, killing at least 292 and wounding 200 others.Falih Hassan, Tim Arango and Omar al-Jawoshy, “Bombing Kill More Than 140 in Baghdad,” New York Times, July 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/04/world/middleeast/baghdad-bombings.html; Tim Hume, “Death toll from devastating ISIS truck bomb in Baghdad rises to nearly 300,” CNN, July 7, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/07/middleeast/iraq-baghdad-bomb-toll-rises/index.html.
- July 14, 2016: A Tunisian-French citizen named Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drives a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. The attack kills 84 people and wounds over 300. ISIS claims responsibility two days later.Alissa J. Rubin and Aurelien Breeden, “ISIS Claims Truck Attacker in France Was Its ‘Soldier,’” New York Times, July 16, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/17/world/europe/isis-nice-france-attack.html.
- July 18, 2016 – July 24, 2016: ISIS claims responsibility for two attacks in Germany. In the first, on July 18, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee armed with a knife and ax injures four people—all of them from Hong Kong—on a train traveling from Treuchlingen to Wurzburg.“Germany axe attack: Assault on train in Wuerzburg injures HK family,” BBC News, July 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36827725. In the second, on July 24, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee carried out a suicide bombing, injuring 12 people, outside of a music festival in Ansbach.Niraj Chokshi, “Syrian Refugee Blows Himself Up at German Music Festival, Wounding 12,” New York Times, July 24, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/25/world/europe/ansbach-germany-explosion-music-festival.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.
- July 26, 2016: ISIS operatives slit the throat of a priest in a church in Normandy, France.Kim Willsher, “France in shock again after Isis murder of priest in Normandy,” Guardian (London), July 26, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/france-shock-second-isis-attack-12-days.
- July 27, 2016: A bombing carried out by ISIS militants kills 44 in the Syrian Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli.“Syria: Deadly IS blast rocks Kurdish city of Qamishli,” BBC News, July 27, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36902604.
- July 31, 2016: ISIS operatives raid the Bai Hassan oil field near Kirkuk, Iraq, and take four employees hostage. The militants are killed by security personnel.Schams Elwazer, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tim Hume, “Militants killed, hostages freed after ISIS attack on oil field near Kirkuk, Iraq,” CNN, July 31, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/31/middleeast/iraq-isis-oil-field-attack/.
Designations by the U.S. Government:
|October 15, 2004 : The State Department designates Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Specially Designated Global Terrorists and Blocks all property in U.S. or under possession of control of U.S. persons; bans any property-related transactions by U.S. persons or within U.S., including giving or receiving contributions to the entity.“Individuals and Entities Designated by the State Department Under E.O. 13224,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/143210.htm.||December 17, 2004: The State Department designates Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant a Foreign Terrorist Organization and freezes of assets in U.S. financial institutions, bans admission of members to U.S., and bans providing “material support or resources” to entity.“Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm.|
|October 4, 2011: The State Department designates Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, AKA Abu Du’a [AKA Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and blocks all property in U.S. or under possession of control of U.S. persons and bans any property-related transactions by U.S. persons or within U.S., including giving or receiving contributions to the entity.“Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri,” U.S. Department of State, October 4, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/10/174971.htm.||December 11, 2012: The State Department designates the Nusra Front Specially Designated Global Terrorists and Blocks all property in U.S. or under possession of control of U.S. persons; bans any property-related transactions by U.S. persons or within U.S., including giving or receiving contributions to the entity.“Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qa'ida in Iraq,” U.S. Department of State, December 11, 2012, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/12/201759.htm.|
|May 14, 2014: The State Department designates The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), ad-Dawla al-Islamiyya fi al-‘Iraq wa-sh-Sham, Daesh, Dawla al Islamiya, and Al-Furqan Establishment for Media Production (as aliases for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) Specially Designated Global Terrorists.“Terrorist Designations of Groups Operating in Syria,” U.S. Department of State, May 14, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/05/226067.htm.||May 14, 2014: The Department of the Treasury designates Abd Al-Rahman Muhammad Zafir Al-Dubaysi Al-Juhni (Al-Juhni) and 'Abd Al-Rahman Mustafa Al-Qaduli (Al-Qaduli) Specially Designated Global Terrorists.“Treasury Designates Al-Qa’ida Leaders In Syria,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 14, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2396.aspx.|
|August 6, 2014: The Department of the Treasury designates ‘Abd al-Rahman Khalaf ‘Ubayd Juday’ al-‘Anizi a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.“Treasury Designates Three Key Supporters of Terrorists in Syria and Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 6, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2605.aspx.||August 18, 2014: The State Department designates Abu Mohammed al-Adnani a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.“Terrorist Designation of Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,” U.S. Department of State, August 18, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230676.htm.|
|January 14, 2016: The State Department designates ISIL-Khorasan (ISIL-K)—ISIS’s affiliate in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region—as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.“Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation of ISIL – Khorasan (ISIL-K),” U.S. Department of State, January 14, 2016, http://m.state.gov/md251237.htm.||May 19, 2016: The State Department designates ISIS’s Libya branch as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The State Department simultaneously designates ISIS’s Libya branch—alongside ISIS’s Yemen and Saudi Arabia branches—as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order 13224.“Terrorist Designations of ISIL-Yemen, ISIL-Saudi Arabia, and ISIL-Libya,” U.S. Department of State, May 19, 2016, http://m.state.gov/md257388.htm.|
Designations by Foreign Governments and Organizations:
|Australia—listed ISIS as a terrorist organization on March 2, 2005“Islamic State,” Australian National Security, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/IslamicState.aspx.||Canada—listed ISIS as a terrorist organization on August 20, 2012“Currently listed entities,” Public Safety Canada, http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx.|
|Indonesia—listed ISIS as a terrorist organization on August 2, 2014“BNPT Declares ISIS a Terrorist Organization,” TEMPO.co, August 2, 2014, http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2014/08/02/055596766/BNPT-Declares-ISIS-a-Terrorist-Organization.||Saudi Arabia—listed ISIS as a terrorist organization on March 7, 2014“Saudi Arabia designates Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group,” Reuters, March 7, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/07/us-saudi-security-idUSBREA260SM20140307.|
|Israel—Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, Djamel Moustafa, Ismail Abdallah, and Mubarak Mushakhas Sanad Mubarak al-Bathali declared Individual under Article 2 of the Prohibition of Financing Terrorism on January 18, 2004“רורט יליעפכ וזרכוהש םידיחיהו םינוגראה תומישר - םיחפסנ,” Prime Minister’s Office, http://www.pmo.gov.il/Secretary/GovDecisions/2013/Documents/des124B.doc.||Israel—Hamid Abdallah Ahmad al-Ali and Aschraf al-Dagma declared Individual under Article 2 of the Prohibition of Financing Terrorism on October 18, 2004“רורט יליעפכ וזרכוהש םידיחיהו םינוגראה תומישר - םיחפסנ,” Prime Minister’s Office, http://www.pmo.gov.il/Secretary/GovDecisions/2013/Documents/des124B.doc.|
|Israel—listed ISIS as an unauthorized organization on September 3, 2014Gili Cohen, “Israel prepares for possibility of local Islamic State cells,” Haaretz, September 3, 2014, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.613958.|
|United Kingdom—listed Al-Qaida in Iraq as an Asset Freeze Target on October 18, 2004“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.||United Kingdom—listed Muthanna Harith al-Dari as an Asset Freeze Target on April 7, 2010“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.|
|United Kingdom—listed Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai as an Asset Freeze Target on October 17, 2011“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.||United Kingdom—listed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as an Proscribed Terrorist Organization on June, 2014“Proscribed terror groups or organisations – Publications,” GOV.UK, last modified June 27, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/proscribed-terror-groups-or-organisations--2.|
|United Kingdom—listed Abou Mohamed al Adnani and Hamid al-‘Ali as Asset Freeze Targets on August 15, 2014“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.|
|United Nations—Al-Qaida in Iraq Listed under category “Entities and other groups and undertakings associated with Al Qaida” on October 18, 2004“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified August 26, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/aq_sanctions_list.shtml.||United Nations—Muthanna Harith al-Dari listed as individual associated with Al Qaida on March 25, 2010“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified August 26, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/aq_sanctions_list.shtml.|
|United Nations—Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai listed as individual associated with Al Qaida on October 5, 2011“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified August 26, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/aq_sanctions_list.shtml.||United Nations—Abou Mohamed al Adnani and Abou Mohamed al Adnani listed as individuals associated with Al Qaida on August 15, 2014“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified August 26, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/aq_sanctions_list.shtml.|
Ties to Extremist Entities:
ISIS was originally an al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. Under al-Qaeda’s auspices from October 2004Ty McCormick, “Al Qaeda Core: A Short History,” Foreign Policy, March 17, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/17/al_qaeda_core_a_short_history; “Terrorist Organization Profile: al-Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers,” START: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, accessed March 16, 2015, http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=4416; “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant / al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI): ISIL – Early History,” GlobalSecurity.org, accessed March 16, 2015, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/aqi-2.htm. until February 2014, ISIS was responsible for a score of terrorist bombings that resulted in the death of thousands. In February 2014, the two groups split over a leadership dispute when ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, refused to obey al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda’s General Command Disowns the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham,” Long War Journal, February 3, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/02/al_qaedas_general_co.php. Al-Zawahri cut ties with ISIS due to the group’s repeated attempts to subsume al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, under its command.Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda’s General Command Disowns the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham,” Long War Journal, February 3, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/02/al_qaedas_general_co.php. Despite losing its formal alliance with al-Qaeda, ISIS has the same ideology and goals and uses the same brutal tactics as its former parent organization.
|Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
AQIM has a controversial relationship with ISIS in light of the rift between ISIS and al-Qaeda. AQIM leaders have expressed support for the group despite the break and AQIM’s official allegiance to al-Zawahiri. On July 1, 2014, AQIM posted an official message of congratulations to ISIS in light of the group’s military gains.Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb calls for reconciliation between jihadist groups,” Long War Journal, July 2, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/07/al_qaeda_in_the_isla.php. In the statement, however, AQIM tempered its congratulations with calls for reconciliation between ISIS and al-Qaeda as well as its affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front. The statement also explicitly defers to al-Zawahiri, calling him “Our Sheikh and Emir.”Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb calls for reconciliation between jihadist groups,” Long War Journal, July 2, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/07/al_qaeda_in_the_isla.php. Two weeks later, AQIM posted a statement officially rejecting ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate. In the statement, AQIM refused to swear allegiance to ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Thomas Joscelyn, “AQIM Rejects Islamic State’s Caliphate, Reaffirms Allegiance to Zawahiri,” Long War Journal, July 14, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/07/aqim_rejects_islamic.php. Some analysts have pointed to these two contradictory statements as evidence of internal rifts emerging within AQIM’s leadership over ISIS’s controversial declaration of caliphate.“Al-Qaeda Group Divided on Islamic State,” Al Monitor, July 21, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/07/separate-statements-highlight-possible-rift-in-aqim.html; “ISIS Divides Maghreb al-Qaeda (AQIM),” African Armed Forces, August 19, 2014, http://www.aafonline.co.za/news/isis-divides-maghreb-al-qaeda-aqim. In September 2014, AQIM and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a joint statement calling on ISIS to reconcile with al-Qaeda.Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda Branches Urge Jihadist Unity Against US,” Long War Journal, September 16, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/09/al_qaeda_branches_ur.php. Also in September, AQIM members are reported to have splintered from the group to pledge allegiance to ISIS under a new name, “the Caliphate Soldiers in Algeria.”Lamine Chikhi, “Splinter group breaks from al Qaeda in North Africa,” Reuters, September 15, 2014, http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/09/14/algeria-security-idINL6N0RF0F020140914. However, in May 2015, Algerian forces ambushed Caliphate soldiers, killing 25 men, including the group’s leader.“Al-Qaeda claims 2 Algerian attacks,” Daily Star (London), June 7, 2015, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Jun-07/300970-al-qaeda-claims-2-algerian-attacks.ashx.
In Nigeria, AQIM has a strong collaborative relationship with Boko Haram, ISIS’s purported wilayat (governorate) in West Africa as of March 2015.Hamdi Alkhshali and Steve Almasy, “ISIS leader purportedly accepts Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance,” CNN, March 12, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/12/middleeast/isis-boko-haram/. AQIM has reportedly assisted Boko Haram by providing training, resource-sharing and allegedly direct payments to execute crimes on AQIM’s behalf such as kidnap-ransom incidents in Nigeria. Some analysts believe that through Boko Haram, ISIS will build further ties with AQIM.Oliver Guitta, “How ISIS Ate Al Qaeda,” Daily Beast, March 12, 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/12/how-isis-ate-al-qaeda.html.
|Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
In August 2014, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced its support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria via Twitter,“Yemen’s AQAP calls on Islamists to Target America After Iraq Air Strikes,” Reuters, August 14, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/14/us-iraq-security-yemen-idUSKBN0GE2DC20140814. and made operative recommendations to ISIS in a statement published on its website.“Yemen’s AQAP calls on Islamists to Target America After Iraq Air Strikes,” Reuters, August 14, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/14/us-iraq-security-yemen-idUSKBN0GE2DC20140814. In November 2014, AQAP chief cleric Harith al-Nadhari accused ISIS of “planting… disunity” among Islamic factions fighting in Syria.Mike Brunker, “War of Words Between al-Qaeda and ISIS Continues with Scholar’s Smackdown, “ NBC News, November 21, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/war-words-between-al-qaeda-isis-continues-scholars-smackdown-n253676. In an official AQAP statement, al-Nadhari criticized ISIS of “extending the caliphate to a number of countries in which [it has] no power.” Al-Nadhari’s criticism came one week after a November 13th declaration by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which Baghdadi claimed the ‘caliphate’ to have spread to Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and Qatar.Zachary Roth and Jane C. Timm, “Admin: Strikes on Khorasan Group Aimed to Avert Imminent Threat,” MSNBC, September 23, 2014, http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/us-arab-partners-airstrikes-syria-isis.
|Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL)
After al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) rejected ISIS in favor of a continued allegiance to al-Qaeda, ISIS looked to ASL as a possible partner in North Africa. Throughout 2014, the two groups seemed to have had some cooperation. For example, the June 2015 Tunisia gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui, was reported to have trained in both ASL and ISIS camps in Libya, indicating some crossover between the two groups.Kim Sengupta, “Tunisia Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui Laid Bare: The Terrorist behind the Facebook Posts about Music and Real Madrid,” Sunday Independent (Dublin), July 1, 2015, http://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/tunisia-gunman-seifeddine-rezgui-laid-bare-the-terrorist-behind-the-facebook-posts-about-music-and-real-madrid-31343711.html. Additionally, it was reported that ISIS and ASL worked together in February 2015 to round up 35 Egyptian Coptic Christians living in Libya.Gianluca Mezzofiore, “Libya: More Egyptians ‘kidnapped by IS or Ansar Al-Sharia’ after Egypt Airstrikes,” International Business Times, February 16, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/libya-more-egyptians-kidnapped-by-ansar-al-sharia-after-egypt-airstrikes-1488216. These links led some analysts to speculate in spring 2015 that a pledge of allegiance from ASL to ISIS was imminent.Thomas Joscelyn, “Spiritual Leader of Libya’s Biggest Jihadi Group Pledges Allegiance to ISIS,” Newsweek, April 8, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/top-judge-libyas-biggest-jihadi-group-pledges-allegiance-isis-320408.
In July 2014, jihadist militants associated with ISIS began posting statements on social media sites and jihadist forums hoping to push ASL to pledge allegiance to ISIS.Mawassi Lahcen, “Libya: ISIS Woos Ansar Al-Sharia in Libya,” AllAfrica, July 31, 2014, http://allafrica.com/stories/201408010598.html. That summer, the leader of ASL’s Derna’s branch, Abu Sufyan Bin Qumu, became the first of ASL’s leadership to break from ASL and pledge allegiance to ISIS.Aya Elbrqawi, “Derna Cries for Help,” AllAfrica, December 1, 2014, http://allafrica.com/stories/201412020345.html. Similarly, in March 2015, ASL’s senior sharia official Abu Abdullah al-Libi pledged allegiance to ISIS and subsequently split from ASL, taking a group of fighters with him.Thomas Joscelyn, “Ansar Al Sharia Libya Relaunches Social Media Sites,” Long War Journal, April 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/04/ansar-al-sharia-libya-relaunches-social-media-sites.php.
ISIS’s growing popularity in Libya began to pose a major threat to ASL, and the mounting defections, along with ISIS seizure of the previously ASL-held cities of Sirte and Derna, gradually increased tensions between the two groups.Laura Dean, “How Strong Is the Islamic State in Libya?,” USA Today, February 20, 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/02/20/islamic-state-libya/23728623/; Thomas Joscelyn, “Ansar Al Sharia Libya Relaunches Social Media Sites,” Long War Journal, April 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/04/ansar-al-sharia-libya-relaunches-social-media-sites.php. Derna, previously one of ASL’s strongholds, was seized by ISIS affiliated militants in October 2014, pushing the Derna Mujhadeen Shura Council (MSC), a coalition of Islamists groups of which ASL is a part, to the outskirts of the city.Associated Press, “Al-Qaida-linked Militants Attack IS Affiliate in Libya,” Yahoo News, June 10, 2015, https://news.yahoo.com/al-qaida-militants-clash-libya-leader-killed-090144601.html.
In June 2015, ISIS, looking to cement their control of Derna and eliminate competing Islamist groups in the area, assassinated a senior member of MSC leadership. ASL and the MSC fought back, killing dozens of ISIS militantsAgence France-Presse, “Dozens Killed in Attack on ISIS in Libya’s Derna,” Al-Arabiya, June 21, 2015, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/06/21/Dozens-killed-in-attack-on-ISIS-in-Libya-.html. and pushing the group “30 or 50 kilometers to the east” of Derna.Paton, Callum, “Isis in Libya: Islamic State Driven out of Derna Stronghold by Al-Qaeda-linked Militia,” International Business Times, June 15, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-libya-islamic-state-driven-out-derna-stronghold-by-al-qaeda-linked-militia-1506241. Fighting between the two groups has not spread to elsewhere in Libya.
|Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST)
AST has an ambiguous relationship with ISIS. While much of AST’s leadership has declared support for the group, AST has not formally pledged allegiance to ISIS. AST is nonetheless heavily involved in exporting militants from Tunisia to fight in Syria, many with ISIS. In February 2014, it was estimated that more than 5,000 Tunisians had traveled to Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad’s government,Bill Roggio, “Ansar Al Sharia Tunisia Deputy Leader Reportedly in Syria,” Long War Journal, February 27, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/02/ansar_al_sharia_tuni_7.php. an estimated 80% or more of whom join ISIS.Kevin Sullivan. “Tunisia, after Igniting Arab Spring, Sends the Most Fighters to Islamic State in Syria,” Washington Post, October 28, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/tunisia-after-igniting-arab-spring-sends-the-most-fighters-to-islamic-state-in-syria/2014/10/28/b5db4faa-5971-11e4-8264-deed989ae9a2_story.html. A year later, the International Business Times reported that Seifallah Ben Hassine, the leader of AST, was running a “joint AST-ISIS operation in Tunisia” and had become “one of the main jihadi recruiters in the country.”Alessandria Masi, “Islamic State 'Caliphate' In Libya Depends On Tunisian Foreign Fighters And Desert Training Camps,” International Business Times, February 21, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/islamic-state-caliphate-libya-depends-tunisian-foreign-fighters-desert-training-camps-1822318. While it’s unknown how many militants AST has trafficked to ISIS, Tunisians have featured heavily in ISIS propaganda, and both AST and ISIS have regularly eulogized Tunisian fighters and suicide bombers killed in Syria.Bill Roggio, “Ansar Al Sharia Tunisia Deputy Leader Reportedly in Syria,” Long War Journal, February 27, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/02/ansar_al_sharia_tuni_7.php.
In 2014, a group of AST’s senior leadership pledged allegiance to ISIS. First, in February 2014, AST deputy leader Kamel Zarrouk traveled to Syria and joined ISIS. AllAfrica reported that, “Zarrouk is known in his [Tunisian] neighborhood as someone who encouraged young people to go for jihad in Syria, which he considers to be the springboard for establishing an Islamic state from the Gulf to the ocean.”Yasm Najjar, “North Africa: Maghreb to Tighten Noose On Syria-Bound Jihadists,” AllAfrica, February 26, 2014, http://allafrica.com/stories/201402270971.html. In July 2014, while speaking at a mosque in Kairouan, Tunisia, AST spokesman Seifeddine Rais swore loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Jemal Arfaoui, “Tunisia: Ansar Al-Sharia Spokesman Backs Isis,” AllAfrica, May 14, 2013, http://allafrica.com/stories/201407090299.html. The same month, Al-Monitor reported that a number of AST leaders had gone to Syria and pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.Abdallah Suleiman Ali, “Global Jihadists Recognize Islamic State,” Al-Monitor, July 3, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/07/syria-iraq-isis-islamic-caliphate-global-recognition.html#. However, none of these pledges represented an official pledge of allegiance from AST to ISIS.
In the past, AST has more overtly endorsed its relationship with ISIS both through AST’s social media postings and official communications. On April 9, 2013, AST posted a photo of ISIS militants on its website with a banner that read, “O lions of god in all the earth Call out Allah Akbar, for victory and conquest is ours. Rejoice, for the glorious caliphate is near. Our [sharia] will reign over every corner [or inch of land].”Thomas Joscelyn, “Social Media Jihad: Cheerleading Al Qaeda’s New ‘Islamic State,’” Long War Journal, April 9, 2013, http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2013/04/social_media_jihad_cheerleadin.php.
In March 2015, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS in an audio message.Nima Elbagir, Paul Cruickshank and Mohammed Tawfeeq, “Boko Haram purportedly pledges allegiance to ISIS,” CNN, March 9, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/07/africa/nigeria-boko-haram-isis/index.html. In an audio message released the week after, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly accepted his pledge.Hamdi Alkhshali and Steve Almasy, “ISIS leader purportedly accepts Boko Haram's pledge of allegiance,” CNN, March 12, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/12/middleeast/isis-boko-haram/.
|The Nusra Front
The Nusra Front was allegedly formed as an extension of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI, now ISIS), and received a monthly salary from AQI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The relationship between the groups deteriorated in April 2013, when al-Baghdadi unilaterally announced a merger between the two groups. The two have since engaged in violent clashes, vying for control over rebel-held territory. Nonetheless, they have continued to cooperate on certain military campaigns against the Assad regime.“UK bans Syria's Al-Qaida-Linked Nusra Front,” Associated Press, July 19, 2013, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/uk-bans-syrias-al-qaida-linked-nusra-front; “Proscribed Terrorist Organisations,” Britain’s Home Office, last modified January 23, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/380939/ProscribedOrganisations.pdf.
In mid-2016, the Taliban and ISIS militants in eastern Afghanistan reached a deal in which both groups agreed to prioritize fighting the government rather than each other.Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil, “Taliban, Islamic State Forge Informal Alliance in Eastern Afghanistan,” Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/taliban-islamic-state-forge-informal-alliance-in-eastern-afghanistan-1470611849. The agreement came after years of strain between the two organizations due to differing strategies and affiliations.“Taliban leader: allegiance to ISIS ‘haram’,” Rudaw, April 13, 2015, http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/130420151; Ankit Panda, “Why the Taliban Wants ISIS Out of Afghanistan,” Diplomat, June 18, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/why-the-taliban-wants-isis-out-of-afghanistan/.
Following al-Qaeda’s example, the Taliban have advised ISIS to “avoid extremism” that risks splintering the violent Islamist movement across the broader Middle East.Greg Pollowitz, “The Taliban Warns ISIS of Being Too Extreme,” National Review, July 13, 2014, http://www.nationalreview.com/feed/382615/taliban-warns-isis-being-too-extreme-greg-pollowitz. Though Taliban Emir Mullah Omar is believed to have died in April 2013,Associated Press, “Afghanistan says Taliban leader Mullah Omar died 2 years ago,” MSN, July 29, 2015, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/afghan-intelligence-agency-taliban-leader-mullah-omar-died-2-years-ago/ar-AAdEHfW. Taliban leadership issued a fatwa under his name in April 2015, in which they reaffirmed the Taliban’s priority of establishing a unified Islamist movement to expel the “far enemy” (Western powers). The fatwa referred to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a “fake caliph,” asserting, “Baghdadi just wanted to dominate what has so far been achieved by the real jihadists of Islam after three decades of jihad. A pledge of allegiance to him is ‘haram.’”“Taliban leader: allegiance to ISIS ‘haram,’” Rudaw, April 13, 2015, http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/130420151.
ISIS has also expanded its operations in Afghanistan. In early 2015, the group announced the creation of an ISIS satellite there known as Wilayat Khorasan, and hinted at its ambitions to challenge the Taliban in the region (comprising Pakistan and Afghanistan).“Islamic State moves in on al-Qaeda turf,” BBC News, June 25, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-31064300. As of January 2015, hundreds of Taliban members had joined Wilayat Khorasan. In April 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Jalalabad that marked its first serious attack in Afghanistan.Ankit Panda, “Why the Taliban Wants ISIS Out of Afghanistan,” Diplomat, June 18, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/why-the-taliban-wants-isis-out-of-afghanistan/.
As a result of ISIS’s encroachment on its traditional territory, the Taliban have become more direct in their opposition to the terrorist group. In June 2015, the Taliban’s late deputy leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour sent a missive to al-Baghdadi, warning ISIS’s caliph that “jihad against the Americans and their allies [in Afghanistan] must be conducted under one flag and one leadership.”Ankit Panda, “Why the Taliban Wants ISIS Out of Afghanistan,” Diplomat, June 18, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/why-the-taliban-wants-isis-out-of-afghanistan/. One year later, in mid-2016, the Taliban and local ISIS militants in eastern Afghanistan reached an ad hoc ceasefire, agreeing to focus on fighting U.S.-backed Afghan soldiers.Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil, “Taliban, Islamic State Forge Informal Alliance in Eastern Afghanistan,” Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/taliban-islamic-state-forge-informal-alliance-in-eastern-afghanistan-1470611849.