Daesh / Daash
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on 19 July 2019, reported that 10,000 to 15,000 ISIS fighters are believed to remain between Iraq and Syria. They "float back and forth between Iraq and Syria" - they consider it one front and so does the USA, he said. Between one half and two thirds of the more than 40,000 who joined the “caliphate” are still alive.
The period from July to September 2019 saw an acceleration of the reconstitution of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a covert network in the Syrian Arab Republic, mirroring what had happened in Iraq since 2017. Freed of the responsibility of defending territory, there was a notable increase in attacks in previously quiet areas held by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic around the country. The final fall of the geographical “caliphate” had precipitated significant human movement of ISIL fighters, supporters, dependants and other refugees and displaced persons.
Michael Knights and Alex Almeida wrote in May 2020 that “the Islamic State has recovered from its territorial defeats since 2017 to mount a strong and sustained resurgence as an insurgent force inside Iraq.” Their analysis of attack metrics from the past 18 months paints “a picture of an Islamic State insurgency that has regained its balance, spread out across many more areas, and reclaimed significant tactical proficiency.” The authors write that “now operating at the same levels it achieved in 2012, a number of factors suggest that the Islamic State could further ramp up its rural insurgency in 2020 and 2021. An input of experienced cadres from Syria, a downturn in Iraqi and coalition effectiveness, and now the disruption of a combined COVID and economic crisis will likely all feed into an escalating campaign of attrition against the Iraqi state, military, and tribes.”
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed 27 October 2019 in a US military operation in northwest Syria. Under al-Baghdadi's nominal command, ISIL became one of the most brutal armed groups in modern history and, at its peak, its self-declared caliphate covered territory across Iraq and Syria roughly equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom. Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at the Defence Studies Department of King's College London, said al-Baghdadi's death was "mostly of symbolic importance". He told Al Jazeera, "I've said for years that this organisation has become somewhat of a virtual caliphate; a franchise that other groups can buy into and basically sell around the world," describing ISIL as a "virtual community" that has been "leaderless".
Death left a void at the head of the death cult and anti-terrorist organizations have wondered who would take its place. It has since been reported that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi has taken over.
The person likely to be first in line to replace the slain Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had also been "terminated". The United States confirmed the killing of Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, ISIL spokesman and a high-ranking figure within the group. Much of ISIL's leadership has already been wiped out from Iraq and Syria. Many analysts have suggested that this is going to be a very different kind of succession that al-Baghdadi has probably envisioned.
The list of potential successors was short. Belonging to the Quraysh tribe is seen as a prerequisite for becoming a caliph. Many pointed to Abu Othman al-Tunsi, a Tunisian national who heads ISIL's Shura Council, a legislative and consultative body. Abu Saleh al-Juzrawi, known as Hajj Abdullah, may also take the lead. Al-Juzrawi is a Saudi national who runs ISIL's so-called Delegated Committee. These "possible options" would nonetheless be controversial, because neither is a Syrian or Iraqi national, who make up the bulk of ISIL's landless fighting force.
Speculation also centered on Abdullah Qardash - a former Iraqi military officer jailed with al-Baghdadi in the US-run Iraqi prison of Camp Bucca. A statement attributed to the ISIL propaganda arm Amaq but never officially adopted by the group that said Qardash had been selected as the leader of even before Trump declared al-Baghdadi dead. He was named number two in the terrorist group after the death of former chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Iraqi intelligence sources report that Qardash had been dead since 2017.
On 20 May 2020 Iraqi intelligence arrested Abdulnasser al-Qirdash, the ISIS leader said to be a favored candidate to succeed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to several Iraqi media outlets. “Today, the terrorist named Abdulnasser al-Qirdash, the candidate to succeed the criminal al-Baghdadi, was arrested. [The arrest] came after accurate intelligence,” the statement from the Iraqi National Intelligence Service read. They published a photo of a dark and skinny al-Qirdash, alone in a room in a checkered shirt, hands by his side. Qirdash is the highest ranking Islamic State officer to ever be taken into custody. The latest raid that led to the capture and arrest of al-Qirdash came a month after Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, became the country’s prime minister.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant confirmed 01 November 2019 the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announcing Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi as its new chief. Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, ISIL's new spokesman, made the announcement in an audio statement distributed by the group's media arm, al-Furqan, days after a weekend raid by US forces that resulted in al-Baghdadi's death. ISIL usually identifies its leaders using only by a kunya, or nom de guerre, that refer to their tribal affiliation and lineage. Those names often change. The new leader'e name indicates that he claims descent from the tribe of Prophet Muhammad. Belonging to the Quraysh tribe has been seen as a prerequisite for becoming a caliph - a brief biography of al-Baghdadi posted to online forums in 2014 had traced his lineage to the tribe.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] had imprisoned some 10,000 ISIL fighters, about 2,000 of them with foreign nationalities and many of those from European countries that have refused to take them back. US officials have repeatedly pressed other nations across Europe and the Middle East to take back the detainees who are their nationals, but international leaders have proved reluctant to do so.
Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria's border with Turkey, making way for the launch of a long-threatened Turkish operation into the region was widely criticised in the US, with a group of bipartisan legislators calling it a "misguided and catastrophic blow to our national interests". The group said in a statement "These Kurdish soldiers are the first line of defence in maintaining the gains we have made against ISIS; if Turkey attacks these Kurdish soldiers, there is a grave risk that the ISIS fighters they guard will escape and return to the battlefield".
SDF officials say there are 10 detention facilities spread across the vast region the groups controls east of the Euphrates River. Described by some as "pop-up prisons", the facilities are housed in former schools and old government buildings, including in Raqqa, Deir Az Zor and Hasakah provinces. Up to 70,000 women and children, relatives of ISIL fighters, are also being held at the sprawling al-Hol camp, according to the United Nations.
SDF Commander Mazlum Abdi told NBC News 08 October 2019 that his forces tasked with securing the ISIL prisoners were leaving for the border to prepare for a battle against the Turkish army. The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria issued a statement saying 950 ISIL supporters escaped from a camp in Ain Issa after attacking guards and storming the gates. Jelal Ayaf, a senior official at the camp, told local media that 859 people successfully escaped from the section housing foreigners. He said a few were recaptured but that supporters inside the other section of the camp also escaped and were carrying out attacks.
Donald Trump said a "certain number" of ISIL fighters had been removed from Syria, amid concerns that Kurdish-led fighters would be unable to keep guarding the prisoners as the Turkish operation continued. "We are taking some of the most dangerous ISIS fighters out and we're putting them in different locations where it's secure," Trump said at the White House.
The US-backed fighters in Syria declared military victory over ISIL on 23 March 2019, ending a four-year battle against the group that once held territory spanning a third of Syria and Iraq. After weeks of heavy fighting, the tent camp where the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) fighters) had made their final stand in the village of Baghouz was bombed to shreds. The elimination of the last stronghold in Baghouz brings to a close a gruelling final battle that stretched across several weeks and saw thousands of people flee the territory and surrender in desperation, and hundreds killed. It was not known whether the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is still alive or where he might be hiding.
Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), having been defeated militarily in Iraq and most of the Syrian Arab Republic during 2017, rallied in early 2018. This was the result of a loss of momentum by forces fighting it in the east of the Syrian Arab Republic, which prolonged access by ISIL to resources and gave it breathing space to prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network. By June 2018, the military campaigns against ISIL had gathered pace again, but ISIL still controlled small pockets of territory in the Syrian Arab Republic on the Iraqi border. It was able to extract and sell some oil, and to mount attacks, including across the border into Iraq.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations reported 01 February 2019 that " while ISIL has transformed into a covert network, including in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, it remains a threat as a global organization with centralized leadership. This threat is increased by returning, relocating or released foreign terrorist fighters.... Globally, far fewer attacks associated with ISIL took place in 2018 than in 2017. Successful internationally directed attacks have fallen dramatically from 2015–2016, when ISIL external operational activity was at its height.... The fall in international attacks and plots has also been caused by attrition of key ISIL personnel. Damage to the ISIL brand may be another way in which its progressive military defeat has reduced its capacity to project an international threat. Nevertheless, ISIL remains by far the most ambitious international terrorist group, and the one most likely to conduct a large-scale, complex attack in the near future. "ISIL is reported by some Member States to still have access to financial reserves of between $50 million and $300 million.... ISIL is assessed to have bulk-stored cash in its core area and smuggled some into neighbouring countries for safekeeping. It is also reported to have invested some of its reserves in legitimate businesses. ISIL no longer has reliable access to oilproducing areas in the eastern Syrian Arab Republic for direct extraction; it earns more revenue by extorting oil cargos extracted by others. "ISIL is reported still to control between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, including up to 3,000 foreign terrorist fighters. There are believed to be about 1,000 foreign terrorist fighters of various, sometimes undetermined, nationalities under arrest in Iraq. A growing number, currently nearly 1,000, plus more than 500 dependants, are detained in the northeast of the Syrian Arab Republic." On 10 September 2018 the Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US-led coalition launched the final phase of the attack on ISIS, targeting Hajin town and its suburbs, where Baghdadi is believed to exist, many have speculated that he might have already escaped. Prominent Kurdish figure Rezdst Kubani who was present at a military position in the area said that: “It is the last stronghold for ISIS fighters. All its foreign leaders and warlords from outside Syria are gathered in the towns of al-Soussa, Hajin and al-Shaafa and we will kill them there.”
Syrian fighters backed by the United States have driven ISIS from the town of Hajin in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitoring group said 14 December 2018. Hajin was the last big town held by ISIS in its remaining pocket of territory east of the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq. SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani said that at least 5,000 Islamic State fighters remained holed up in the pocket of territory including Hajin and that they had decided to fight to the death.
Syria’s army declared victory over Islamic State on 09 November 2017, saying its capture of the jihadists’ last town in the country marked the collapse of their project in the region. Syrian government forces said they had recaptured the border town of Albu Kamal, the last major Islamic State stronghold in eastern Syria. Iraqi government forces recaptured the town of al Qaim, their side of the border crossing with Syria, several days earlier. The army and its allies, including Lebanon's pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia, were involved in the effort to drive IS out of Albu Kamal.
Hundreds of Islamic State militants were allowed to evacuate the town [with their families, and hostages] after bitter fighting and were being pursued by government forces as they dispersed in several directions. Syrian state TV showed government forces firing long range artillery at Islamic State militants fleeing into the desert. It was not clear how many IS fighters were in Albu Kamal before the Syrian army recaptured it.
Now that the Iraqis and Syrians have connected at Albu Kamal, it meant that the road had become wide open from Tehran to Beirut, and that represented a major victory for Iran in the Middle East.
A DIA report, written in August 2012, stated "The deterioration of the situation has dire consequences on the Iraqi situation... This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI [al Qaeda Iraq] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi, and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters. ISI could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.
In early 2014 Obama told The New Yorker that he considered ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s weaker partner. “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.
By mid-2016 what seemed to be a fraying proto-state was actually an enemy force that was fanning out, sacrificing territory and battles now so it can wreak havoc on its home turf in years to come. The warning signs for the strategic shift by IS had been visible for months, showing up in the way its fighters retreated from former strongholds and in the way it appears to be setting up its defense of Mosul, the group’s capital in Iraq. While IS fighters there were expected to battle to the very end, the group’s best and most effective forces most likely will not be among them.
When it was revealed in December 2015 that the "Islamic State" had a new smartphone app the news fit perfectly into the well-established perception of the group as that of an Internet juggernaut. Particularly compared to its original, al Qaeda, best known for intermittent audio or video recordings in Arabic from its leaders, the "Islamic State" with its steady content stream on social media truly updated terrorist propaganda for the 21st century.
But Cristina Archetti, a political communications scholar at the University of Oslo and author of "Understanding Terrorism in the Age of Global Media" counters: "There is far too much hype at the moment about social media." This overblown focus on technology obscures the more important question why some people are attracted and embrace radical messages. "Extremism is not a virus one becomes infected by stumbling on some messages on social media," said Archetti. "It is a deliberate choice."
As the UN noted in January 2016 [S/2016/92]"Islamic Youth Shura Council and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Libya Province (Derna) in Libya, the Mujahideen of Kairouan and Jund al-Khilafah in Tunisia, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tehreek-e-Khilafat in Pakistan and Ansar al-Khilafah in the Philippines, are sufficiently attracted by its underlying ideology to pledge allegiance to its so-called caliphate and self-proclaimed caliph.... As of 15 December 2015, 34 groups from all around the world had reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIL. Moreover, in view of its territorial claims of more “provinces”, it was expected that ISIL affiliates will increase in number and that its membership will grow in 2016. This was a matter of considerable concern, since these groups appear to be emulating ISIL’s tactics and carrying out attacks on its behalf."
By June 2016 US officials were touting progress against IS, saying the terror group "is at its weakest point" since rapidly advancing across Syria and Iraqi in 2014. Military officials also pointed to an IS fighting force visibly on its heels in its self-declared caliphate, having lost 50 percent of the terrain it once held in Iraq and upwards of 20 percent of what it once controlled in Syria. “There is no way you can look at ISIL today and look at the geographic territory they control, look at their leadership, look at their ability to communicate and judge they are in a better position today then they were a year ago,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters 16 June 2016. Defense Department officials also pointed to diminishing financial resources and low morale among the IS ranks, highlighting reports of some IS leaders stealing gold and trying to flee.
SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) reported 23 January 2007 that the Islamic State of Iraq issued a document titled: “The Legality of the Flag in Islam,” which contains the image of its flag and information to its symbolism, today, Tuesday, January 23, 2007. Text on the flag reading, “No God, but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger,” are the words contained on the flag of the Prophet Muhammad that he carried into battle and handed to generations of bearers. The Islamic State provides evidence and legitimacy for this banner from Islamic scholars, and goes into detail regarding opinions of the flag’s material, title, and significance. According to the group the circular shape matches the ring stamp of the Prophet found on many scripts, and the order of the words are to indicate the supremacy of Allah over the Messenger.
This flag, the group prays, is to be the flag for all Muslims, especially the people of Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq was established to protect the Sunni Iraqi people and defend Islam, by the Pact of the Scented People. It is composed of a variety of insurgency groups, including the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, Conquering Army [Jeish al-Fatiheen], Army Squad of the Prophet Muhammad [Jund al-Sahaba], Brigades of al-Tawhid Wal Sunnah, and Sunni tribes. It claims a presence in the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and parts of Babel and Wasit, and is headed by the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
The risk of terrorist activity in Tunisia remained high in 2018, including the potential for terrorist attacks and the infiltration of arms and terrorists from neighboring countries. In 2018, aspiring ISIS affiliate Jund Al Khilafa-Tunisia (JAK-T), al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)- aligned Uqba bin Nafi’ Battalion, and others conducted primarily small-scale attacks against Tunisian security personnel. On 15 December 2018, 12 terrorists affiliated with Jund Al Khilafa-Tunisia (JAK-T) a stole approximately US $110,000 from a local bank in Kasserine before killing a Tunisian civilian in his home. The group targeted the individual for being a relative of a Tunisian soldier whom terrorists killed in 2016. On January 24, a National Guard unit conducted a security operation in Kasserine, killing one terrorist and wounding several others. The operation is credited with dismantling a cell providing logistical support to aspiring ISIS affiliate JAK-T. On June 4, the Counterterrorism Investigative Brigade of the Aouina National Guard arrested five people ages 17 to 21 who, after interrogation, confessed their intention to join JAK-T.
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