Tag Archives: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

The ISIS Hostage – One Man’s True Story of 13 Months in Captivity

 The ISIS Hostage

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One Man’s True Story of 13 Months in Captivity

This is one of  the most horrifying and disturbing  books I have ever read and the fact the Daniel survived his captivity and  the constant physical and mental torture at the hands of these barbaric ISIS terrorists –  is testimony to the depths of suffering man can endure when faced with almost insurmountable  odds and utter despair .

The book gives a brutal insight into the barbaric and inhumane cruelty of ISIS’s merchants of death and exposes the psychopathic   wickedness of the British IS  cell known as “The Beatles “ and their total disregard for the safety and welfare of those they were holding in captivity. All released hostages stated that these Monsters were the most brutal and harsh IS members  whose job was to guard them and Jihadi John inflicted the worse misery and cruelty on those he watched over.

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Jihadi John

Thankfully Karma has now  caught up with this B*****d and he is now burning in the eternal flames of hell!

See The Beatles Terrorist Cell

   

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Four of the freed hostages – Federico, Daniel, Pierre and Didier

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The ISIS Hostage

In May 2013, freelance photographer Daniel Rye was captured in Syria and held prisoner by Islamic State for thirteen months, along with eighteen other hostages. The ISIS Hostage tells the dramatic and heart-breaking story of Daniel’s ordeal and details the misery inflicted upon him by the British guards, which included Jihadi John.

This tense and riveting account also follows Daniel’s family and the nerve-wracking negotiations with his kidnappers. It traces their horrifying journey through impossible dilemmas and offers a rare glimpse into the secret world of the investigation launched to locate and free not only Daniel, but also the American journalist and fellow hostage James Foley.

Written with Daniel’s full cooperation and based on interviews with former fellow prisoners, jihadists and key figures who worked behind the scenes to secure his release, The ISIS Hostage reveals for the first time the torment suffered by the captives and tells a moving and terrifying story of friendship, torture and survival.

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ISIS Hostages

Foreigners held  captive with Daniel by ISIS and their fate

Name :  Daniel Rye

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Whilst in Captivity

 

Nationality: Danish

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Occupation: Photographer

Kidnapped:17th May 2013

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Outcome: Ransom paid

Released 19th June 2014

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Name :Didier Francois

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Nationality: French

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped: 6th June 2013

Outcome: Ransom  Paid

Released 19th April 2014

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Name : Edouard Elias

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Nationality: French

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Occupation: Photographer

Kidnapped: 6th June 2013

Outcome: Ransom Paid

Released 19th April 2014

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Name : James Foley

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Nationality: American

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped: 22md November 2012

Outcome: Killed 19th August 2014

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See Here for more details on James Foley

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Name :John Cantlie

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Nationality:  British

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped: 22nd November 2012

Outcome: Still in Captivity

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See Here for more details on John Cantlie

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Name :Nicolas Henin

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Nationality: French

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped: 22nnd June 2013

Outcome: Released 19th April 2014

Ransom rumoured to have been paid

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Name :Pierre Torres

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Nationality: French

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped:22nd June 2013

Outcome: Released 19th April 2014

Ransom rumoured to have been paid

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Name :David Haines

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Nationality: British

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Occupation: Aid Worker

Kidnapped: 12th March 2013

Outcome: Killed September 13th 2014

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See Here for more details on David Haines

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Name :Federico Motka 

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Nationality: Italian

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Occupation: Aid Worker

Kidnapped: 12th March 2013

Outcome: Released 26th May 2014

Ransom rumoured to have been paid

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Name :Steven Sotloff

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Nationality: American

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped: 4th August 2013

Outcome: Killed 31st August 2014

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See Here for more details on Steven Sotloff

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Name :Javier Espinosa

Former hostage Javier Espinosa

Nationality: Spanish

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped:16th September  2013

Outcome: Released 30th  March 2014

Ransom Paid

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Name : Marc Marginedas

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Nationality: Spanish

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Occupation: Journalist

Kidnapped:4th September  2013

Outcome: Released 25th February 2014

Ransom rumoured to have been paid

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Name : Peter Kassig

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Nationality: American

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Occupation: Aid Worker

Kidnapped:1st October 2013

Outcome: Killed 16th November 2014

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See Here for more details on Peter Kassig

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Name : Ricardo Vilanova

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Nationality: Spanish

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Occupation: Photographer

Kidnapped: 16th September 2013

Outcome: Released 30th March 2014

Ransom rumoured to have been paid

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Name : Toni Neukirch

Nationality: German

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Occupation: Aid Worker

Kidnapped: Date Unknown

Outcome: Released 19th June 2014

Ransom rumoured to have been paid

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Name :Alan Henning

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Nationality: British

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Occupation: Aid Worker

Kidnapped: 26th December 2013

Outcome: Killed 3rd October 2014

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See Here for more details on Alan Henning

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Name : Sergey Gorbunov

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Nationality: Russian

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Occupation: Unknown

Kidnapped: Date Unknown

Outcome: Killed  March 2014

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Name :Kayla Mueller

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Nationality: American

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Occupation: Aid Worker

Kidnapped: 4th August 2013

Outcome: Killed 6th February 2015

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See here for more details on Kayla Mueller

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Name : Dan

Nationality: Danish

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Occupation: Aid  Worker

Kidnapped: 2nd January 2014

Outcome: 14th May 2014

Ransom Paid

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Name : Three Unknown Women

Nationality: Unknown

Occupation: Aid Workers

Kidnapped: 2nd January 2014

Outcome: 14th Mamie 2014

See Why ISIS Hostages Are So Calm Before Their Execution

See Fate of ISIS hostages for more details

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The Sheikh of Slaughters – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

The Founding Father of Islamic State

 

 

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Arabic: أبو مصعب الزرقاوي‎‎, About this sound pronunciation  ’Abū Muṣ‘ab az-Zarqāwī, Abu Musab from Zarqa; October 20, 1966 – June 7, 2006), born Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh (أحمد فضيل النزال الخلايله, ’Aḥmad Faḍīl an-Nazāl al-Ḫalāyla), was a militant Islamist from Jordan who ran a paramilitary training camp in Afghanistan. He became known after going to Iraq and being responsible for a series of bombings, beheadings, and attacks during the Iraq War, reportedly

“turning an insurgency against US troops” in Iraq “into a Shia-Sunni civil war”.

He was sometimes known as “Shaykh of the slaughterers”.

He formed al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in the 1990s, and led it until his death in June 2006. Zarqawi took responsibility, on several audio and video recordings, for numerous acts of violence in Iraq including suicide bombings and hostage executions. Zarqawi opposed the presence of U.S. and Western military forces in the Islamic world, as well as the West’s support for the existence of Israel. In late 2004 he joined al-Qaeda, and pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

After this al-Tawhid wal-Jihad became known as Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn, also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and al-Zarqawi was given the al-Qaeda title “Emir of Al Qaeda in the Country of Two Rivers”.

In September 2005, he declared “all-out war” on Shi’ites in Iraq, after the Iraqi government offensive on insurgents in the Sunni town of Tal Afar.  He dispatched numerous suicide bombers throughout Iraq to attack American soldiers and areas with large concentrations of Shia militias. He is also thought to be responsible for the 2005 bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan.

Zarqawi was killed in a targeted killing by a joint U.S. force on June 7, 2006, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse in Hibhib, a small village approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) west-northwest of Baqubah. One United States Air Force F-16C jet dropped two 500-pound (230 kg) guided bombs on the safehouse.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Key insurgency leader in Iraq from 2004 to 2006
1st Emir of Al-Qaeda in Iraq
In office
October 17, 2004 – June 7, 2006
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Abu Ayyub al-Masri
1st Emir of Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad
In office
1999 – October 17, 2004
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Merger with Al-Qaeda
1st Emir of the Mujahideen Shura Council
In office
January 15, 2006 – June 7, 2006
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Abu Ayyub al-Masri
Personal details
Born Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh
أحمد فضيل النزال الخلايله

(1966-10-20)20 October 1966
Zarqa, Jordan
Died 7 June 2006(2006-06-07) (aged 39)
Hibhib, Iraq
Nationality Jordanian
Children 5
Religion Sunni Islam (Jihadism)
Military service
Allegiance Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (1999–2004)
Flag of Jihad.svg Al-Qaeda (2004–2006)

Years of service 1999 – June 7, 2006
Rank Emir of Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Emir of the Mujahideen Shura Council

Battles/wars Iraq War
Iraqi Insurgency

 

Personal life

Early life

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Abu Musab was a sturdy man who was not really very good at words. He expressed himself spontaneously and briefly. He would not compromise any of his beliefs.
— Saif al-Adel

Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh (Arabic: أحمد فضيل النزال الخلايلة‎‎ ’Aḥmad Faḍīl an-Nazāl al-Ḫalāyla), is believed to have been al-Zarqawi’s real name. “Abu Musab” literally translates to “Musab’s father”, born in the name Ahmed al-Khalayleh to an impoverished Palestinian-Jordanian family in 1966.He was raised in Zarqa, an industrial town located 17 miles north of Amman.

Zarqawi is reported as having been a high school dropout and a petty criminal in his youth.

1989–1998 Afghanistan War, Jund al-Sham, jail

 

In the late 1980s, Zarqawi went to Afghanistan to join the Mujahideen who were fighting the invading Soviet troops. Arriving there in 1989, the Soviets were already leaving. Instead of fighting, he became a reporter for an Islamist newsletter and met with Osama bin Laden.

According to a report by the The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“Zarqawi’s criminal past and extreme views on takfir (accusing another Muslim of heresy and thereby justifying his killing) created major friction and distrust with bin Laden when the two first met in Afghanistan in 1999.”

He returned to Jordan, and sometime in 1989–1992 he helped start the local militant group Jund al-Sham (‘The Syria Division’).

He was arrested in Jordan after guns and explosives were found in his home and sent to prison in 1992. In prison, he attempted to draft his cell mates into joining him to overthrow the rulers of Jordan, a former prison mate told Time magazine in 2004.

According to Jordanian officials and acquaintances, Zarqawi developed a reputation as a cellblock enforcer and adopted more radical Islamic beliefs.

1999–2000 Training of Jihadists

In 1999, Zarqawi was released from prison in a general amnesty by Jordan’s King Abdullah.  Within months after his release, according to Jordanian officials, Zarqawi tried to resurrect his Jund al-Sham. Then, also according to Jordanian officials, he was involved in the millennium plot—a bid to bomb the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman (Jordan) before New Year’s Day 2000.

The plot was discovered, and Zarqawi fled to Pakistan.

When Pakistan revoked his visa, he crossed into Afghanistan, where he met, still according to Jordanian officials and also German court testimony, with Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders in Kandahar and Kabul.  He asked them for assistance and money to set up his own training camp in Herat.

With some “small seed money”  of $200,000 from Osama bin Laden, the camp opened soon and attracted Jordanian militants.

That camp was either for his group Jund al-Sham—as one, indirect, source contended —or for his newly started group Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad—as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy claimed —or he started one or two camps for both of those groups in Herat in 1999; or it is also possible that Zarqawi set up only one camp for only one group known by those two different names in 1999. GlobalSecurity.org called it “a camp near Herat, reportedly specialised in manufacturing poisons”

2001 Resistance to U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan

In early September 2001, Zarqawi was in Iran around the same time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA.

After the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, Zarqawi returned in Afghanistan to help repel the assault with Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, where he either suffered cracked ribs following the collapse of a bombed house or, according to a Jordanian intelligence source, was wounded in the chest during a firefight, late 2001.

He fled to Iran in December 2001 or January 5, 2002 and received medical treatment in Mashhad. The Iranian government reportedly refused Jordanian requests to extradite Zarqawi, but circumstantial evidence suggests that Iranian authorities may have restricted Zarqawi’s activities to some extent.

2002 Involvement in the Murder of Laurence Foley

The U.S. government contended (in 2003 in a U.N. speech) that Zarqawi received medical treatment in Baghdad, Iraq, from March until May 2002. About that time, Jordanian authorities asked Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to extradite Zarqawi for his suspected role in the millennium plot of 1999 (see above).

By and during the summer of 2002, Zarqawi’s location and activities appear in reports that conflict with one another. In 2004, Jordanian court documents said that Zarqawi, during this summer, began training a band of fighters at a base in Syria, which group on October 28, 2002 shot and killed Laurence Foley, U.S. senior administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development in Amman, Jordan.

According to Arab intelligence sources in 2004, Zarqawi was still in Syria late in 2002, when U.S. and Jordan requested his extradition from Syria, which Syria refused.

But the U.S. 2006 Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq reported that Al-Zarqawi was in Baghdad from May until late November 2002.

A little later, Zarqawi, the Senate report claimed, fled to Iran and northeastern Iraq.

2003–2006 Terrorist Activities in and Around Iraq

 

U.S. soldiers in Fallujah, November 2004. Al-Zarqawi’s network was the main target.

In February 2003, according to Arab intelligence sources, Zarqawi in eastern Iran planned military resistance to the expected U.S. invasion of Iraq. And, by March 2003, according to British intelligence, Zarqawi’s network had set up sleeper cells in Baghdad to resist an expected U.S. occupation.

Over 2003–2006, Zarqawi and his group Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (1999–2004) later called Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (‘al-Qaeda in Iraq’) (2004–2006) are accused of dozens of violent and deadly attacks in Iraq, which had, after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, fallen into chaos and anarchy. Some of these attacks Zarqawi indeed claimed responsibility for, as well as for some attacks in Morocco, Turkey and Jordan, and some foiled attacks in Turkey and Jordan, all listed in our next section ‘Attacks‘.

Zarqawi targeted Shia Islamic mosques as well as civilians, U.N. representatives, Iraqi government institutions, Egypt’s ambassador, Russian diplomats and foreign civilians in Iraq and hotel visitors in Jordan, possibly also Christian churches, the Jordanian embassy, and the U.S.-led Multi-National Force in Iraq, most of whom he professedly hated either as apostates of Islam,  or as “infidels” “giving Palestine to the Jew , or as individuals oppressing and “humiliating our [Islamic] people”  or “nation”.

U.S. chasing Zarqawi, 2003–2006

The Bush Administration in February 2003 in the U.N. Security Council used Zarqawi’s alleged presence in Iraq to justify the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

On October 15, 2004, the U.S. State Department added Zarqawi and the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad group to its “list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations” and ordered a freeze on any assets that the group might have in the United States.

By May 2005, Zarqawi was the most wanted man in Jordan and Iraq, having claimed scores of attacks in Iraq against Iraqis and foreigners, and being blamed for perhaps even more. The U.S. government then offered a $25m reward for information leading to his capture, the same amount offered for the capture of bin Laden before March 2004.

On February 24, 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice‘s FBI also added al-Zarqawi to the “Seeking Information – War on Terrorism” list, the first time that he had ever been added to any of the FBI’s three major “wanted” lists.

For the U.S. eventually killing Zarqawi in 2006, see the section Death.

Four wives, five children

  • Zarqawi’s first wife, Umm Mohammed, was a Jordanian woman who was around 40 years old when Zarqawi died in June 2006. She lived in Zarqa, Jordan, along with their four children, including a seven-year-old son, Musab. She had advised Zarqawi to leave Iraq temporarily and give orders to his deputies from outside the country.

 

“He gave me an angry look and said, ‘Me, me? I can’t betray my religion and get out of Iraq. In the Name of Allah, I will not leave Iraq until victory or martyrdom’,”

she said of al-Zarqawi.

  • Zarqawi’s second wife, Isra, was 14 years old when he married her. She was the daughter of Yassin Jarrad, a Palestinian Islamic militant, who is blamed for the killing in 2003 of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the Iraqi Shia leader.  She bore him a child when she was 15 and was killed along with Zarqawi and their child.
  • Al-Zarqawi’s third wife was an Iraqi who might have perished in the airstrike with her husband.
  • Zarqawi is also said to have married a woman from a Pakistani tribe around Peshawar.

Attacks

Attacks outside Iraq

In 1999, Zarqawi, according to Jordanian officials, became involved in a plot to blow up the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman, where many Israeli and American tourists lodged, before New Year’s Day 2000. He failed in this attempt and fled to Afghanistan and then entered Iraq via Iran after the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001.

Laurence Foley

From Iraq he started his terrorist campaign by hiring men to kill Laurence Foley who was a senior U.S. diplomat working for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jordan. On October 28, 2002, Foley was assassinated outside his home in Amman. Under interrogation by Jordanian authorities, three suspects confessed that they had been armed and paid by Zarqawi to perform the assassination. U.S. officials believe that the planning and execution of the Foley assassination was led by members of Afghan Jihad, the International Mujaheddin Movement, and al-Qaeda. One of the leaders, Salim Sa’d Salim Bin-Suwayd, was paid over $27,858 for his work in planning assassinations in Jordan against U.S., Israeli, and Jordanian government officials. Suwayd was arrested in Jordan for the murder of Foley.

Zarqawi was again sentenced in absentia in Jordan; this time, as before, his sentence was death.

Zarqawi, according to the BBC, was named as the brains behind a series of deadly bomb attacks in Casablanca, Morocco and Istanbul, Turkey in 2003.  U.S. officials believe that Zarqawi trained others in the use of poison (ricin ) for possible attacks in Europe. Zarqawi had also planned to attack a NATO summit in June 2004. According to suspects arrested in Turkey, Zarqawi sent them to Istanbul to organize an attack on a NATO summit there on June 28 or 29, 2004.

On April 26, 2004, Jordanian authorities announced they had broken up an al-Qaeda plot to use chemical weapons in Amman. Among the targets were the U.S. Embassy, the Jordanian prime minister’s office and the headquarters of Jordanian intelligence. In a series of raids, the Jordanians seized 20 tons of chemicals, including blistering agents, nerve gas  and numerous explosives. Also seized were three trucks equipped with specially modified plows, apparently designed to crash through security barricades.

Jordanian state television aired a videotape of four men admitting they were part of the plot. One of the conspirators, Azmi Al-Jayousi, said that he was acting on the orders of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi. On February 15, 2006, Jordan’s High Court of Security sentenced nine men, including al-Zarqawi, to death for their involvement in the plot. Zarqawi was convicted of planning the entire attack from his post in Iraq, funding the operation with nearly $120,000, and sending a group of Jordanians into Jordan to execute the plan. Eight of the defendants were accused of belonging to a previously unknown group, “Kata’eb al-Tawhid” or Battalions of Monotheism, which was headed by al-Zarqawi and linked to al Qaeda.

The November 2005 Amman bombings that killed sixty people in three hotels, including several officials of the Palestinian Authority and members of a Chinese defense delegation, were claimed by Zarqawi’s group ‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq’.

Attacks inside Iraq

The Weekly Standard reports that, before the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi ran a “terrorist haven” in Kurdish northern Iraq. According to a March 2003 British intelligence report, Zarqawi had set up “sleeper cells” in Baghdad before the Iraq war. The report stated

“Reporting since (February) suggests that senior al Qaeda associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has established sleeper cells in Baghdad, to be activated during a U.S. occupation of the city… These cells apparently intend to attack U.S. targets using car bombs and other weapons. (It is also possible that they have received [chemical and biological] materials from terrorists in the [Kurdish Autonomous Zone]), … al Qaeda-associated terrorists continued to arrive in Baghdad in early March.”

American hostage Nick Berg seated, with five men standing over him. The man directly behind him, alleged to be Zarqawi, is the one who beheaded Berg.

In May 2004, a video appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda website showing a group of five men, their faces covered with keffiyeh or balaclavas, beheading American civilian Nicholas Berg, who had been abducted and taken hostage in Iraq weeks earlier. The CIA claimed that the speaker on the tape wielding the knife that killed Berg was al-Zarqawi. The video opens with the title “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slaughters an American”.

The speaker states that the murder was in retaliation for U.S. abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison (see Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal).  Following the death of al-Zarqawi, CNN spoke with Nicholas’s father and long-time anti-war activist Michael Berg, who stated that al-Zarqawi’s killing would lead to further vengeance and was not a cause for rejoicing.

Zarqawi is also believed to have personally beheaded another American civilian, Owen Eugene Armstrong, in September 2004.

United States officials implicated Zarqawi in over 700 killings in Iraq during the invasion, mostly from bombings. Since March 2004, that number rose to the thousands.

According to the United States State Department, Zarqawi was responsible for the Canal Hotel bombing of the United Nations Headquarters in Iraq on August 19, 2003. This attack killed twenty-two people, including the United Nations secretary general‘s special Iraqi envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Zarqawi’s biggest alleged atrocities in Iraq included the attacks on the Shia shrines in Karbala and Baghdad in March 2004, which killed over 180 people, and the car bomb attacks in Najaf and Karbala in December 2004, which claimed over 60 lives.

Zarqawi is believed by the former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to have written an intercepted letter to the al-Qaeda leadership in February 2004 on the progress of the “Iraqi jihad“. However, al-Qaeda denied they had written the letter. The U.S. military believes Zarqawi organized the February 2006 attack on the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, in an attempt to trigger sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq.

In a January 2005 internet recording, Zarqawi condemned democracy as “the big American lie” and said participants in Iraq’s January 30 election were enemies of Islam. Zarqawi stated

“We have declared a bitter war against democracy and all those who seek to enact it… Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion [and that is] against the rule of Allah.”

 

On April 25, 2006, a video appearing to show Zarqawi surfaced.  In the tape, the man says holy warriors are fighting on despite a three-year “crusade”. U.S. experts told the BBC they believed the recording was genuine. One part of the recording shows a man – who bears a strong resemblance to previous pictures of Zarqawi – sitting on the floor and addressing a group of masked men with an automatic rifle at his side.

“Your mujahideen sons were able to confront the most ferocious of crusader campaigns on a Muslim state,”

the man says. Addressing U.S. President George W. Bush, he says:

“Why don’t you tell people that your soldiers are committing suicide, taking drugs and hallucination pills to help them sleep?” “By Allah”, he says, “your dreams will be defeated by our blood and by our bodies. What is coming is even worse.”

 

The speaker in the video also reproaches the U.S. for its “arrogance and insolence” in rejecting a truce offered by “our prince and leader”, Osama Bin Laden. The United States Army aired an unedited tape of Zarqawi in May 2006 highlighting the fact that he did not know how to clear a stoppage on the stolen M249 Squad Automatic Weapon he was using.

Attempts to provoke U.S. attack on Iran

A document found in Zarqawi’s safe house indicates that the group was trying to provoke the U.S. to attack Iran in order to reinvigorate the insurgency in Iraq and to weaken American forces in Iraq.

“The question remains, how to draw the Americans into fighting a war against Iran? It is not known whether America is serious in its animosity towards Iran, because of the big support Iran is offering to America in its war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Hence, it is necessary first to exaggerate the Iranian danger and to convince America, and the West in general, of the real danger coming from Iran…”

The document then outlines six ways to incite war between the two nations . Some experts questioned the authenticity of the document.

Links to al-Qaeda

After the 2001 war in Afghanistan, Zarqawi appeared on a U.S. list of most-wanted al-Qaeda terrorists still at large in early 2002.

According to The Washington Post and some other sources, he formally swore loyalty (Bay’ah) to bin Laden in October 2004 and was in turn appointed bin Laden’s deputy. Zarqawi then changed the name of his Monotheism and Jihad network to Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn, which become commonly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Pre–U.S. invasion of Iraq

Before the invasion of Afghanistan, Zarqawi was the leader of an Islamic militant group with some connections to al-Qaeda. In an interview on Al-Majd TV, former al-Qaeda member Walid Khan, who was in Afghanistan fighting alongside Zarqawi’s group explained that from the day al-Zarqawi’s group arrived, there were disagreements, differences of opinion with bin Laden.

Saif al-Adel, later bin Laden’s military chief and an Egyptian who attempted to overthrow the Egyptian government, saw merit in Zarqawi’s overall objective of overthrowing the Jordanian monarchy. He intervened and smoothed the relations between Zarqawi and Al Qaeda leadership. It was agreed that Zarqawi would be given the funds to start up his training camp outside the Afghan city of Herat, near the Iranian border.

Zarqawi’s group continued to receive funding from Osama bin Laden and pursued “a largely distinct, if occasionally overlapping agenda”, according to The Washington Post. Counterterrorism experts told The Washington Post that while Zarqawi accepted al-Qaeda’s financial help to set up a training camp in Afghanistan he ran it independently and while bin Laden was planning September 11, Zarqawi was busy developing a plot to topple the Jordanian monarchy and attack Israel.

The Washington Post also reported that German Intelligence wiretaps found that in the fall of 2001 Zarqawi grew angry when his members were raising money in Germany for al-Qaeda’s local leadership. “If something should come from their side, simply do not accept it,” Zarqawi told one of his followers, according to a recorded conversation that was played at a trial of four alleged Zarqawi operatives in Düsseldorf.

In 2001, bin Laden repeatedly summoned al-Zarqawi from Herat to Kandahar, asking that he take an oath of allegiance to him. Al-Zarqawi refused; he didn’t want to take sides against the Northern Alliance, and doubted the fervor of bin Laden and the Taliban. When the United States launched its air war inside Afghanistan, on October 7, 2001, al-Zarqawi joined forces with al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the first time. He and his Jund al-Sham fought in and around Herat and Kandahar.

When Zarqawi finally did take the oath in October 2004, it was after eight months of negotiations.

When Shadi Abdellah was arrested in 2002, he cooperated with authorities, but suggested that al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were not as closely linked as previously believed, in large part because al-Zarqawi disagreed with many of the sentiments put forward by Mahfouz Ould al-Walid for al-Qaeda.

In April 2007, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet released his memoir titled At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. In the book he reveals that in July 2001, an associate of Zarqawi had been detained and, during interrogations, linked Zarqawi with al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.

Tenet also wrote in his book that Thirwat Shehata and Yussef Dardiri, “assessed by a senior al-Qa’ida detainee to be among the Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s best operational planners”, arrived in Baghdad in May 2002 and were engaged in “sending recruits to train in Zarqawi’s camps”.

Post–U.S. invasion of Iraq

During or shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Zarqawi returned to Iraq, where he met with Bin Laden’s military chief, Saif al-Adel (Muhammad Ibrahim Makawi), who asked him to coordinate the entry of al-Qaeda operatives into Iraq through Syria.

Zarqawi readily agreed and by the fall of 2003 a steady flow of Arab Islamists were infiltrating Iraq via Syria. Although many of these foreign fighters were not members of Tawhid, they became more or less dependent on Zarqawi’s local contacts once they entered the unfamiliar country. Moreover, given Tawhid’s superior intelligence gathering capability, it made little sense for non-Tawhid operatives to plan and carry out attacks without coordinating with Zarqawi’s lieutenants.

Consequentially, Zarqawi came to be recognized as the regional “emir” of Islamist terrorists in Iraq without having sworn fealty to bin Laden.

U.S. intelligence intercepted a January 2004 letter from Zarqawi to al Qaeda and American officials made it public in February 2004. In the letter to bin Laden, Zarqawi wrote:

You, gracious brothers, are the leaders, guides, and symbolic figures of jihad and battle. We do not see ourselves as fit to challenge you, and we have never striven to achieve glory for ourselves. All that we hope is that we will be the spearhead, the enabling vanguard, and the bridge on which the Islamic nation crosses over to the victory that is promised and the tomorrow to which we aspire. This is our vision, and we have explained it. This is our path, and we have made it clear.

If you agree with us on it, if you adopt it as a program and road, and if you are convinced of the idea of fighting the sects of apostasy, we will be your readied soldiers, working under your banner, complying with your orders, and indeed swearing fealty to you publicly and in the news media, vexing the infidels and gladdening those who preach the oneness of Allah. On that day, the believers will rejoice in Allah’s victory. If things appear otherwise to you, we are brothers, and the disagreement will not spoil our friendship. This is a cause in which we are cooperating for the good and supporting jihad. Awaiting your response, may Allah preserve you as keys to good and reserves for Islam and its people.

 

In October 2004, a message on an Islamic Web site posted in the name of the spokesman of Zarqawi’s group announced that Zarqawi had sworn his network’s allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. The message stated:

 

Numerous messages were passed between ‘Abu Musab’ (Allah protect him) and the al-Qaeda brotherhood over the past eight months, establishing a dialogue between them. No sooner had the calls been cut off than Allah chose to restore them, and our most generous brothers in al-Qaeda came to understand the strategy of the Tawhid wal-Jihad organization in Iraq, the land of the two rivers and of the Caliphs, and their hearts warmed to its methods and overall mission.

Let it be known that al-Tawhid wal-Jihad pledges both its leaders and its soldiers to the mujahid commander, Sheikh ‘Osama bin Laden’ (in word and in deed) and to jihad for the sake of Allah until there is no more discord [among the ranks of Islam] and all of the religion turns toward Allah… By Allah, O sheikh of the mujahideen, if you bid us plunge into the ocean, we would follow you. If you ordered it so, we would obey. If you forbade us something, we would abide by your wishes. For what a fine commander you are to the armies of Islam, against the inveterate infidels and apostates!

On December 27, 2004, Al Jazeera broadcast an audiotape of bin Laden calling Zarqawi “the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq” and asked “all our organization brethren to listen to him and obey him in his good deeds.” Since that time, Zarqawi had referred to his own organization as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.

In May 2007, President George W. Bush declassified a U.S. intelligence report that stated that bin Laden had enlisted Zarqawi to plan strikes inside the U.S., and warned that in January 2005 bin Laden had assigned Zarqawi to organize a cell inside Iraq that would be used to plan and carry out attacks against the U.S. “Bin Laden tasked the terrorist Zarqawi … with forming a cell to conduct terrorist attacks outside of Iraq,” Bush stated in a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy.

“Bin Laden emphasized that America should be Zarqawi’s No. 1 priority.”

Terrorism experts’ view on the alliance

According to experts, Zarqawi gave al-Qaeda a highly visible presence in Iraq at a time when its original leaders went into hiding or were killed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

In turn, al-Qaeda leaders were able to brand a new franchise in Iraq and claim they were at the forefront of the fight to expel U.S. forces. But this relationship was proven to be fragile as Zarqawi angered al-Qaeda leaders by focusing attacks on Iraqi Shias more often than U.S. military. In September 2005, U.S. intelligence officials said they had confiscated a long letter that al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had written to Zarqawi, bluntly warning that Muslim public opinion was turning against him.

According to Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland,

“A number of al-Qaeda figures were uncomfortable with the tactics he was using in Iraq … It was quite clear with Zarqawi that as far as the al-Qaeda core leadership goes, they couldn’t control the way in which their network affiliates operated.”

U.S. officials’ view of the alliance

In June 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld conceded that Zarqawi’s ties to Al Qaeda may have been much more ambiguous—and that he may have been more of a rival than a lieutenant to bin Laden. Zarqawi “may very well not have sworn allegiance to [bin Laden]”, Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing.

“Maybe he disagrees with him on something, maybe because he wants to be ‘The Man’ himself and maybe for a reason that’s not known to me.” Rumsfeld added, “someone could legitimately say he’s not Al Qaeda.”

According to the Senate Report on Prewar Intelligence released in September 2006, “in April 2003 the CIA learned from a senior al-Qa’ida detainee that al-Zarqawi had rebuffed several efforts by bin Ladin to recruit him. The detainee claimed that al-Zarqawi had religious differences with bin Ladin and disagreed with bin Laden’s singular focus against the United States.

The CIA assessed in April 2003 that al-Zarqawi planned and directed independent terrorist operations without al Qaeda direction, but assessed that he ‘most likely contracts out his network’s services to al Qaeda in return for material and financial assistance from key al Qaeda facilitators.'”

In the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, declassified in September 2006, it asserts, “Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.”

Links to Saddam Hussein

 

Colin Powell‘s U.N. presentation slide showing Al-Zarqawi’s global terrorist network

On February 5, 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the U.N. Security Council on the issue of Iraq. Regarding Zarqawi, Powell stated that:

Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants. When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp. And this camp is located in northeastern Iraq. He traveled to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment, staying in the capital of Iraq for two months while he recuperated to fight another day. During this stay, nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there.

These Al Qaeda affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they’ve now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months. We asked a friendly security service to approach Baghdad about extraditing Zarqawi and providing information about him and his close associates. This service contacted Iraqi officials twice, and we passed details that should have made it easy to find Zarqawi. The network remains in Baghdad.

 

Zarqawi recuperated in Baghdad after being wounded while fighting along with Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. According to the 2004 Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq,

“A foreign government service asserted that the IIS (Iraqi Intelligence Service) knew where al-Zarqawi was located despite Baghdad’s claims that it could not find him.”

The Senate Report on Prewar Intelligence also stated:

“As indicated in Iraqi Support for Terrorism, the Iraqi regime was, at a minimum, aware of al-Zarqawi’s presence in Baghdad in 2002 because a foreign government service passed information regarding his whereabouts to Iraqi authorities in June 2002. Despite Iraq’s pervasive security apparatus and its receipt of detailed information about al-Zarqawi’s possible location, however, Iraqi Intelligence told the foreign government service it could not locate al-Zarqawi.”

Jordanian analysis

A Jordanian security official told The Washington Post that documents recovered after the overthrow of Saddam show that Iraqi agents detained some of Zarqawi’s operatives but released them after questioning. He also told The Washington Post that the Iraqis warned the Zarqawi operatives that the Jordanians knew where they were.

The official also told The Washington Post,

“‘We sent many memos to Iraq during this time, asking them to identify his position, where he was, how he got weapons, how he smuggled them across the border,’ but Hussein’s government never responded.”

 

This claim was reiterated by Jordanian King Abdullah II in an interview with Al-Hayat. Abdullah revealed that Saddam Hussein had rejected repeated requests from Jordan to hand over al-Zarqawi. According to Abdullah,

“We had information that he entered Iraq from a neighboring country, where he lived and what he was doing. We informed the Iraqi authorities about all this detailed information we had, but they didn’t respond.”

Abdullah told the Al-Hayat that Jordan exerted “big efforts” with Saddam’s government to extradite al-Zarqawi, but added, “our demands that the former regime hand him over were in vain.”

One high-level Jordanian intelligence official told The Atlantic that al-Zarqawi, after leaving Afghanistan in December 2001, frequently traveled to the Sunni Triangle of Iraq where he expanded his network, recruited and trained new fighters, and set up bases, safe houses, and military training camps. He said, however,

“We know Zarqawi better than he knows himself. And I can assure you that he never had any links to Saddam.”

Counterterrorism scholar Loretta Napoleoni quotes former Jordanian parliamentarian Layth Shubaylat, a radical Islamist opposition figure,  who was personally acquainted with both Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein:

First of all, I don’t think the two ideologies go together, I’m sure the former Iraqi leadership saw no interest in contacting al-Zarqawi or al-Qaeda operatives. The mentality of al-Qaeda simply doesn’t go with the Ba’athist one. When he was in prison in Jordan with Shubaylat, Abu Mos’ab wouldn’t accept me, said Shubaylat, because I’m opposition, even if I’m a Muslim. How could he accept Saddam Hussein, a secular dictator?

U.S. conclusion

A CIA report in late 2004 concluded that there was no evidence Saddam’s government was involved or even aware of this medical treatment, and found no conclusive evidence the regime had harbored Zarqawi. A U.S. official told Reuters that the report was a mix of new information and a look at some older information and did not make any final judgments or come to any definitive conclusions. “To suggest the case is closed on this would not be correct,” the official said.

A U.S. official familiar with the report told Knight-Ridder,

“what is indisputable is that Zarqawi was operating out of Baghdad and was involved in a lot of bad activities.” Another U.S. official summarized the report as such: “The evidence is that Saddam never gave Zarqawi anything.”

According to the 2004 Senate Report on Prewar Intelligence, “The CIA provided four reports detailing the debriefings of Abu Zubaydah, a captured senior coordinator for al-Qaida responsible for training and recruiting. Abu Zubaydah said that he was not aware of a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida. He also said, however, that any relationship would be highly compartmented and went on to name al-Qaida members who he thought had good contacts with the Iraqis.

For instance, Abu Zubaydah indicated that he had heard that an important al-Qaida associate, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, and others had good relationships with Iraqi Intelligence.”

A classified memo obtained by Stephen F. Hayes, prepared by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith in response to questions posed by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence, stated the following regarding al-Zarqawi:

Sensitive reporting indicates senior terrorist planner and close al Qaeda associate al Zarqawi has had an operational alliance with Iraqi officials. As of October 2002, al Zarqawi maintained contacts with the IIS to procure weapons and explosives, including surface-to-air missiles from an IIS officer in Baghdad. According to sensitive reporting, al Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city, suggesting his operational cooperation with the Iraqis may have deepened in recent months.

Such cooperation could include IIS provision of a secure operating bases [sic] and steady access to arms and explosives in preparation for a possible U.S. invasion. Al Zarqawi’s procurements from the Iraqis also could support al Qaeda operations against the U.S. or its allies elsewhere.

The memo was a collection of raw intelligence reports and drew no conclusions. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed to Newsweek that the “reports [in the memo] were old, uncorroborated and came from sources of unknown if not dubious credibility”.

The 2006 Senate Report on Prewar Intelligence concluded that Zarqawi was not a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda: “Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.” The report also cited the debriefing of a “high-ranking Iraqi official” by the FBI. The official stated that a foreign government requested in October 2002 that the IIS locate five individuals suspected of involvement in the murder of Laurence Foley, which led to the arrest of Abu Yasim Sayyem in early 2003.

The official told the FBI that evidence of Sayyem’s ties to Zarqawi was compelling, and thus, he was “shocked” when Sayemm was ordered released by Saddam. The official stated it “was ludicrous to think that the IIS had any involvement with al-Qaeda or Zarqawi,” and suggested Saddam let Sayyem go because he “would participate in striking U.S. forces when they entered Iraq.”

In 2005, according to the Senate report, the CIA amended its 2004 report to conclude, “the regime did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.” (page 91–92) An intelligence official familiar with the CIA assessment also told Michael Isikoff of Newsweek magazine that the current draft of the report says that while Zarqawi did likely receive medical treatment in Baghdad in 2002, the report concludes,

“most evidence suggests Saddam Hussein did not provide Zarqawi safe haven before the war, … [but] it also recognizes that there are still unanswered questions and gaps in knowledge about the relationship.”

The Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office website translated a letter dated August 17, 2002 from an Iraqi intelligence official. The letter is part of the Operation Iraqi Freedom documents. The letter asks agents in the country to be on the lookout for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and another unnamed man. Pictures of both men were attached.

The letter issued the following 3 directives:

  1. Instructing your sources to continue their surveillance of the above-mentioned individuals in your area of operations and inform us once you initiate such action.
  2. Coordinate with Directorate 18 to verify the photographs of the above-mentioned with photos of the members of the Jordanian community within your area of operations.
  3. Conduct a comprehensive survey of all tourist facilities (hotels, furnished apartments, and leased homes). Give this matter your utmost attention. Keep us informed.

The documents also contain responses to this request. One response, dated August 2002, states “Upon verifying the information through our sources and friends in the field as well as office (3), we found no information to confirm the presence of the above-mentioned in our area of operation. Please review, we suggest circulating the contents of this message.” Another response, also dated August 2002, states

“After closely examining the data and through our sources and friends in (SATTS: U R A) square, and in Al-Qa’im immigration office, and in Office (3), none of the mentioned individuals are documented to be present in our area of jurisdiction.”

According to ABC News,

“The letter seems to be coming from or going to Trebil, a town on the Iraqi-Jordanian border. Follow up on the presence of those subjects is ordered, as well as a comparison of their pictures with those of Jordanian subjects living in Iraq. (This may be referring to pictures of Abu Musaab al Zarqawi and another man on pages 4–6.)”

In his book At the Center of the Storm, George Tenet writes:

… by the spring and summer of 2002, more than a dozen al-Qa’ida-affiliated extremists converged on Baghdad, with apparently no harassment on the part of the Iraqi government. They found a comfortable and secure environment in which they moved people and supplies to support Zarqawi’s operations in northern Iraq.

 

According to Tenet, while Zarqawi did find a safe haven in Iraq and did supervise camps in northeastern Iraq run by the Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam,

“the intelligence did not show any Iraqi authority, direction, or control over any of the many specific terrorist acts carried out by al-Qa’ida.”

Influence or lack of

How much influence al-Zarqawi had in Iraq and after his death is disputed.

Importance

Writing in 2015, nine years after his death, an (anonymous) author in the New York Review of Books describes al-Zarqawi as having been responsible for “turning an insurgency against US troops” in Iraq “into a Shia-Sunni civil war”

.[1] Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick argues that al-Zarqawi was the founder of “the group that became ISIS“. Among other things, Warrick believes al-Zarqawi expanded the already broad “parameters of violence” in Iraq and the Middle East.

He personally beheaded civilians on video; directed suicide bombs at targets that other jihadis considered off limits like the UN, NGOs, and Arab embassies; and struck Shia religious targets with the ultimately successfully goal of provoking a destabilizing Sunni-Shia civil war. Even Al Qaeda thought he was going too far, … but Zarqawi’s methods proved to have enduring traction long after his death in 2006.

While the US “troop surge” and “Awakening” movement left his movement “all but dead” in 2009, it survived and metastasized into ISIS according to author David Ignatius.

Doubts about his importance

Some months before and after his killing, several sources claimed that Zarqawi was variously a US “Boogeyman” and product of its war propaganda, the product of faulty US intelligence, a US or Israeli agent, did not really exist, was unlikely to be an important insurgent leader because he had no real leadership capabilities, and/or did not behead Nicholas Berg.

According to the Commonwealth Institute his notoriety was the product of U.S. war propaganda designed to promote the image of a demonic enemy figure to help justify continued U.S. military operations in Iraq,  perhaps with the tacit support of jihadi elements who wished to use him as a propaganda tool or as a distraction.

In one report, the conservative newspaper Daily Telegraph described the claim that Zarqawi was the head of the “terrorist network” in Iraq as a “myth”. This report cited an unnamed U.S. military intelligence source to the effect that the Zarqawi leadership “myth” was initially caused by faulty intelligence, but was later accepted because it suited U.S. government political goals.

One Sunni insurgent leader claimed,

“Zarqawi is an American, Israeli and Iranian agent who is trying to keep our country unstable so that the Sunnis will keep facing occupation.”

On February 18, 2006, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr made similar charges:

I believe he is fictitious. He is a knife or a pistol in the hands of the occupier. I believe that all three – the occupation, the takfir (i.e. the practice of declaring other Muslims to be heretics) supporters, and the Saddam supporters – stem from the same source, because the takfir supporters and the Saddam supporters are a weapon in the hands of America and it pins its crimes on them.

 

On April 10, 2006, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. military conducted a major propaganda offensive designed to exaggerate Zarqawi’s role in the Iraqi insurgency. Gen. Mark Kimmitt says of the propaganda campaign that there “was no attempt to manipulate the press”. In an internal briefing, Kimmitt is quoted as stating, “The Zarqawi PSYOP Program is the most successful information campaign to date.” The main goal of the propaganda campaign seems to have been to exacerbate a rift between insurgent forces in Iraq, but intelligence experts worried that it had actually enhanced Zarqawi’s influence.

Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned an Army meeting in 2004,

“Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will – made him more important than he really is, in some ways.”

While Pentagon spokespersons state unequivocally that PSYOPs may not be used to influence American citizens, there is little question that the information disseminated through the program has found its way into American media sources. The Washington Post also notes, “One briefing slide about U.S. ‘strategic communications’ in Iraq, prepared for Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, describes the ‘home audience’ as one of six major targets of the American side of the war.”

On July 4, 2006, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad, in an interview with the BBC, said: “In terms of the level of violence, it (the death of al-Zarqawi) has not had any impact at this point… the level of violence is still quite high.” But Khalilzad maintained his view that the killing had though encouraged some insurgent groups to “reach out” and join government reconciliation talks; he believed that previously these groups were intimidated by Zarqawi’s presence.

On June 8, 2006, on the BBC’s Question Time program, the Respect Party MP George Galloway referred to al-Zarqawi as “a ‘Boogeyman‘, built up by the Americans to try and perpetrate the lie that the resistance in Iraq are by foreigners, and that the mass of the Iraqis are with the American and British occupation”. Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times supported this saying “several people who knew Mr. Zarqawi well, including former cellmates, voiced doubts about his ability to be an insurgent leader, or the leader of anything.”

In the July/August 2006 issue of The Atlantic, Mary Anne Weaver doubted that the figure who beheaded Nicholas Berg in the execution video was in fact al-Zarqawi.

In a story detailing her captivity in Iraq, Jill Carroll, a journalist for the Christian Science Monitor, casts doubt on al-Zarqawi’s alleged unimportance. She describes how one of her captors, who identified himself as Abdullah Rashid and leader of the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, conveyed to her that:

“The Americans were constantly saying that the mujahideen in Iraq were led by foreigners… So, the Iraqi insurgents went to Zarqawi and insisted that an Iraqi be put in charge. But as I saw in coming weeks, Zarqawi remained the insurgents’ hero, and the most influential member of their council, whatever Nour/Rashid’s position. And it seemed to me, based on snatches of conversations, that two cell leaders under him – Abu Rasha and Abu Ahmed [al-Kuwaiti] – might also be on the council. At various times, I heard my captors discussing changes in their plans because of directives from the council and Zarqawi.”

Pre-war assassination opportunities

According to NBC News, the Pentagon had pushed to “take out” Zarqawi’s operation at least three times prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but had been vetoed by the National Security Council. The NSC reportedly made its decision in an effort to convince other countries to join the U.S. in a coalition against Iraq. “People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of pre-emption against terrorists,” said former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In May 2005, former CIA official Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit for six years before resigning in 2004, corroborated this. Paraphrasing his remarks, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation stated Scheuer claimed, “the United States deliberately turned down several opportunities to kill terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the lead-up to the Iraq war.” ABC added, “a plan to destroy Zarqawi’s training camp in Kurdistan was abandoned for diplomatic reasons.” Scheuer explained, “the reasons the intelligence service got for not shooting Zarqawi was simply that the President and the National Security Council decided it was more important not to give the Europeans the impression we were gunslingers” in an effort to win support for ousting Saddam Hussein.

This claim was also corroborated by CENTCOM’s Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General Michael DeLong, in an interview with PBS on February 14, 2006. DeLong, however, claims that the reasons for abandoning the opportunity to take out Zarqawi’s camp was that the Pentagon feared that an attack would contaminate the area with chemical weapon materials:

“We almost took them out three months before the Iraq war started. We almost took that thing, but we were so concerned that the chemical cloud from there could devastate the region that we chose to take them by land rather than by smart weapons.”

 

In his 2010 memoir Decision Points, President Bush recounted:

“The question was whether to bomb the poisons lab in the summer of 2002. We held a series of NSC meetings on that topic… Colin [Powell] and Condi [Condoleezza Rice] felt a strike on the lab would create an international firestorm and disrupt our efforts to build a coalition to confront Saddam… I decided to continue on the diplomatic track.”

Reports of his death, detention and injuries

Missing leg

Claims of harm to Zarqawi changed over time. Early in 2002, there were unverified reports from Afghan Northern Alliance members that Zarqawi had been killed by a missile attack in Afghanistan. Many news sources repeated the claim. Later, Kurdish groups claimed that Zarqawi had not died in the missile strike, but had been severely injured, and went to Baghdad in 2002 to have his leg amputated.

On October 7, 2002, the day before Congress voted to give President George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq, Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, that repeated as fact the claim that he had sought medical treatment in Baghdad. This was one of several of President Bush’s examples of ways Saddam Hussein had aided, funded, and harbored al-Qaeda. Powell repeated this claim in his February 2003 speech to the UN, urging a resolution for war, and it soon became “common knowledge” that Zarqawi had a prosthetic leg.

In 2004, Newsweek reported that some “senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad” had come to believe that he still had his original legs. Knight Ridder later reported that the leg amputation was something “officials now acknowledge was incorrect”.

When the video of the Berg beheading was released in 2004, credence was given to the claim that Zarqawi was alive and active. The man identified as Zarqawi in the video did not appear to have a prosthetic leg. Videos of Zarqawi aired in 2006 that clearly showed him with both legs intact.

When Zarqawi’s body was autopsied, “X-rays also showed a fracture of his right lower leg.”

Claims of death

 

A U.S. PSYOP leaflet disseminated in Iraq shows al-Zarqawi caught in a rat trap. Text:

“This is your future, Zarqawi”

In March 2004, an insurgent group in Iraq issued a statement saying that Zarqawi had been killed in April 2003. The statement said that he was unable to escape the missile attack because of his prosthetic leg. His followers claimed he was killed in a U.S. bombing raid in the north of Iraq.

The claim that Zarqawi had been killed in northern Iraq “at the beginning of the war”, and that subsequent use of his name was a useful myth, was repeated in September 2005 by Sheikh Jawad Al-Khalessi, a Shiite imam.

On May 24, 2005, it was reported on an Islamic website that a deputy would take command of Al-Qaeda while Zarqawi recovered from injuries sustained in an attack. Later that week the Iraqi government confirmed that Zarqawi had been wounded by U.S. forces, although the battalion did not realize it at the time. The extent of his injuries is not known, although some radical Islamic websites called for prayers for his health.

There are reports that a local hospital treated a man, suspected to be Zarqawi, with severe injuries. He was also said to have subsequently left Iraq for a neighbouring country, accompanied by two physicians. However, later that week the radical Islamic website retracted its report about his injuries and claimed that he was in fine health and was running the jihad operation.

In a September 16, 2005, article published by Le Monde, Sheikh Jawad Al-Kalesi claimed that al-Zarqawi was killed in the Kurdish northern region of Iraq at the beginning of the U.S.-led war on the country as he was meeting with members of the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam group affiliated to al-Qaeda. Al-Kalesi also claimed

“His family in Jordan even held a ceremony after his death.” He also claimed, “Zarqawi has been used as a ploy by the United States, as an excuse to continue the occupation” and saying, “It was a pretext so they don’t leave Iraq.

On November 20, 2005, some news sources reported that Zarqawi may have been killed in a coalition assault on a house in Mosul; five of those in the house were killed in the assault while the other three died through using ‘suicide belts‘ of explosives. United States and British soldiers searched the remains, with U.S. forces using DNA samples to identify the dead

However, none of those remains belonged to him.

Reportedly captured and released

According to a CNN report dated December 15, 2005, al-Zarqawi was captured by Iraqi forces sometime during 2004 and later released because his captors did not realize who he was. This claim was made by a Saudi suicide bomber, Ahmed Abdullah al-Shaiyah, who survived a failed suicide attempt to blow up the Jordanian mission in Baghdad in December. “Do you know what has happened to Zarqawi and where he is?” an Iraqi investigator asked Mr. Shaiyah.

He answered, “I don’t know, but I heard from some of my mujahadeen brothers that Iraqi police had captured Zarqawi in Fallujah.”

Mr. Shaiyah says he then heard that the police let the terrorist go because they had failed to recognize him. U.S. officials called the report “plausible” but refused to con

Death

Remains of Zarqawi’s safe house, June 8, 2006

Zarqawi was killed in a targeted killing on June 7, 2006, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) north of Baquba At 14:15 GMT, two United States Air Force F-16C jets  identified the house and the lead jet dropped two 500-pound (230 kg) guided bombs, a laser-guided GBU-12 and GPS-guided GBU-38 on the building located at

 WikiMiniAtlas

33°48′02.83″N 44°30′48.58″E / 33.8007861°N 44.5134944°E / 33.8007861; 44.5134944.

Five others were also reported kille

The joint task force (Task Force 145) had been tracking him for some time, and although there were some close calls, he had eluded them on many occasions. United States intelligence officials then received tips from Iraqi senior leaders from Zarqawi’s network that he and some of his associates were in the Baqubah area.

According to the book Task Force Black by Mark Urban, the intelligence was received from a senior AQI leader who the author Mark Bowden dubbed “Abu Haydr” who had been captured in Operation Larchwood 4.

The safehouse itself was watched for over six weeks before Zarqawi was observed entering the building by operators from Task Force 145. Jordanian intelligence reportedly helped to identify his location. The area was subsequently secured by Iraqi security forces, who were the first ground forces to arrive.

On June 8, 2006, coalition forces confirmed that Zarqawi’s body was identified by facial recognition, fingerprinting, known scars and tattoos.They also announced the death of one of his key lieutenants, spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman.

Initially, the U.S. military reported that Zarqawi was killed directly in the attack. However, according to a statement made the following day by Major General William Caldwell of the U.S. Army, Zarqawi survived for a short time after the bombing and, after being placed on a stretcher, attempted to move and was restrained, after which he died from his injuries.

An Iraqi man, who claims to have arrived on the scene a few moments after the attack, said he saw U.S. troops beating up the badly wounded but still alive Zarqawi. In contradiction, Caldwell asserted that when U.S. troops found Zarqawi barely alive they tried to provide him with medical help, rejecting the allegations that he was beaten based on an autopsy performed. The account of the Iraqi witness has not been verified

All others in the house died immediately in the blasts. On June 12, 2006, it was reported that an autopsy performed by the U.S. military revealed that the cause of death to Zarqawi was a blast injury to the lungs but he took nearly an hour to die.

 

U.S. distributed photo of Zarqawi’s corpse

The U.S. government distributed an image of Zarqawi’s corpse as part of the press pack associated with the press conference. The release of the image has been criticised for being in questionable taste and for inadvertently creating an iconic image of Zarqawi that would be used to rally his supporters.

Reactions to dea

Prime Minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki commented on the death of Zarqawi by saying:

“Today, Zarqawi has been terminated. Every time a Zarqawi appears we will kill him. We will continue confronting whoever follows his path.”

United States President George W. Bush stated that through his every action Zarqawi sought to defeat America and its coalition partners by turning Iraq into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Bush also stated, “Now Zarqawi has met his end and this violent man will never murder again.”

Zarqawi’s brother-in-law has since claimed that he was a martyr even though the family renounced Zarqawi and his actions in the aftermath of the Amman triple suicide bombing that killed at least 60 people.

The opinion of Iraqis on his death is mixed; some believe that it will promote peace between the warring factions, while others are convinced that his death will provoke his followers to a massive retaliation and cause more bombings and deaths in Iraq

Abu Abdulrahman al-Iraqi, the deputy of al-Zarqawi, released a statement to Islamist websites indicating that al-Qaeda in Iraq also confirmed Zarqawi’s death:

“We herald the martyrdom of our mujahed Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq … and we stress that this is an honor to our nation.”

In the statement, al-Iraqi vowed to continue the jihad in Ira

On June 16, 2006, Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, the head of the Mujahideen Shura Council, which groups five Iraqi insurgent organizations including al-Qaida in Iraq, released an audio tape statement in which he described the death of al-Zarqawi as a “great loss”. He continued by stating that al-Zarqawi “will remain a symbol for all the mujahideen, who will take strength from his steadfastness”.

Al-Baghdadi is believed to be a former officer in Saddam’s army, or its elite Republican Guard, who has worked closely with al-Zarqawi since the overthrow of Saddam’s regime in April 2003

Counterterrorism officials have said that al-Zarqawi had become a key part of al-Qaeda’s marketing campaign and that al-Zarqawi served as a “worldwide jihadist rallying point and a fundraising icon”. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, called al-Zarqawi

“The terrorist celeb, if you will, … It is like selling for any organization. They are selling the success of Zarqawi in eluding capture in Iraq.”

On June 23, 2006, Al-Jazeera aired a video in which Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, states that Zarqawi was “a soldier, a hero, an imam and the prince of martyrs, [and his death] has defined the struggle between the crusaders and Islam in Iraq”.

On June 30, 2006, Osama bin Laden released an audio recording in which he stated,

“Our Islamic nation was surprised to find its knight, the lion of jihad, the man of determination and will, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed in a shameful American raid. We pray to Allah to bless him and accept him among the martyrs as he had hoped for.”

Bin Laden also defended al-Zarqawi, saying he had

“clear instructions” to focus on U.S.-led forces in Iraq but also “for those who … stood to fight on the side of the crusaders against the Muslims, then he should kill them whoever they are, regardless of their sect or tribe.”

Shortly after, he released another audio tape in which he stated,

“Our brothers, the mujahedeen in the al-Qaeda organization, have chosen the dear brother Abu Hamza al-Muhajer as their leader to succeed the Amir Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I advise him to focus his fighting on the Americans and everyone who supports them and allies himself with them in their war on the people of Islam and Iraq”.

Alleged betrayal by al-Qaeda

A day before Zarqawi was killed, a U.S. strategic analysis site suggested that Zarqawi could have lost the trust of al-Qaeda due to his emphatic anti-Shia stance and the massacres of civilians allegedly committed in his name. Reports in The New York Times on June 8 treated the betrayal by at least one fellow al-Qaeda member as fact, stating that an individual close to Zarqawi disclosed the identity and location of Sheik Abd al-Rahman to Jordanian and American intelligence. Non-stop surveillance of Abd al-Rahman quickly led to Zarqawi.

The Associated Press quotes an unnamed Jordanian official as saying that the effort to find Zarqawi was successful partly due to information that Jordan obtained one month beforehand from a captured Zarqawi al-Qaeda operative named Ziad Khalaf Raja al-Karbouly.

Reward

In apparent contradiction to statements made earlier in the day by U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, an Iraqi spokesman said the US$25 million reward “will be honored”. Khalilzad, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, had stated the bounty would not be paid because the decisive information leading to Zarqawi’s whereabouts had been supplied by an al-Qaeda in Iraq operative whose own complicity in violent acts would disqualify him from receiving payment.

Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican of Illinois who drafted the legislation specifying the Zarqawi reward, was quoted as saying contemporaneously that the Bush Administration planned to pay “some rewards” for Zarqawi. “I don’t have the specifics,” he stated.

“The administration is now working out who will get it and how much. As their appropriator who funds them, I asked them to let me know if they need more money to run the rewards program now that they are paying this out.”

Post-Zarqawi Iraq environment

Zarqawi’s death was seen a major coup for the U.S. government in terms of the political and propaganda stakes. However, unconfirmed rumors in early April 2006 suggested that Zarqawi had been demoted from a strategic or coordinating function to overseer of paramilitary/terrorist activities of his group and that Abdullah bin Rashed al-Baghdadi of the Mujahideen Shura Council succeeded Zarqawi in the former function. On June 15, 2006, the United States military officially identified Abu Ayyub al-Masri as the successor to Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

After Zarqawi’s demise in early June 2006 there was little or no immediately identifiable change in terms of the level of violence and attacks against U.S. and allied troops. In the immediate aftermath insurgency attacks averaged 90 a day, apparently some of the highest on record.

Four months after Zarqawi’s death, it was estimated that 374 coalition soldiers and 10,355 Iraqis had been killed. Several insurgency groups and heads of Sunni Muslim tribes also formed a coalition called the Mujahideen Shura Council.

By late 2007, violent and indiscriminate attacks directed by AQI against Iraqi civilians had severely damaged their image and caused the loss of support among the population, isolating the group. In a major blow to AQI, thousands of former Sunni militants that previously fought along with the group started to actively fight AQI and also work with the American and Iraqi forces, starting with the creation of the Anbar Awakening Council because of its Anbar origins. The group spread to all Sunni cities and communities and some Shiite areas and adopted the broader name Sons of Iraq. The Sons of Iraq was instrumental in giving tips to coalition forces about weapons caches and militants resulting in the destruction of over 2,500 weapons caches and over 800 militants being killed or captured.

In addition, the 30,000 strong U.S. troop surge supplied military planners with more manpower for operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq, The Mujahadeen Shura Council, Ansar Al-Sunnah and other terrorist groups. The resulting events led to dozens of high-level AQI leaders being captured or killed. Al-Qaeda seemed to have lost its foothold in Iraq and appeared to be severely crippled due to its lack of vast weapons caches, leaders, safe havens, and Iraqis willing to support them. Accordingly, the bounty issued for Abu Ayyub-al-Masri AKA Abu Hamza al-Muhajer was eventually cut from $5 million down to a mere $100,000 in April 2008.

On January 8 and January 28, 2008, Iraqi and U.S. forces launched Operation Phantom Phoenix and the Ninawa campaign (AKA the Mosul Campaign) killing and capturing over 4,600 militants, and locating and destroying over 3,000 weapons caches, effectively leaving AQI with one last major insurgent stronghold – Diyala. On July 29, 2008, Iraqi, U.S. and Sons Of Iraq forces launched Operation Augurs of Prosperity in the Diyala province and surrounding areas to clear AQI out of its last stronghold.

Two operations had already been launched in Diyala with mixed results, and this campaign was expected to face fierce resistance. The resulting operation left over 500 weapons caches destroyed and five militants killed; 483 militants were captured due to the lack of resistance from the insurgent forces. Twenty four high level AQI terrorists were killed or captured in the campaign.[

 

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Abu Omar the Chechen Dead? – Another IS leader bites the dust

Top ISIS commander ‘Omar the Chechen ‘ believed to have been killed in airstrike.

This is the third or fourth time he has reportedly been killed and like any death of Islamic States  top  leaders confirmation is slow and details are often hidden behind the fog of  war.

However US sources are confident they have got it right this time and if so this will be a major blow to the disciples  of hate and the twisted ideology of  Islamic State and their deluded followers.

Slowly slowly catch the monkey

Syrian-democratic-forces.jpg
Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)

 

According to todays Independent ISIS opposition is at the ‘ gates of Raqqa ‘ as Syrian Democratic Forces reclaim villages from their control

The Syrian Democratic Forces have been celebrating a string of victories as they reclaim villages from Isis control, putting them within 20 miles of Raqqa

Without a doubt the forces against IS are slowly gaining the upper hand and IS’s  area of control is reducing almost daily. Desertion among their members has become such an issue that it carries a mandatory death sentence and according to local sources the majority of deserters are foreign and European fighters whom have become disillusioned  with the harsh conditions and religious  fanaticism.

Whatever is causing disharmony among these monstrous Jihadists  is good news for the world in general and the death of the Chechen is another nail in the coffin which will send these scum straight to HELL!

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Abu Omar the Chechen Dead

Omar al-Shishani's corpse with text

The United States has confirmed that ISIS commander Omar al-Shishani, also known as “Omar the Chechen,” is dead, CBS News’ David Martin reports.

According to officials, he survived an initial attack carried out in the beginning of March, but has since died of his wounds, Martin reports. A U.S. official previously said an attack was carried out March 4 by multiple waves of planes and drone aircraft.

Al-Shishani, whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, was described as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) equivalent of a Secretary of Defense. He was an ethnic Chechen from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

The U.S. government had a longstanding $5-million bounty for information leading to his being brought to justice.

In announcing the strike last week, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said it occurred near al-Shaddadeh, a former ISIS stronghold that was captured in February by the U.S.-backed, predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces. He said the ISIS leader held numerous senior military positions within the group, including “minister of war,” and was based in Raqqa, Syria.

See CBS News for full story

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Abu Omar the Chechen

Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili

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ISIS Commander (Al-Shishani) Explains Islamic State’s Plans

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Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili (Georgian: თარხან ბათირაშვილი; February 11, 1986 – March 14, 2016), known by his nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Shishani (Arabic: أبو عمر الشيشاني‎, Abū ‘Umar ash-Shīshānī , “Abu Omar the Chechen”)[9] or Omar al-Shishani, was a Georgian Kist jihadist who served as a commander for the Islamic State in Syria, and a former sergeant in the Georgian Army.[9]

A veteran of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, Batirashvili became a jihadist after being discharged from the Georgian military and served in various command positions with Islamist militant groups fighting in the Syrian Civil War. Batirashvili was previously the leader of the rebel group Muhajireen Brigade (Emigrants Brigade), and its successor, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters).

In May 2013, Batirashvili was appointed northern commander for ISIL, with authority over ISIL’s military operations and forces in northern Syria, specifically Aleppo, al-Raqqah, Latakia, and northern Idlib Provinces.By late 2013, he was the ISIL amir (leader) for northern Syria and was operating in and around Aleppo Province. He was also in charge of fighters from Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus.[10] Units under his command participated in major assaults on Syrian military bases in and around Aleppo, including the capture of Menagh Airbase in August 2013.[3] He was considered “one of the most influential military leaders of the Syrian opposition forces”.[2] By mid-2014, Batirashvili was a senior ISIL commander and Shura Council member based in al-Raqqah, Syria.[10]

The US Treasury Department added Batirashvili to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on 24 September 2014.[11] On 5 May 2015, The U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced a reward up to US$5 million for information leading to his capture.[12][13]

Batirashvili died from his injuries several days after being the target of a 4 March 2016 U.S. Airstrike near the al-Shaddadi region in Northern Syria, according to U.S. officials

Abu Omar al-Shishani
Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili.jpg

Omar al-Shishani as seen during the Syrian Civil War.
Birth name Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili
Born (1986-02-11)February 11, 1986[1][2]
Birkiani, Georgian SSR, Soviet Union[3]
Died March 14, 2016(2016-03-14) (aged 30)[4]
Raqqa, Syria
Allegiance Georgia (country) Georgian Armed Forces
(2006–2010)
Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar.jpg Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar
(2012–2013)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[5][6]
(May 2013– March 14, 2016)
Service/branch Military of ISIL
Rank Field Commander
Commands held Northern Syria
Battles/wars Russo-Georgian War[7]

Syrian Civil War[7][8]

Early life

Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili was born in the Georgian SSR, Soviet Union (now Georgia) in 1986. His father, Teimuraz Batirashvili, is an ethnic Georgian and Orthodox Christian. His mother was a Muslim Kist—an ethnic Chechen subgroup from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge—of the Melkhi clan.[2][15][16]

Batirashvili grew up in the largely Kist-populated village of Birkiani, located in the Pankisi Gorge in northeast Georgia. In his youth, he worked as a shepherd in the hills above the gorge. Later in the 1990s, the Pankisi Gorge was a major transit point for rebels participating in the Second Chechen War, and it was there that Batirashvili reportedly came into contact with the Chechen rebels moving into Russia.[17] According to his father, a young Batirashvili secretly helped Chechen militants into Russia and sometimes joined them on missions against Russian troops.[3]

Service in the Georgian Armed Forces

After finishing high school, Batirashvili joined the Georgian Army and distinguished himself as master of various weaponry and maps, according to his former commander Malkhaz Topuria, who recruited him into a special reconnaissance group.[3] His unit was trained by US special forces, and Batirashvili was reportedly a “star pupil”.[18] He rose to the rank of sergeant in a newly formed intelligence unit, and during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War he served near the front line at the Battle of Tskhinvali, spying on Russian tank columns and relaying their coordinates to Georgian artillery units.[3] Batirashvili’s unit inflicted serious damage on the Russians, and among the actions they participated in was an attack on a column of the Russian 58th Army during which the commander of the 58th Army, General Anatoly Khrulyov, was wounded.[18]

Batirashvili was never decorated for his military service.[2] He was due to be promoted to become an officer, but in 2010 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After spending several months in a military hospital, he was discharged on medical grounds. He tried and failed to re-enlist.[3][17] Upon returning home, he was unable to secure work in the local police force. Around this time, his mother also died of cancer. According to his father, he became “very disillusioned”.[3]

Militant activity

According to the Georgian Defense Ministry, Batirashvili was arrested in September 2010 for illegally harboring weapons and was sentenced to three years in prison.[3] He was allegedly released after serving about 16 months in early 2012 and immediately left the country. According to an interview on a jihadist website, Batirashvili said that prison transformed him; “I promised God that if I come out of prison alive, I’ll go fight jihad for the sake of God”, he said.[3]

Batirashvili reportedly told his father that he was leaving for Istanbul, where members of the Chechen diaspora were ready to recruit him to lead fighters inside war-ravaged Syria; an older brother had already gone to Syria some months before.[3] In an interview, Batirashvili said that he had considered going to Yemen and briefly lived in Egypt before ultimately arriving in Syria in March 2012.[19][20]

Muhajireen Brigade

His first command was the Muhajireen Brigade, an Islamist jihadist group made up of foreign fighters that was formed in the summer of 2012. His unit became involved in the Battle of Aleppo, and in October 2012 they assisted Al-Nusra Front in a raid on an air defense and Scud missile base in Aleppo.[8]

In December 2012, they fought alongside Al-Nusra Front during the overrunning of the Sheikh Suleiman Army base in Western Aleppo. In February 2013, together with the Tawhid Brigades and Al-Nusra Front, they stormed the base of the Syrian military’s 80th Regiment near the main airport in Aleppo.[21]

In March 2013, Kavkaz Center reported that the Muhajireen Brigade had merged with two Syrian jihadist groups called Jaish Muhammad and Kataeb Khattab to form a new group called Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, or Army of Emigrants and Helpers.[22] The group played a key role in the August 2013 capture of Menagh Air Base, which culminated in a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) driven by two of their members killing and wounding many of the last remaining Syrian Armed Forces defenders.[23] A branch of the Muhajireen Brigade was involved in the 2013 Latakia offensive.[24]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

In Mid 2013, Batirashvili made an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and was appointed northern commander for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[25] In August 2013, Batirashvili released a statement announcing the expulsion of one of his commanders, Emir Seyfullah, and twenty-seven of his fighters. Batirashvili accused the men of embezzlement and stirring up the animosity of local Syrians against the foreign fighters by indulging in takfir—excommunication—against other Muslims.[26] However, Seyfullah denied these allegations and claimed that the dispute was due to his refusal to join ISIL with Batirashvili.[27] In late 2013, Batirashvili was replaced as leader of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar by another Chechen commander known as Salahuddin, as most of the Chechen members of the group did not support Batirashvili’s support of ISIL, due to their preexisting oath to the Caucasus Emirate militant group, and it’s leader Dokka Umarov.[2][6] By mid-2014, Batirashvili was a senior ISIL commander and Shura Council member operating in Ar-Raqqah, Syria.[25]

According to Batirashvili’s father, he called him once since he left for Syria to tell him that he was now married to a Chechen woman and had a daughter named Sophia.[15] For a time, Batirashvili lived with his family in a large villa owned by a businessman in the town of Huraytan just northwest of Aleppo.[28] He is said to have overseen the group’s prison facility near Ar-Raqqah, where foreign hostages may have been held.[29] By 2016, Batirashvili led special battalions of the Islamic State, in particular a unit named as ‘the group of the central directorate’ which appears to be the primary special forces strike force of the group.[30]

Reports of death or capture

Shishani has been reported as being killed on numerous occasions. In 2014, there were reports that he had been killed in various parts of Syria and Iraq in May, June, August and October, all of which proved to be untrue.[31] On 13 November 2014, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov posted on his personal Instagram account that al-Shishani had been killed, and posted a photo of a dead ginger-bearded man, however the man in the photograph was not Shishani, and Kadyrov later deleted the post. Before the post was deleted, the statement was picked up and reported on by many media outlets around the world.[31]

There were further reports of his death in 2015: in May,[32] June[33] and October.[34] On December 27, Russian News Agency TASS, quoting EIN news, claimed that American special forces had captured al-Shishani near Kirkuk in Iraq.[35] This report was denied by a Pentagon spokesman.[36]

In March 2016, several unnamed US Officials told CNN that Shishani may have been killed in a 4 March targeted airstrike, near the Syrian town of al-Shadadi; however, they were unable to confirm his death. Other officials said he had been “critically injured” in the strike, and that US military intelligence was assessing whether or not he had died.[37][38] On 12 March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that al-Shishani had become clinically dead following the US airstrikes, with the ISIL commander in critical condition and unable to breathe without the use of life-support machines.[39][40] On 14 March 2016, two U.S. officials told CNN that there was confirmation al-Shishani had died after the airstrike

How do you beat Isis & their twisted Ideology ?

“I came to the absolute conviction that it is impossible…impossible…for any human being to read the biography of Mohammed and believe in it, and then emerge a psychologically and mentally healthy person.”

– Syrian Psychiatrist Dr. Wafa Sultan

Jihadi John
Jihadi John

See jihadi John

The execution of Jihad John on Friday give the world something to celebrate and was a hard hitting reminder that although we don’t know exactly what action governments are taking against IS/Islamic extremists , we now know they are capable of a stunning PR strike that sent an evil, sick individual straight to eternal hell and will hopefully have all Jahadi’s scum terrified of their own shadows and of death coming at any moment from the skies.

The Terrorists are being Terrified!

Survivors being led away on rue Oberkampf near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris

But any joy the world shared at the termination of the evil, vile human was short lived when the streets of Paris were turned into a bloodbath , as the dark shadow of Islamic terrorism wrote another chapter in its endless book of horror.

To date one hundred and twenty nine people have died as a result of this act of terrorism and as the people of Paris begin to try to pick themselves up and comprehend how life can ever return to normal , the rest of the world look on and thank the gods that they had been spared.

For now at least .

See BBC News for full story

For surely this is only a short reprieve and depressing as it is , there will no doubt be other chapters in the bloody rise of  extremist Islamic Terrorism . Those deluded enough to follow such an evil, twisted ideology – that glorifies in the slaughter of the innocent and death to all none believers , have nothing else to live for and have committed themselves inextricably to a holy war that can never been won.

But how do you fight against such an enemy and can we ever hope to defeat the diseased ideology of IS and their Islamic caliphate

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The Islamic State (Full Length)

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Its times like this we all try to think about how we can beat those who seem intent not just on murdering innocent people but on attacking our very way of life. The bombing of the Russian plane and terrible events in Paris and Beirut demonstrate that the policy of trying to contain ISIS isn’t working. So here’s what I would do…

1. Accept this is a war, and act accordingly.
2. Invoke Article 5 of the NATO constitution and make every effort to include Russia in a coalition of interests with a single aim – to defeat ISIS militarily. It will mean parking the issue of Assad’s future.
3. Launch a total war on ISIS targets, initially through huge bombing campaigns, but also using ground forces from as many countries as possible, especially Arab ones.
4. Next week David Cameron should introduce an emergency motion in the House of Commons, which, if passed, would give parliamentary approval for military action in Syria alongside the US and France.
5. Drive a stake through ISIS’s heart by taking Raqqa by force in a surprise strike, using thousands of special forces and paratroopers.
6. Britain and other western countries should follow Austria’s lead and ban the foreign funding of mosques. This may mean having to ban foreign funding of all religious institutions, not just mosques. Immediately follow Tunisia’s lead and shut down any mosque linked to extremism. Ban mosques from employing Imams from Saudi Arabia.
7. Theresa May should massively increase the budget of the UK Border Force and immediately recruit several thousand new border guards. US style border checks should be introduced at key locations, but especially Calais and major airports.
8. The Prime Minister should announce an immediate 33% increase in the funding of the security services, giving them an extra billion pounds a year. This should primarily be used to increase surveillance of terror suspects.
9. Confront Saudi Arabia over its overt and covert support for ISIS and Wahabi extremism. If Saudi Arabia fails to act, impose sanctions and make arms sales to the country illegal.
10. Make London a very uncomfortable place for radical extremists and reverse its reputation as ‘Londonistan’.
11. Encourage muslim role models to go into schools and mosques to launch a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign and explain to muslim teenagers why extremism is wrong.
12. Confront head on the myth that western foreign policy and the invasion of Iraq led to the rise of ISIS.
13. Encourage the EU to abandon Schengen and lead moves to reimpose border controls between each EU country.
14. Build refugee camps along the North African coast. Handle asylum application within the camps. Impose high profile EU coordinated naval patrol along the North African coast and turn back the boats.
15. Develop comprehensive plan to deal with Syrian refugees who arrive from Turkey.
16. Develop a Marshall Plan to enable Syria to rebuild following the end of the conflict, and identify other countries which need a similar plan in order to persuade their citizens not to flee, and in the long term designed to persuade them to return.

I realise this is just scratching at the surface in some ways, but we have to recognise that the terms of the debate have changed. Talk of containing ISIS will no longer wash. They and their unique brand of evil needs to be confronted. In the 1930s we had, in the end, to recognise that the only way to beat Hitler was to stand up to him. We are in a similar position now. You can’t sit down and talk to these people. No amount of appeasement will work. Difficult decisions must now be taken in the full recognition that the world order has changed and that further loss of life will inevitably happen. Time will tell if the British people have the stomach for the fight or if we have the politicians who have the courage to impose the measures needed if we are to pull through.

In writing this, I also recognise I will be called a lot of things, no doubt primarily ‘warmonger’. I’ve said right from the start that ISIS need to be taken on and we are at war so at least I am consistent in that. Let’s have the debate and recognise that although there will be differences of view, the debate can at least be conducted in a civil manner. At least in this country we can still have an open debate, unlike in areas controlled by ISIS. Those who disagree with me will have to explain how they would protect the very freedoms that ISIS is seeking to take away from us.

Original Story www.iaindale.com

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The West Must Realize It Cannot Beat ISIS Without Also Beating Assa

Three hundred thousand dead, four million refugees, nearly eight million internally displaced, 600,000 trapped in starvation sieges and countless others maimed, traumatized and rotting in jails where torture, sexual abuse and starvation are routine. This is the partial bill, to date, for the political survival strategy of a Syrian clan headed by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Recent reporting of diplomatic discussions about a potential role for Assad in a transitional unity government raises a pertinent question: can the person responsible for this horrific bill be re-packaged as the reliable overseer of security arrangements featuring civilian protection?

For a complete accounting of the consequences of Assad’s tenure, one must include the Islamic State: the criminal-terrorist marriage of al Qaeda in Iraq and Saddam Hussein loyalists that now occupies a major part of Syria courtesy of Assad regime illegitimacy and connivance. The result is a Syria bleeding terrified humanity onto its neighbors; a dying state hosting a deadly political virus spawning infections globally while attracting cells from around the Sunni Muslim world.

The response from the international community to the humanitarian and security catastrophe that is Syria has been wholly inadequate. President Obama seeks to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. Yet single-minded focus on achieving a nuclear agreement with Iran led the West to avert its gaze from the ISIS-abetting, civilian-centric depredations of an Assad regime fully supported by Tehran.

For ISIS, confronting Assad alone — an Assad supported by Iran and ideally the West — would be a recruiting gift of untold value.

Washington’s theory of the case had been that raising Syria with Iran — even in side talks well-removed from the nuclear main event — would provoke Tehran into abandoning the nuclear talks and forgoing a treasure in sanctions relief and foreign direct investment. Apparently, it never occurred to Iran’s Supreme Leader that the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the European Union would be offended in the least by his country’s facilitation of mass murder in Syria and by his support of a family whose actions had made nearly all of eastern Syria safe for ISIS.

While coalition aircraft chase ISIS gunmen with high performance aircraft, anti-regime and anti-ISIS rebels are subjected by the regime to barrel bombs and starvation sieges, creating recruits for ISIS in Syria and around the world. Simultaneously, Shia militiamen imported from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan by Iran battle anti-regime and anti-ISIS Syrian rebels in the parts of western Syria Iran hopes to preserve as a bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Meanwhile, American diplomats chase their Russian counterparts for help in terminating Assad rule: as if Moscow wants Assad gone or can make it happen.

Regime forces and ISIS rarely face one another in combat. Rather, they focus on trying to eliminate Syrian nationalist alternatives to each. Assad and his ISIS counterpart, “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, share the same objective: each, for his own reason, wants to face the other as one of the last two political forces left standing in Syria. For Assad, facing ISIS alone would be the dream come true: his long-sought opportunity to force the West to choose between him and something so spectacularly bad that some consider it even worse than him: the 21st century’s premier mass murderer. For Baghdadi, confronting Assad alone — an Assad supported by Iran and ideally the West — would be a recruiting gift of untold value. It would bolster his leadership credentials among disaffected Sunni Muslims around the world.

ISIS cannot be beaten from the air while the iron lung pumping oxygen into it — the Assad regime — is left to do its worst.

In Iraq, ISIS has a constituency: Iraqi Sunnis disenfranchised by the Iranian-supported sectarian policies of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In Syria, ISIS has no natural constituency. And Assad’s base has been reduced to members of Syria’s minorities and a handful of Sunni supporters, all of whom have been taken hostage by his war crimes and crimes against humanity; all of whom fear retribution for barrel bombs dropped, children starved and women raped. Syria — not Iraq — is the place where ISIS can be handed a decisive, near-term defeat. But it cannot be beaten from the air while the iron lung pumping oxygen into it — the Assad regime — is left to do its worst.

Legitimate governance — not war — is the ultimate cure for a Syrian illness rapidly becoming a regional and global contagion. Yet without an effective, surgical intervention of a kinetic variety, the patient has no hope of surviving. At its present, glacial rate of recruitment, vetting and training, the American enlistment of Syrian rebels to fight ISIS would meet its modest personnel goal perhaps by mid-century. What is needed now is professional ground forces to work with coalition aircraft to kill ISIS in Syria. With all of eastern Syria liberated from ISIS, a governmental alternative to the Assad family business can be established and a basis for eventual political negotiations created. And ISIS in Iraq would be denied a Syrian safe haven and headquarters of incalculable value.

Business as usual will give ISIS time to sink real roots in Syria, with disastrous consequences. Yet killing ISIS in Syria will not keep it dead and will not prevent something even worse from arising unless Assad’s mass atrocities stop. Iran could end them with an order. Can Western statesmen muster the courage to confront Tehran diplomatically on this point? Or will they continue to cower, fearful that Iran might yet walk away from a nuclear deal that would move its weaponization breakout period from two months to 15 years in return for lucrative compensation? Secretary of State John Kerry suggests talks with Iran on Syria may start once the nuclear deal is approved. Why wait? People are dying, and ISIS is benefiting.

Legitimate governance — not war — is the ultimate cure for a Syrian illness rapidly becoming a regional and global contagion.

Syrian political negotiations are impossible while these mass atrocities continue. Yet if Iran chooses to perpetuate its unconditional support for mass murder, a West actually intent on defeating ISIS while seeking a political transition from Assad rule to something civilized will have no choice but to push back. Indeed, if President Barack Obama can demonstrate his willingness and ability to stand up to Iran in the battle against ISIS, he might gain support in Congress for the nuclear deal.

If diplomacy fails, the worst of Assad’s atrocities — the barrel bombs — can be curtailed and even ended by military means far short of invading and occupying Syria. Iran should be given the opportunity to end these abominations with a word. Tehran should also be asked to lift the starvation sieges and permit full access to needy populations by the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations. It probably will not wish to do these things. Yet it should be given a time-limited opportunity to do so.

Pretending to make common cause with Iran against ISIS during the nuclear negotiations may have been someone’s idea of a smart negotiating tactic. In Iraq, however, Iran aids ISIS by promoting Shia militias instead of supporting the Iraqi government. In Syria, Iran’s client has created conditions permitting ISIS to thrive. Iran is no ally of the West in the fight against ISIS. Indeed, chasing ISIS with airplanes while giving a free rein to Assad is as much a losing proposition for the West as it is a sure winner for Iran. Western leaders fully realize that Assad and Baghdadi are two sides of the same debased coin. They should act accordingly if “degrading and defeating” ISIS is more than a slogan.

See Huffington Post for original story

Khansaa Brigade – ISIS ‘female ” Police “

Khansaa Brigade

The Al-Khansaa Brigade, also spelled Al-Khanssaa Brigade, is an all-women police or religious enforcement unit of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), operating in its de facto capital of Raqqa and Mosul.[1] Formed in early 2014 and apparently named after Al-Khansa, a female Arabic poet from the earliest days of Islam, it is unclear how widespread and sustained the group is.

An ISIL official, Abu Ahmad, said in 2014, “We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law.”[2] The outfit has also been called ISIL’s ‘moral police’

ISIS ‘female Gestapo’ leading campaign of terror against own sex – and 60 are British

Al Khansaa brigade rule by terror

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Daesh Defectors – 3 women leave al-Khansaa brigade

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Islamic State’s ‘female Gestapo’ is conducting a sickening campaign of terror against their own sex.

The special brigade – set up to enforce the terror group’s strict Islamic views – bite and whip any woman who steps out of line and force girls to become sex slaves.

As many as 60 British women are thought to be members of the brigade, which operate in ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital Raqqa, in Syria.

The city is ruled by fear, with torture, stoning and crucifixions common.. All women are prohibited from going outside or travelling without a male relative.

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What It’s Like To Be A Woman In Islamic State

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ISIS imposes a strict dress code demanding all females from puberty upwards wear two gowns to hide their body shape, black gloves to cover their hands, and three veils so their faces cannot be seen, even in direct sunlight.

Women have been publicly buried alive in sand for breaking the code.

One former Syrian schoolteacher trapped in the city opened up to Channel 4 in a documentary, Escape From ISIS, to be aired next week.

She said: “We have no freedom. We cannot go out on the balcony or look through the window. They will arrest a woman if she wears perfume or raises her voice. A woman’s voice cannot be heard.”

The teacher told of her horrifying capture by the city’s ruthless all-women police unit, the Al-Khansa brigade.

“They said my eyes were visible through my veil. I was tortured. They lashed me. Now some of them punish women by biting. They give you the option between getting bitten or lashed.”

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ISIS: Women’s Role In The Islamic State |

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Brigade member: Aqsa Mahmood, 20, from Glasgow

British women in the brigade are thought to include Aqsa Mahmood, the 20-year-old Glaswegian woman who left her family to join ISIS last year.

They are paid up to £100 a month, a relative fortune.

Marriage: Many women who join ISIS become jihadi brides

One former Al-Khansa enforcer, a young Syrian woman called Umm Abaid, told the filmmakers how she had led a normal life until the arrival of ISIS and the imposition of Sharia law in Raqqa.

“I went to school, to coffee shops,” she said, “but slowly, slowly my husband [a Saudi Arabian IS fighter killed in a suicide bomb attack] convinced me about Islamic State and its ideas. I joined the brigade and was responsible for enforcing the clothing regulations.

“Anyone who broke the rules, we would lash. Then we would take her male guardian, her brother, father or husband, and lash him, too.”

The brigade even stops buses to check women passengers.

If one is found breaking the code, all the passengers are forced to get off and the bus is refused permission to proceed. The driver can be lashed because he let the woman on board.

Some of the Al-Khansa members operate undercover, posing as housewives and mingling in the crowds to listen for any dissent.

 

They also run brothels where kidnapped girls are expected to satisfy fighters returning from battle.

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ISIS Sex Slave Operation

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Those who have escaped the brothels say they have slept with 100 different fighters in a few weeks.

Emily Dyer, a research fellow with the Henry Jackson Society, spends hours tracking social media messages sent to the West by jihadi brides.

She says many Muslim British women see joining ISIS as an “attractive option” but once they arrive in Syria the reality of their situation is wholly different from the propaganda they are fed.

Under ISIS prohibitions, single women live in all-female safe houses called maqqars. If they are married, they must be only mothers or housewives unless selected to be IS ‘enforcers’ or fighters.

A girl tracked by Emily on Twitter said: “I’m fed up. They make me do the washing up.”

Another said: “I’ve done nothing except hand out clothes and food. I help clean weapons and transport dead bodies from the front. It’s beginning to get really hard.’

One complained: ‘My iPod doesn’t work any more. I have to come back [to the West

Women in maqqars are forbidden access to mobile phones or the internet.. They are then prepared to become jihadi brides, even if they are young teenagers.

But girls who marry one fighter, have found they are expected to spend a week with their new ‘spouse’ before they are ‘divorced’ by an Islamic cleric and married to another fighter for a week.

Yet more Muslim girls and women from Europe, and notably the UK, arrive in Raqqa each month to join ISIS.

It’s just one of the reasons politicians view the threat from ISIS so seriously

ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant . History , Background & Documentaries

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL

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New Documentary 2015: The Islamic State HD

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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL; Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام‎), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, /ˈsɨs/) or the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham,[35] Daesh (داعش, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈdaːʕiʃ]), or Islamic State (IS),[36] is a Salafi jihadist extremist militant group and self-proclaimed Islamic state and caliphate, which is led by and mainly composed of Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria.[37] As of March 2015[update], it has control over territory occupied by ten million people[38] in Iraq and Syria, and has nominal control over small areas of Libya and Nigeria. The group also operates or has affiliates in other parts of the world, including South Asia.[39][40]

The group is known in Arabic as ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām, leading to the acronym Da’ish or Daesh, the Arabic equivalent of “ISIL”.[35] On 29 June 2014, the group proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named its caliph,[41] and renamed itself ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah (الدولة الإسلامية, “Islamic State” (IS)). As a caliphate, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, and that “the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes null by the expansion of the khilāfah’s [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas”.[42][43]

The United Nations has held ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has reported ethnic cleansing by the group on a “historic scale”. The group has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, the European Union and member states, the United States, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and other governments. Over 60 countries are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIL.

The group originated as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group participated in the Iraqi insurgency, which had followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces. In January 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, which proclaimed the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in October 2006. After the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011, the ISI, under the leadership of al-Baghdadi, sent delegates into Syria in August 2011. These fighters named themselves Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-Ahli ash-Shāmal-Nusra Front—and established a large presence in Sunni-majority areas of Syria, within the governorates of Ar-Raqqah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo.[44] In April 2013, al-Baghdadi announced the merger of the ISI with al-Nusra Front and that the name of the reunited group was now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, Abu Mohammad al-Julani and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leaders of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda respectively, rejected the merger. After an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIL on 3 February 2014, citing its failure to consult and “notorious intransigence”.[3][45] In Syria, the group has conducted ground attacks on both government forces and rebel factions in the Syrian Civil War. The group gained prominence after it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in western Iraq in an offensive initiated in early 2014. Iraq’s territorial loss almost caused a collapse of the Iraqi government and prompted a renewal of US military action in Iraq.[46]

ISIL is adept at social media, posting Internet videos of beheadings of soldiers, civilians, journalists and aid workers, and is known for its destruction of cultural heritage sites.[47] Muslim leaders around the world have condemned ISIL’s ideology and actions, arguing that the group has strayed from the path of true Islam and that its actions do not reflect the religion’s true teachings or virtues.[48] The group’s adoption of the name “Islamic State” and idea of a caliphate have been widely criticised, with the United Nations, NATO, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups rejecting both.

Name

The group has had various names since it began.[49]

  1. The group was founded in 1999 by Jordanian radical Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād, “The Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad” (JTJ).[34]
  2. In October 2004, al-Zarqawi swore loyalty to Osama bin Laden and changed the group’s name to Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn, “The Organisation of Jihad’s Base in Mesopotamia“, commonly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).[49][50] Although the group has never called itself al-Qaeda in Iraq, this has been its informal name over the years.[51]
  3. In January 2006, AQI merged with several other Iraqi insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council.[52] Al-Zarqawi was killed in June 2006.
  4. On 12 October 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council merged with several more insurgent factions, and on 13 October the establishment of the ad-Dawlah al-ʻIraq al-Islāmiyah, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), was announced.[53] The leaders of this group were Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri.[54] After they were killed in a US–Iraqi operation in April 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became the new leader of the group.
  5. On 8 April 2013, having expanded into Syria, the group adopted the name Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which more fully translates as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[citation needed] or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.[55][56][57] These names are translations of the Arabic name ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī-l-ʻIrāq wa-sh-Shām,[58][59] al-Shām being a description of the Levant or Greater Syria.[35] The translated names are commonly abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS, with a debate over which of these acronyms should be used.[35][59] The Washington Post concluded that the distinction between the two “is not so great”.[35]
  6. The name Daʿish is often used by ISIL’s Arabic-speaking detractors. It is based on the Arabic letters Dāl, alif, ʻayn, and shīn, which form the acronym (داعش) of ISIL’s Arabic name al-Dawlah al-Islamīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām.[60][61] There are many spellings of this acronym, with Daesh gaining acceptance. ISIL considers the name Da’ish derogatory, because it sounds similar to the Arabic words Daes, “one who crushes something underfoot”, and Dahes, “one who sows discord”.[62][63] ISIL also reportedly uses flogging as a punishment for those who use the name in ISIL-controlled areas.[64][65] In 2015, over 120 British parliamentarians asked the BBC to use Daesh, following the example of John Kerry and Laurent Fabius.[62][66]
  7. On 14 May 2014, the United States Department of State announced its decision to use “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) as the group’s primary name.[60] However, in late 2014, top US officials shifted toward Daesh, since it was the preferred term used by their Arab allies.[62]
  8. On 29 June 2014, the group renamed itself ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah (الدولة الإسلامية, “Islamic State” (IS)) and declared it a worldwide caliphate.[41][67][68] Accordingly, the “Iraq and Shām” was removed from all official deliberations and communications, and the official name became the Islamic State from the date of the declaration. The name “Islamic State” and the claim of a caliphate have been widely criticised, with the UN, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups refusing to use it.[66][69][70][71][72][73][74][75]

History

Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad
al-Rafidayn
 (2004–06)

Mujahideen Shura Council (2006)

Islamic State of Iraq (2006–13)

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (2013–14)

Islamic State (June 2014–present)By topic

Foundation, 1999–200

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Jordanian Salafi jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his militant group Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, founded in 1999, achieved notoriety in the early stages of the Iraqi insurgency for the suicide attacks on Shia Islamic mosques, civilians, Iraqi government institutions and Italian soldiers partaking in the US-led ‘Multi-National Force‘. Al-Zarqawi’s group officially pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden‘s al-Qaeda network in October 2004, changing its name to Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين, “Organisation of Jihad’s Base in Mesopotamia“), also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).[1][76][77] Attacks by the group on civilians, Iraqi government and security forces, foreign diplomats and soldiers, and American convoys continued with roughly the same intensity. In a letter to al-Zarqawi in July 2005, al-Qaeda’s then deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined a four-stage plan to expand the Iraq War. The plan included expelling US forces from Iraq, establishing an Islamic authority as a caliphate, spreading the conflict to Iraq’s secular neighbours, and clashing with Israel, which the letter says “was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity”.[78]

Iraqi insurgents in 2006

In January 2006, AQI joined with several smaller Iraqi insurgent groups under an umbrella organisation called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC). According to Brian Fishman, this was little more than a media exercise and an attempt to give the group a more Iraqi flavour, and perhaps to distance al-Qaeda from some of al-Zarqawi’s tactical errors, more notably the 2005 bombings by AQI of three hotels in Amman.[79] On 7 June 2006, a US airstrike killed al-Zarqawi, who was succeeded as leader of the group by the Egyptian militant Abu Ayyub al-Masri.[80][81]

On 12 October 2006, the MSC united with three smaller groups and six Sunni Islamic tribes to form the “Mutayibeen Coalition”. It swore by Allah “to rid Sunnis from the oppression of the rejectionists (Shi’ite Muslims) and the crusader occupiers … to restore rights even at the price of our own lives … to make Allah’s word supreme in the world, and to restore the glory of Islam”.[82][83] A day later, the MSC declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), comprising Iraq’s six mostly Sunni Arab governorates.[84] Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was announced as its emir,[53][85] and al-Masri was given the title of Minister of War within the ISI’s ten-member cabinet.[86]

A joint US–Iraqi Army training exercise near Ramadi in November 2009. The Islamic State of Iraq had declared the city to be its capital.

As Islamic State of Iraq, 2006–13

Main article: Islamic State of Iraq

According to a study compiled by United States intelligence agencies in early 2007, the ISI—also known as AQI—planned to seize power in the central and western areas of Iraq and turn it into a Sunni caliphate.[87] The group built in strength and at its height enjoyed a significant presence in the Iraqi governorates of Al Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad, claiming Baqubah as a capital city.[88][89][90][91]

The Iraq War troop surge of 2007 supplied the United States military with more manpower for operations targeting the group, resulting in dozens of high-level AQI members being captured or killed.[92]

Between July and October 2007, al-Qaeda in Iraq was reported to have lost its secure military bases in Al Anbar province and the Baghdad area.[93] During 2008, a series of US and Iraqi offensives managed to drive out AQI-aligned insurgents from their former safe havens, such as the Diyala and Al Anbar governorates, to the area of the northern city of Mosul.[94]

By 2008, the ISI was describing itself as being in a state of “extraordinary crisis”.[95] Its violent attempts to govern its territory led to a backlash from Sunni Arab Iraqis and other insurgent groups and a temporary decline in the group, which was attributable to a number of factors,[96] notably the Anbar Awakening.

In late 2009, the commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, stated that the ISI “has transformed significantly in the last two years. What once was dominated by foreign individuals has now become more and more dominated by Iraqi citizens”.[97] On 18 April 2010, the ISI’s two top leaders, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, were killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid near Tikrit.[98] In a press conference in June 2010, General Odierno reported that 80% of the ISI’s top 42 leaders, including recruiters and financiers, had been killed or captured, with only eight remaining at large. He said that they had been cut off from al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan.[99][100][101]

On 16 May 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.[102][103] Al-Baghdadi replenished the group’s leadership, many of whom had been killed or captured, by appointing former Ba’athist military and intelligence officers who had served during Saddam Hussein‘s rule.[104] These men, nearly all of whom had spent time imprisoned by the US military, came to make up about one third of Baghdadi’s top 25 commanders. One of them was a former colonel, Samir al-Khlifawi, also known as Haji Bakr, who became the overall military commander in charge of overseeing the group’s operations.[105][106] Al-Khlifawi was instrumental in doing the ground work that led to the growth of ISIL.[107]

Former Ba’athists in ISI are “true believers” in the religious ideology they espoused and not secularists using ISI as a front for their cause.[108] Islamification policies started by Saddam after 1989 resulted in the spread of a hybrid ”Ba’athist-Salafism”.[109]

In July 2012, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement online announcing that the group was returning to former strongholds from which US troops and the Sons of Iraq had driven them in 2007 and 2008.[110] He also declared the start of a new offensive in Iraq called Breaking the Walls, aimed at freeing members of the group held in Iraqi prisons.[110] Violence in Iraq had begun to escalate in June 2012, primarily with AQI’s car bomb attacks, and by July 2013, monthly fatalities exceeded 1,000 for the first time since April 2008.[111]

Syrian Civil War

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The war in Syria explained in five minutes

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In March 2011, protests began in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad. In the following months, violence between demonstrators and security forces led to a gradual militarisation of the conflict.[112] In August, al-Baghdadi began sending Syrian and Iraqi ISI members experienced in guerilla warfare across the border into Syria to establish an organisation there. Led by a Syrian known as Abu Muhammad al-Julani, this group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country.[113][114] In January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl as-ShamJabhat al-Nusra—more commonly known as al-Nusra Front. Al-Nusra grew rapidly into a capable fighting force, with popular support among Syrians opposed to the Assad government.[113]

As Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, 2013–14

On 8 April 2013, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that al-Nusra Front had been established, financed, and supported by the Islamic State of Iraq,[115] and that the two groups were merging under the name “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham”.[55] Al-Julani issued a statement denying the merger, and complaining that neither he nor anyone else in al-Nusra’s leadership had been consulted about it.[116] In June 2013, Al Jazeera reported that it had obtained a letter written by al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, addressed to both leaders, in which he ruled against the merger, and appointed an emissary to oversee relations between them to put an end to tensions.[117] The same month, al-Baghdadi released an audio message rejecting al-Zawahiri’s ruling and declaring that the merger was going ahead.[118] The ISIL campaign to free imprisoned ISIL members culminated in July 2013, with the group carrying out simultaneous raids on Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons, freeing more than 500 prisoners, many of them veterans of the Iraqi insurgency.[111][119] In October 2013, al-Zawahiri ordered the disbanding of ISIL, putting al-Nusra Front in charge of jihadist efforts in Syria,[120] but al-Baghdadi contested al-Zawahiri’s ruling on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence,[118] and his group continued to operate in Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIL.[45]

According to journalist Sarah Birke, there are “significant differences” between al-Nusra Front and ISIL. While al-Nusra actively calls for the overthrow of the Assad government, ISIL “tends to be more focused on establishing its own rule on conquered territory”. ISIL is “far more ruthless” in building an Islamic state, “carrying out sectarian attacks and imposing sharia law immediately”. While al-Nusra has a “large contingent of foreign fighters”, it is seen as a home-grown group by many Syrians; by contrast, ISIL fighters have been described as “foreign ‘occupiers'” by many Syrian refugees.[121] It has a strong presence in central and northern Syria, where it has instituted sharia in a number of towns.[121] The group reportedly controlled the four border towns of Atmeh, al-Bab, Azaz and Jarablus, allowing it to control the entrance and exit from Syria into Turkey.[121] Foreign fighters in Syria include Russian-speaking jihadists who were part of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA).[122] In November 2013, the JMA’s Chechen leader Abu Omar al-Shishani swore an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi;[123] the group then split between those who followed al-Shishani in joining ISIL and those who continued to operate independently in the JMA under new leadership.[124]

In January 2014, rebels affiliated with the Islamic Front and the US-trained Free Syrian Army[125] launched an offensive against ISIL militants in and around the city of Aleppo.[126][127] In May 2014, Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered the al-Nusra Front to stop its attacks on its rival, ISIL.[128][not in citation given] In June 2014, after continued fighting between the two groups, al-Nusra’s branch in the Syrian town of Al-Bukamal pledged allegiance to ISIL.[129][130] In mid-June 2014, ISIL captured the Trabil crossing on the Jordan–Iraq border,[131] the only border crossing between the two countries.[132] ISIL has received some public support in Jordan, albeit limited, partly owing to state repression there.[133] ISIL has undertaken a recruitment drive in Saudi Arabia,[134] where tribes in the north are linked to those in western Iraq and eastern Syria.[135]

As Islamic State, 2014–present

On 29 June 2014, the organisation proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate.[136] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—known by his supporters as Amir al-Mu’minin, Caliph Ibrahim—was named its caliph, and the group renamed itself ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah (الدولة الإسلامية, “Islamic State” (IS)).[41] As a “Caliphate”, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.[43][137] The concept of it being a caliphate and the name “Islamic State” have been rejected by governments and Muslim leaders worldwide.[69][70][71][72][73][74][75]

In June and July 2014, Jordan and Saudi Arabia moved troops to their borders with Iraq, after Iraq lost control of, or withdrew from, strategic crossing points that then came under the control of ISIL, or tribes that supported ISIL.[132][138] There was speculation that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had ordered a withdrawal of troops from the Iraq–Saudi crossings in order “to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia and bring the threat of ISIS over-running its borders as well”.[135]

In July 2014, ISIL recruited more than 6,300 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some of whom were thought to have previously fought for the Free Syrian Army.[139] On 23 July 2014, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon and some masked men swore loyalty to al-Baghdadi in a video, giving ISIL a presence in the Philippines.[40][140] In September 2014, the group began kidnapping people for ransoming, in the name of ISIL.[141]

Yazidi refugees and American aid workers on Mount Sinjar in August 2014

On 3 August 2014, ISIL captured the cities of Zumar, Sinjar, and Wana in northern Iraq.[142] The need for food and water for thousands of Yazidis, who fled up a mountain out of fear of approaching hostile ISIL militants, and the threat of genocide to Yazidis and others as announced by ISIL, in addition to protecting Americans in Iraq and supporting Iraq in its fight against the group, were reasons for the 2014 American intervention in Iraq on 7 August, to aid the Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar[143] and to start an aerial bombing campaign in Iraq on 8 August.

On 11 October 2014, it was reported that ISIL had dispatched 10,000 militants from Syria and Mosul to capture the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad,[144] and Iraqi Army forces and Anbar tribesmen threatened to abandon their weapons if the US did not send in ground troops to halt ISIL’s advance.[145] On 13 October, ISIL fighters advanced to within 25 kilometres (16 mi) of Baghdad Airport.[146]

At the end of October 2014, 800 radical militants gained partial control of the Libyan city of Derna and pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, thus making Derna the first city outside Syria and Iraq to be a part of the “Islamic State Caliphate”.[147] On 2 November 2014, according to the Associated Press, in response to the coalition airstrikes, representatives from Ahrar ash-Sham attended a meeting with al-Nusra Front, the Khorasan Group, ISIL, and Jund al-Aqsa, which sought to unite these hard-line groups against the US-led coalition and moderate Syrian rebel groups.[148] However, by 14 November 2014, it was revealed that the negotiations had failed.[149] On 10 November 2014, a major faction of the Egyptian militant group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis also pledged its allegiance to ISIL.[150]

Coalition airstrike on ISIL position, October 2014

ISIL has often used water as a weapon of war. The closing of the gates of the smaller Nuaimiyah dam in Fallujah in April 2014, resulted in the flooding of surrounding regions, while water supply was cut to the Shia-dominated south. Around 12,000 families lost their homes and 200 km² of villages and fields were either flooded or dried up. The economy of the region also suffered with destruction of cropland and electricity shortages.[151]

In mid-January 2015, a Yemeni official said that ISIL had “dozens” of members in Yemen, and that they were coming into direct competition with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with their recruitment drive.[152]

In January 2015, Afghan officials confirmed that ISIL had a military presence in Afghanistan,[153] recruiting over 135 militants by late January. However, by the end of January 2015, 65 of the militants were either captured or killed by the Taliban, and ISIL’s top Afghan recruiter, Mullah Abdul Rauf, was killed in a US drone strike in February 2015.[154][155][156]

In late January 2015, it was reported that ISIL members had infiltrated the European Union and disguised themselves as civilian refugees who were emigrating from the war zones of Iraq and the Levant.[157] An ISIL representative claimed that ISIL had successfully smuggled 4,000 fighters, and that the smuggled fighters were planning attacks in Europe in retaliation for the airstrikes carried out against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria. However, experts believe that this claim was exaggerated to boost their stature and spread fear, although they acknowledged that some Western countries were aware of the smuggling.[158]

In early February 2015, ISIL militants in Libya managed to capture part of the countryside to the west of Sabha, and later, an area encompassing the cities of Sirte, Nofolia, and a military base to the south of both cities.

In February 2015, it was reported that some Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen members had broken from al-Qaeda and pledged allegiance to ISIL.[159]

On 16 February 2015, Egypt conducted airstrikes in Libya, in retaliation against ISIL’s beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. By the end of that day, 64 ISIL militants in Libya had been killed by the airstrikes, including 50 militants in Derna.[160] However, by early March, ISIL had captured additional Libyan territory, including a city to the west of Derna, additional areas near Sirte, a stretch of land in southern Libya, some areas around Benghazi, and an area to the east of Tripoli.

On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram swore formal allegiance to ISIL, giving ISIL an official presence in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.[16][6][161] On 13 March 2015, a group of militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan swore allegiance to ISIL;[162] the group released another video on 31 July 2015 containing its spiritual leader also pledging allegiance.[163] On 30 March 2015, the senior sharia official of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, Abdullah Al-Libi, defected to ISIL.[164]

From March through mid-April 2015, advances by Iraqi forces into ISIL-controlled territory were focused on Tikrit and the Saladin Governorate.[165]

In June 2015, the US Deputy Secretary of State announced that ISIL had lost more than 10,000 members in airstrikes over the preceding nine months.[166]

In the same month, three simultaneous attacks occurred: two hotels were attacked by gunmen in Tunisia, a man was decapitated in France, and a bomb was detonated at a Shia mosque in Kuwait. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks in Kuwait and Tunisia. ISIL flags were present at the crime scene in France, but ISIL has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Worldwide caliphate aims

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The Spread of the Caliphate: The Islamic State

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Goals

Since at least 2004, a significant goal of the group has been the foundation of a Sunni Islamic state.[167][168] Specifically, ISIL has sought to establish itself as a caliphate, an Islamic state led by a group of religious authorities under a supreme leader—the caliph—who is believed to be the successor to Prophet Muhammad.[169] In June 2014, ISIL published a document in which it claimed to have traced the lineage of its leader al-Baghdadi back to Muhammad,[169] and upon proclaiming a new caliphate on 29 June, the group appointed al-Baghdadi as its caliph. As caliph, he demands the allegiance of all devout Muslims worldwide, according to Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).[170]

When the caliphate was proclaimed, ISIL stated: “The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah’s [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.”[169] This was a rejection of the political divisions in the Middle East that were established by Western powers during World War I in the Sykes–Picot Agreement.[171][172][173]

Ideology and beliefs

ISIL is a Salafi group.[174][175] It follows an extremist interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence, and regards those who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates.[8] According to Hayder al Khoei, ISIL’s philosophy is represented by the symbolism in the Black Standard variant of the legendary battle flag of Prophet Muhammad that it has adopted: the flag shows the Seal of Muhammad within a white circle, with the phrase above it, “There is no God but Allah“.[176] Such symbolism has been said to point to ISIL’s belief that it represents the restoration of the caliphate of early Islam, with all the political, religious and eschatological ramifications that this would imply.[177]

According to some observers, ISIL emerged from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first post-Ottoman Islamist group dating back to the late 1920s in Egypt.[178] It adheres to global jihadist principles and follows the hard-line ideology of al-Qaeda and many other modern-day jihadist groups.[8][3] However, other sources trace the group’s roots to Wahhabism. The New York Times wrote:

For their guiding principles, the leaders of the Islamic State … are open and clear about their almost exclusive commitment to the Wahhabi movement of Sunni Islam. The group circulates images of Wahhabi religious textbooks from Saudi Arabia in the schools it controls. Videos from the group’s territory have shown Wahhabi texts plastered on the sides of an official missionary van.[179]

According to The Economist, dissidents in the ISIL capital of Ar-Raqqah report that “all 12 of the judges who now run its court system … are Saudis”. Saudi Wahhabi practices also followed by the group include the establishment of religious police to root out “vice” and enforce attendance at salat prayers, the widespread use of capital punishment, and the destruction or re-purposing of any non-Sunni religious buildings.[180] Bernard Haykel has described al-Baghdadi’s creed as “a kind of untamed Wahhabism”.[179]

ISIL aims to return to the early days of Islam, rejecting all innovations in the religion, which it believes corrupts its original spirit. It condemns later caliphates and the Ottoman Empire for deviating from what it calls pure Islam,[181] and seeks to revive the original Wahhabi project of the restoration of the caliphate governed by strict Salafist doctrine. Following Salafi-Wahhabi tradition, ISIL condemns the followers of secular law as disbelievers, putting the current Saudi government in that category.[182]

Salafists such as ISIL believe that only a legitimate authority can undertake the leadership of jihad, and that the first priority over other areas of combat, such as fighting non-Muslim countries, is the purification of Islamic society. For example, ISIL regards the Palestinian Sunni group Hamas as apostates who have no legitimate authority to lead jihad and see fighting Hamas as the first step toward confrontation by ISIL with Israel.[179][183]

Eschatology

One difference between ISIL and other Islamist and jihadist movements is its emphasis on eschatology and apocalypticism, and its belief that the arrival of Imam Mahdi is near. ISIL believes that it will defeat the army of “Rome” at the town of Dabiq, in fulfilment of prophecy.[184] Following its interpretation of the Hadith of the Twelve Successors, it also believes there will be only four more legitimate caliphs after al-Baghdadi.[184]

Territorial claims and international presence

Areas controlled (as of 4 May 2015)     Remaining territory in countries with ISIL presence

In Iraq and Syria, ISIL uses many of those countries’ existing Governorate boundaries to subdivide its claimed territory; it calls these divisions wilayah or provinces.[185] As of June 2015, it had established official branches in Libya, Egypt (Sinai Peninsula), Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and the North Caucasus.[186] Outside Iraq and Syria, it controls territory in only Sinai, Afghanistan, and Libya.[187] ISIL also has members in Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and Palestine, but does not have official branches in those areas.[188]

Libyan Provinces

ISIL divides Libya into three historical provinces, claiming authority over Cyrenaica in the east, Fezzan in the desert south, and Tripolitania in the west, around its capital Tripoli.[189]

On 5 October 2014, the Shura Council of Islamic Youth and other militants in Libya were absorbed and designated the Cyrenaica Province of ISIL.[190][191] The Libyan branch of ISIL has been the most active and successful of all ISIL branches outside Iraq and Syria. It has been active mainly around Derna and Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte.[192][193]

On 4 January 2015, ISIL forces in Libya seized control of the eastern countryside of Sabha, executing 14 Libyan soldiers in the process.[194][195] They temporarily controlled part of Derna before being driven out in Mid 2015.[196] Reports from Sirte suggest ISIL militants based there are a mixture of foreign fighters and ex-Gaddafi loyalists.[197] An initiative between pro-Dawn forces associated with Misrata and Operation Dawn clashed with these IS militants in Sirte.[198][199][200] Fighting between Libya Dawn forces and ISIL militants was also reported in the Daheera area west of the city of Sirte, and at the Harawa vicinity east of Sirte.[201]

One unconfirmed source has claimed that ISIL uses its bases in Libya to smuggle its fighters into the European Union posing as refugees.[202][203]

Sinai Province

On 10 November 2014, many members of the group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis took an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi.[150] Following this, the group assumed the designation Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province).[190][204][205][206] They are estimated to have 1,000–2,000 fighters.[40][207] A faction of the Sinai group also operates in the Gaza Strip, calling itself the Islamic State in Gaza.[208] On 19 August 2015, members of the group bombed an Egyptian security headquarters building in northern Cairo, injuring 30 people.[209]

Algerian Province

Members of Jund al-Khilafah swore allegiance to ISIL in September 2014.[210] ISIL in Algeria gained notoriety when it beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel in September 2014. Since then, the group has largely been silent, with reports that its leader Khalid Abu-Sulayman was killed by Algerian forces in December 2014.[186]

Khorasan Province

On 26 January 2015, a new Wilayat (Province) was announced, with Hafiz Saeed Khan named as Wāli (Governor) and Abdul Rauf as his deputy after both swore an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi. The province includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, and “other nearby lands”.[4][211][212][213]

On 9 February 2015, Mullah Abdul Rauf was killed by a NATO airstrike.[214] On 18 March 2015, Hafiz Wahidi, ISIL’s replacement deputy Emir in Afghanistan, was killed by the Afghan Armed Forces, along with nine other ISIL militants who were accompanying him.[215] In June, Reuters received reports that villages in several districts of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province had been captured from the Taliban by ISIL sympathisers.[216] On 10 July 2015, Hafiz Saeed Khan, the Emir of ISIL’s Khorasan Province, was reportedly killed in U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan.[217] However Khorasan Province released an audio tape claimed to be of Hafiz Saeed Khan on 13 July 2015.[218]

Yemen

Current military situation in Yemen:

  Controlled by the Revolutionary Committee
  Controlled by the Hadi-led government and the Southern Movement
  Controlled by Ansar al-Sharia/AQAP forces

On 13 November 2014, unidentified militants in Yemen pledged allegiance to ISIL.[210] By December of that year, ISIL had built an active presence inside Yemen, with its recruitment drive bringing it into direct competition with al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).[152][219] In February 2015, it was reported that some members of Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen had split from AQAP and pledged allegiance to ISIL[220] As the Yemeni Civil War escalated in March 2015, at least seven ISIL Wilayat, named after existing provincial boundaries in Yemen, claimed responsibility for attacks against the Houthis, including the Hadhramaut Province, the Shabwah Province, and the Sana’a Province.[221][222]

Shi’aHouthis (Revolutionary Committee) are principal enemies of Yemen’s ISIL branch.[223][224] U.S. supports the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen against the Houthis,[225] but many in U.S. SOCOM reportedly favor Houthis, as they have been an effective force in rolling back al-Qaeda and recently ISIL in Yemen, “something that hundreds of U.S. drone strikes and large numbers of advisers to Yemen’s military had failed to accomplish”.[226]The Guardian reported: “As another 50 civilians die in the forgotten war, only Isis and al-Qaida are gaining from a conflict tearing Yemen apart and leaving 20 million people in need of aid.”[227]

West African Province

Main article: Boko Haram
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Boko Haram Latest release barbaric video of insurgency in Nigeria 2015
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On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant via an audio message posted on the organisation’s Twitter account.[228][229] On 12 March 2015, ISIL’s spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani released an audio tape in which he welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described it as an expansion of the group’s caliphate into West Africa.[5] ISIL publications from late March 2015 began referring to members of Boko Haram as part of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiya (West Africa Province).[222]

North Caucasus Province

Some commanders of the Caucasus Emirate in Chechnya and Dagestan switched their allegiance to ISIL in late 2014 and early 2015.[230] On 23 June 2015, ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani accepted the pledges of allegiance and announced a new Wilayat Qawqaz (North Caucasus Province) under the leadership of Rustam Asildarov.[7][186]

Other areas of operation

  • Unidentified militants in Saudi Arabia pledged allegiance to ISIL – designated as a province of ISIL.[210]
  • The Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade (Lebanon) pledged allegiance to ISIL.[40]
  • Sons of the Call for Tawhid and Jihad (Jordan) pledged allegiance to ISIL.[231]

Leadership and governance

Mugshot of al-Baghdadi by U.S. armed forces while in detention at Camp Bucca in 2004

The group is headed and run by al-Baghdadi, with a cabinet of advisers. There are two deputy leaders, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (KIA) for Iraq and Abu Ali al-Anbari for Syria, and 12 local governors in Iraq and Syria. A third man, Abu Ala al-Afri, is also believed to hold a prominent position within the group, having been rumored to be the deputy leader of ISIL. Unusually, all three are believed to be ethnic Turkmens. The former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was also said to have had senior Turkmen within his inner circle.[232][233] While al-Baghdadi has told followers to “advise me when I err” in sermons, “any threat, opposition, or even contradiction is instantly eradicated”, according to observers.[234] Beneath the leaders are councils on finance, leadership, military matters, legal matters—including decisions on executions—foreign fighters’ assistance, security, intelligence and media. In addition, a Shura council has the task of ensuring that all decisions made by the governors and councils comply with the group’s interpretation of sharia.[235] The majority of ISIL’s leadership is dominated by Iraqis, especially former members of Saddam Hussein’s government.[236][237] It has been reported that Iraqis and Syrians have been given greater precedence over other nationalities within ISIL due to the fact that the group needs the loyalties of the local Sunni populations in both Syria and Iraq in order to be sustainable.[238][239] Other reports have indicated however that Syrians are at a disadvantage to foreign members of ISIL, with some native Syrian fighters resenting alleged ‘favoritism’ towards foreigners over pay and accommodation.[240][241]

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a sermon in the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul (July 2014)

In September 2014, The Wall Street Journal estimated that eight million Iraqis and Syrians live in areas controlled by ISIL.[242]Ar-Raqqah in Syria is the de facto headquarters, and is said to be a test case of ISIL governance.[243] As of September 2014, governance in Ar-Raqqah has been under the total control of ISIL where it has rebuilt the structure of modern government in less than a year. Former government workers from the Assad government maintained their jobs after pledging allegiance to ISIL. Institutions, restored and restructured, provided their respective services. The Ar-Raqqah dam continues to provide electricity and water. Foreign expertise supplements Syrian officials in running civilian institutions. Only the police and soldiers are ISIL fighters, who receive confiscated lodging previously owned by non-Sunnis and others who fled. Welfare services are provided, price controls established, and taxes imposed on the wealthy. ISIL runs a soft power programme in the areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, which includes social services, religious lectures and da’wah—proselytising—to local populations. It also performs public services such as repairing roads and maintaining the electricity supply.[244]

British security expert Frank Gardner concluded that ISIL’s prospects of maintaining control and rule were greater in 2014 than they had been in 2006, and that despite being as brutal as before, ISIL had become “well entrenched” among the population and was not likely to be dislodged by ineffective Syrian or Iraqi forces. It has replaced corrupt governance with functioning locally controlled authorities, services have been restored and there are adequate supplies of water and oil. With Western-backed intervention being unlikely, the group will “continue to hold their ground” and rule an area “the size of Pennsylvania for the foreseeable future”, he said.[185][245] Further solidifying ISIL rule is the control of wheat production, which is roughly 40% of Iraq’s production. ISIL has maintained food production, crucial to governance and popular support.[246]

Non-combatants

Although ISIL attracts followers from different parts of the world by promoting the image of holy war, not all of their recruits end up in combatant roles. There have been several cases of new recruits who expected to be mujihadeen that returned from Syria disappointed by the everyday jobs that had been assigned to them, like drawing water or cleaning toilets, or by the ban imposed on use of mobile phones during military training sessions.[247]

ISIL also publishes material directed to women. Although women are not allowed to take up arms, media groups encourage them to play supportive roles within ISIL: providing first aid, cooking, nursing and sewing, to become “good wives of jihad”.[248]

Designation as a terrorist organisation

Organisation Date Body References
Multinational organisations
 United Nations 18 October 2004 (as al-Qaeda in Iraq)
30 May 2013 (after separation from al‑Qaeda)
United Nations Security Council [249][250][251]
 European Union 2004 EU Council(via adoption of UN al-Qaida Sanctions List) [252]
Nations
 United Kingdom March 2001 (as part of al-Qaeda)
20 June 2014 (after separation from al‑Qaeda)
Home Secretary of the Home Office [253]
 United States 17 December 2004 (as al-Qaeda in Iraq) United States Department of State [254]
 Australia 2 March 2005 (as al-Qaeda in Iraq)
14 December 2013 (after separation from al‑Qaeda)
Attorney-General for Australia [255]
 Canada 20 August 2012 Parliament of Canada [256]
 Turkey 30 October 2013 Grand National Assembly of Turkey [257][258]
 Saudi Arabia 7 March 2014 Royal decree of the King of Saudi Arabia [259]
 Indonesia 1 August 2014 National Counter-terrorism Agency BNPT (id) [260]
 United Arab Emirates 20 August 2014 United Arab Emirates Cabinet [261]
 Malaysia 24 September 2014 Ministry of Foreign Affairs [262]
 Egypt 30 November 2014 The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters [263][264]
 India 16 December 2014 Ministry of Home Affairs [265][266]
 Russia 29 December 2014 Supreme Court of Russia [267]
 Kyrgyzstan 25 March 2015 Kyrgyz State Committee of National Security [268]
 Syria [269]
 Jordan [270]
 Pakistan 29 August 2015 Ministry of Interior [271]

The United Nations Security Council in its Resolution 1267 (1999) described Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda associates as operators of a network of terrorist training camps.[272] The UN’s Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee first listed ISIL in its Sanctions List under the name “Al-Qaida in Iraq” on 18 October 2004, as an entity/group associated with al-Qaeda. On 2 June 2014, the group was added to its listing under the name “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”. The European Union adopted the UN Sanctions List in 2002.[252]

Many world leaders and government spokespeople have called ISIL a terrorist group or banned it, without their countries having formally designated it as such. Some examples:

The Government of Germany banned ISIL in September 2014. Activities banned include donations to the group, recruiting fighters, holding ISIL meetings and distributing its propaganda, flying ISIL flags, wearing ISIL symbols and all ISIL activities. “The terror organisation Islamic State is a threat to public safety in Germany as well”, de Mazière said. “Today’s ban is directed solely against terrorists who abuse religion for their criminal goals.” The ban does not mean ISIL has been outlawed as a foreign terrorist organisation, as that requires a court judgement.[273]

In October 2014, Switzerland banned ISIL’s activities in the country, including propaganda and financial support of the fighters, with prison sentences as potential penalties.[274]

In mid-December 2014, India banned ISIL, after arresting the operator of a pro-ISIL Twitter account.[275] Pakistan designated ISIL as a banned organization in late August 2015, under which all elements expressing sympathy for the group would be blacklisted and sanctioned.[271]

Media sources worldwide have also described ISIL as terrorist.[35][106][260][276][277][278]

Human rights abuse and war crime findings

———————————————————————————

Life under ISIS: Judge, jury and executioner

In July 2014, the BBC reported the United Nations’ chief investigator as stating: “Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be added to a list of war crimes suspects in Syria.”[279] By June 2014, according to United Nations reports, ISIL had killed hundreds of prisoners of war[280] and over 1,000 civilians.[281][282][283] In August 2014, the UN accused ISIL of committing “mass atrocities” and war crimes,[284][285] including the mass killing of up to 250 Syrian Army soldiers near Tabqa Air base.[280] Other known killings of military prisoners took place in Camp Speicher, where 1,095–1,700 Iraqi soldiers were shot and “thousands” more went “missing”, and the Shaer gas field, where 200 Syrian soldiers were shot.[286]Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that they were performing “widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under their control”.[287]

In early September 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to send a team to Iraq and Syria to investigate the abuses and killings being carried out by ISIL on “an unimaginable scale”. Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged world leaders to step in to protect women and children suffering at the hands of ISIL militants, who he said were trying to create a “house of blood”. He appealed to the international community to concentrate its efforts on ending the conflict in Iraq and Syria.[288]

In November 2014, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that ISIL was committing crimes against humanity.[289][290] A report by Human Rights Watch in November 2014 accused ISIL groups in control of Derna, Libya of war crimes and human rights abuses and of terrorizing residents. Human Rights Watch documented three apparent summary executions and at least ten public floggings by the Islamic Youth Shura Council, which joined ISIL in November. It also documented the beheading of three Derna residents and dozens of seemingly politically motivated assassinations of judges, public officials, members of the security forces and others. Sarah Leah Watson, Director of HRW Middle East and North Africa, said: “Commanders should understand that they may face domestic or international prosecution for the grave rights abuses their forces are committing.”[291]

Speaking of ISIL’s methods, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has stated that the group “seeks to subjugate civilians under its control and dominate every aspect of their lives through terror, indoctrination, and the provision of services to those who obey”.[292]

Religious and minority group persecution

Yazidi refugees on Mount Sinjar in August 2014

ISIL compels people in the areas that it controls to live according to its interpretation of sharia law.[276][293] There have been many reports of the group’s use of death threats, torture and mutilation to compel conversion to Islam,[276][293] and of clerics being killed for refusal to pledge allegiance to the so-called “Islamic State”.[294] ISIL directs violence against Shia Muslims, Alawites, Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac and ArmenianChristians, Yazidis, Druze, Shabaks and Mandeans in particular.[295]

ISIL fighters are targeting Syria’s minority Alawite sect.[296][297] Islamic State and affiliated jihadist groups reportedly took the lead in an offensive on Alawite villages in Latakia Governorate of Syria in August 2013.[298][299]

Amnesty International has held ISIL responsible for the ethnic cleansing of ethnic and religious minority groups in northern Iraq on a “historic scale”. In a special report released on 2 September 2014, it describes how ISIL has “systematically targeted 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 10 June 2014”. Among these people are Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shia, Shabak Shia, Yazidis, Kaka’i and Sabean Mandeans, who have lived together for centuries in Nineveh province, large parts of which came under ISIL’s control.[300][301]

Among the known killings of religious and minority group civilians carried out by ISIL are those in the villages and towns of Quiniyeh (70–90 Yazidis killed), Hardan (60 Yazidis killed), Sinjar (500–2,000 Yazidis killed), Ramadi Jabal (60–70 Yazidis killed), Dhola (50 Yazidis killed), Khana Sor (100 Yazidis killed), Hardan (250–300 Yazidis killed), al-Shimal (dozens of Yazidis killed), Khocho (400 Yazidis killed and 1,000 abducted), Jadala (14 Yadizis killed)[302] and Beshir (700 Shia Turkmen killed),[303] and others committed near Mosul (670 Shia inmates of the Badush prison killed),[303] and in Tal Afar prison, Iraq (200 Yazidis killed for refusing conversion).[302] The UN estimated that 5,000 Yazidis were killed by ISIL during the takeover of parts of northern Iraq in August 2014.[304] In late May 2014, 150 Kurdish boys from Kobani aged 14–16 were abducted and subjected to torture and abuse, according to Human Rights Watch.[305] In the Syrian towns of Ghraneij, Abu Haman and Kashkiyeh 700 members of the Sunni Al-Shaitat tribe were killed for attempting an uprising against ISIL control.[306][307] The UN reported that in June 2014 ISIL had killed a number of Sunni Islamic clerics who refused to pledge allegiance to it.[294]

Christians living in areas under ISIL control who want to remain in the “caliphate” face three options: converting to Islam, paying a religious levy—jizya—or death.[308][309] “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword”, ISIL said.[310] ISIL had already set similar rules for Christians in Ar-Raqqah, once one of Syria’s more liberal cities.[311][312]

On 23 February 2015, in response to a major Kurdish offensive in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, ISIL abducted 150 Assyrian Christians from villages near Tal Tamr (Tell Tamer) in northeastern Syria, after launching a large offensive in the region.[313][314]

It was claimed that ISIL campaigns against Kurdish and Yezidi enclaves in Iraq and Syria were a part of organised Arabization plans. For instance, a Kurdish official in Iraqi Kurdistan claimed that the ISIL campaign in Sinjar was a case of Arabization campaign.[315]

Treatment of civilians

During the Iraqi conflict in 2014, ISIL released dozens of videos showing its ill treatment of civilians, many of whom had apparently been targeted on the basis of their religion or ethnicity. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned of war crimes being committed in the Iraqi war zone, and disclosed a UN report of ISIL militants murdering Iraqi Army soldiers and 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul. The UN reported that in the 17 days from 5 to 22 June, ISIL killed more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians and injured more than 1,000.[281][282][283] After ISIL released photographs of its fighters shooting scores of young men, the UN declared that cold-blooded “executions” by militants in northern Iraq almost certainly amounted to war crimes.[316]

ISIL’s advance in Iraq in mid-2014 was accompanied by continuing violence in Syria. On 29 May, ISIL raided a village in Syria and at least 15 civilians were killed, including, according to Human Rights Watch, at least six children.[317] A hospital in the area confirmed that it had received 15 bodies on the same day.[318] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that on 1 June, a 102-year-old man was killed along with his whole family in a village in Hama province.[319] According to Reuters, 1,878 people were killed in Syria by ISIL during the last six months of 2014, most of them civilians.[320]

In Mosul, ISIL has implemented a sharia school curriculum which bans the teaching of art, music, national history, literature and Christianity. Although Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has never been taught in Iraqi schools, the subject has been banned from the school curriculum. Patriotic songs have been declared blasphemous, and orders have been given to remove certain pictures from school textbooks.[321][322][323][324] Iraqi parents have largely boycotted schools in which the new curriculum has been introduced.[325]

After capturing cities in Iraq, ISIL issued guidelines on how to wear clothes and veils. ISIL warned women in the city of Mosul to wear full-face veils or face severe punishment.[326] A cleric told Reuters in Mosul that ISIL gunmen had ordered him to read out the warning in his mosque when worshippers gathered. ISIL ordered the faces of both male and female mannequins to be covered, in an order which also banned the use of naked mannequins.[327] In Ar-Raqqah the group uses its two battalions of female fighters in the city to enforce compliance by women with its strict laws on individual conduct.[328]

ISIL released 16 notes labelled “Contract of the City”, a set of rules aimed at civilians in Nineveh. One rule stipulated that women should stay at home and not go outside unless necessary. Another rule said that stealing would be punished by amputation.[244][329] In addition to the Muslim custom of banning the sale and use of alcohol, ISIL has banned the sale and use of cigarettes and hookah pipes. It has also banned “music and songs in cars, at parties, in shops and in public, as well as photographs of people in shop windows”.[330]

According to The Economist, Saudi practices also followed by the group include the establishment of religious police to root out “vice” and enforce attendance at salat prayers, the widespread use of capital punishment, and the destruction of Christian churches and non-Sunni mosques or their conversion to other uses.[180]

ISIL carried out executions on both men and women who were accused of various acts and found guilty of crimes against Islam such as homosexuality, adultery, watching pornography, usage and possession of contraband, rape, blasphemy, witchcraft,[331]renouncing Islam and murder. Before the accused are executed their charges are read toward them and the spectators. Executions take various forms, including stoning to death, crucifixions, beheadings, burning people alive, and throwing people from tall buildings.[332][333][334][335]

Child soldiers

According to a report by the magazine Foreign Policy, children as young as six are recruited or kidnapped and sent to military and religious training camps, where they practise beheading with dolls and are indoctrinated with the religious views of ISIL. Children are used as human shields on front lines and to provide blood transfusions for Islamic State soldiers, according to Shelly Whitman of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. The second installment of a Vice News documentary about ISIL focused on how the group is specifically grooming children for the future. A spokesman told VICE News that those under the age of 15 go to sharia camp to learn about religion, while those older than 16 can go to military training camp. Children are also used for propaganda. According to a UN report, “In mid-August, ISIL entered a cancer hospital in Mosul, forced at least two sick children to hold the ISIL flag and posted the pictures on the internet.” Misty Buswell, a Save the Children representative working with refugees in Jordan, said, “It’s not an exaggeration to say we could lose a whole generation of children to trauma.”[336]

Sexual violence and slavery

Sexual violence perpetrated by ISIL includes: using rape as a weapon of war;[337] instituting forced marriages to its fighters;[338] and trading women and girls as sex slaves.[339]

There are many reports of sexual abuse and enslavement in ISIL-controlled areas of women and girls, predominantly from the minority Christian and Yazidi communities.[340][341] Fighters are told that they are free to have sex with or rape non-Muslim captive women.[342] Haleh Esfandiari from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has highlighted the abuse of local women by ISIL militants after they have captured an area. “They usually take the older women to a makeshift slave market and try to sell them. The younger girls … are raped or married off to fighters”, she said, adding, “It’s based on temporary marriages, and once these fighters have had sex with these young girls, they just pass them on to other fighters.”[343]

The capture of Iraqi cities by the group in June 2014 was accompanied by an upsurge in crimes against women, including kidnap and rape.[344][345][346] According to Martin Williams in The Citizen, some hard-line Salafists apparently regard extramarital sex with multiple partners as a legitimate form of holy war and it is “difficult to reconcile this with a religion where some adherents insist that women must be covered from head to toe, with only a narrow slit for the eyes”.[347]

As of August 2015, the trade in sex slaves appeared to remain restricted to Yazidi women and girls.[339] It has reportedly become a recruiting technique to attract men from conservative Muslim societies, where dating and casual sex are not allowed.[339]Nazand Begikhani said of the Yazidi victims, “These women have been treated like cattle … They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. They’ve been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags.”[348]

A United Nations report issued on 2 October 2014, based on 500 interviews with witnesses, said that ISIL took 450–500 women and girls to Iraq’s Nineveh region in August, where “150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIL fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves”.[341] In mid-October, the UN confirmed that 5,000–7,000 Yazidi women and children had been abducted by ISIL and sold into slavery.[349][350] In November 2014 The New York Times reported on the accounts given by five who escaped ISIL of their captivity and abuse.[351] In December 2014, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced that ISIL had killed over 150 women and girls in Fallujah who refused to participate in sexual jihad.[352][353] Non-Muslim women have reportedly been married off to fighters against their will. ISIL claims the women provide the new converts and children necessary to spread ISIL’s control.[354]

Shortly after the death of US hostage Kayla Mueller was confirmed on 10 February 2015,[355] several media outlets reported that the US intelligence community believed she may have been given as a wife to an ISIL fighter.[356][357][358] In August 2015 it was confirmed that she had been forced into marriage[359] to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who raped her repeatedly.[360][361][362][363][364][365][365][366] The Mueller family was informed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had sexually abused Ms. Mueller, and that Ms. Mueller had also been tortured.[365]Abu Sayyaf‘s widow, Umm Sayyaf, confirmed that it was her husband who had been Mueller’s primary abuser.[367]

In its digital magazine Dabiq, ISIL explicitly claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women.[368][369][370] According to The Wall Street Journal, ISIL appeals to apocalyptic beliefs and claims “justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world”.[371] ISIL appeals to the Hadith and Qur’an when claiming the right to enslave and rape captive non-Muslim women.[368][372][373] According to Dabiq, “enslaving the families of the kuffar and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharia’s that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’an and the narration of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.” Captured Yazidi women and children are divided among the fighters who captured them, with one fifth taken as a tax.[373][374] ISIL has received widespread criticism from Muslim scholars and others in the Muslim world for using part of the Qur’an to derive a ruling in isolation, rather than considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.[368][372][373] According to Mona Siddiqui, ISIL’s “narrative may well be wrapped up in the familiar language of jihad and ‘fighting in the cause of Allah’, but it amounts to little more than destruction of anything and anyone who doesn’t agree with them”; she describes ISIL as reflecting a “lethal mix of violence and sexual power” and a “deeply flawed view of manhood”.[354]Dabiq describes “this large-scale enslavement” of non-Muslims as “probably the first since the abandonment of Shariah law”.[373][374]

In late 2014, ISIL released a pamphlet that focused on the treatment of female slaves.[375][376] It claims that the Quran allows fighters to have sex with captives, including adolescent girls, and to beat slaves as discipline. The pamphlet’s guidelines also allow fighters to trade slaves, including for sex, as long as they have not been impregnated by their owner.[375][376][377] Charlie Winter, a researcher at the counter-extremist think tankQuilliam, described the pamphlet as “abhorrent”.[377][378] In response to this document Abbas Barzegar, a religion professor at Georgia State University, said Muslims around the world find ISIL’s “alien interpretation of Islam grotesque and abhorrent”.[379] Muslim leaders and scholars from around the world have rejected the validity of ISIL’s claims, claiming that the reintroduction of slavery is un-Islamic, that they are required to protect “People of the Scripture” including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Yazidis, and that ISIL’s fatwas are invalid due to their lack of religious authority and the fatwas’ inconsistency with Islam.[380][381]

The Independent reported in 2015 that the usage of Yazidi sex slaves had created ongoing friction among fighters within ISIL. Sajad Jiyad, a Research Fellow and Associate Member at the Iraqi Institute for Economic Reform, told the newspaper that many ISIL supporters and fighters had been in denial about the trafficking of kidnapped Yazidi women until a Dabiq article justifying the practice was published.[382][383]The New York Times said in August 2015 that “[t]he systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution.”[339] The article claims that ISIL is not merely exonerating but sacralising rape, and illustrated this with the testimony of escapees. One 15-year-old victim said that, while she was being assaulted, her rapist “kept telling me this is ibadah“; a 12-year-old victim related how her assailant claimed that, “by raping me, he is drawing closer to God”;[339] and one adult prisoner told how, when she challenged her captor about repeatedly raping a 12 year old, she was met with the retort, “No, she’s not a little girl, she’s a slave and she knows exactly how to have sex and having sex with her pleases God.”[339]

Attacks on members of the press

The Committee to Protect Journalists states: “Without a free press, few other human rights are attainable.”[384] ISIL has tortured and murdered local journalists,[385][386] creating what Reporters Without Borders calls “news blackholes” in areas controlled by ISIL. ISIL fighters have reportedly been given written directions to kill or capture journalists.[387]

In December 2013, two suicide bombers stormed the headquarters of TV station Salaheddin and killed five journalists, after accusing the station of “distorting the image of Iraq’s Sunni community”. Reporters Without Borders reported that on 7 September 2014, ISIL seized and on 11 October publicly beheaded Raad al-Azzawi, a TV Salaheddin cameraman from the village of Samra, east of Tikrit.[388] As of October 2014, according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, ISIL is holding nine journalists and has nine others under close observation in Mosul and Salahuddin province.[387]

During 2013 and part of 2014, an ISIL unit nicknamed the Beatles acquired and held 12 Western journalists hostage, along with aid workers and other foreign hostages, totalling 23 or 24 known hostages. A Polish journalist Marcin Suder was captured in July 2013 but escaped four months later.[389] The unit executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and released beheading videos. Eight of the other journalists were released for ransom: Danish journalist Daniel Rye Ottosen, French journalists Didier François, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin, and Pierre Torres, and Spanish journalists Marc Marginedas, Javier Espinosa, and Ricardo García Vilanova. The unit continues to hold hostage British journalist John Cantlie and a female aid worker.[390]

Cyber-security group the Citizen Lab released a report finding a possible link between ISIL and a digital attack on the Syrian citizen media group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RSS). Supporters of the media group received an emailed link to an image of supposed airstrikes, but clicking on the link introduced malware to the user’s computer that sends details of the user’s IP address and system each time it restarts. That information has been enough to allow ISIL to locate RSS supporters. “The group has been targeted for kidnappings, house raids, and at least one alleged targeted killing. At the time of that writing, ISIL was allegedly holding several citizen journalists in Raqqa”, according to the Citizen Lab report.[391]

On 8 January 2015, ISIL members in Libya claimed to have executed Tunisian journalists Sofiene Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari who disappeared in September 2014.[392] Also in January 2015, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto Jogo was kidnapped and beheaded, after a demand for a $200 million ransom payment was not met.[393]

Beheadings and mass executions

An unknown number of Syrians and Iraqis, several Lebanese soldiers, at least ten Kurds, two American journalists, one American and two British aid workers, and three Libyans have been beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[citation needed] ISIL uses beheadings to intimidate local populations and has released a series of propaganda videos aimed at Western countries.[394] They also engage in public and mass executions of Syrian and Iraqi soldiers and civilians,[297] sometimes forcing prisoners to dig their own graves before shooting lines of prisoners and pushing them in.[395][396] ISIL was reported to have beheaded about 100 foreign fighters as deserters who tried to leave Raqqa.[397]

Use of chemical weapons

Kurds in northern Iraq reported being attacked by ISIS with chemical weapons in August of 2015.[398]

Destruction of cultural and religious heritage

UNESCO‘s Director-General Irina Bokova has warned that ISIL is destroying Iraq’s cultural heritage, in what she has called “cultural cleansing“. “We don’t have time to lose because extremists are trying to erase the identity, because they know that if there is no identity, there is no memory, there is no history”, she said. Referring to the ancient cultures of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities, she said, “This is a way to destroy identity. You deprive them of their culture, you deprive them of their history, their heritage, and that is why it goes hand in hand with genocide. Along with the physical persecution they want to eliminate – to delete – the memory of these different cultures. … we think this is appalling, and this is not acceptable.”[399]Saad Eskander, head of Iraq’s National Archives said, “For the first time you have cultural cleansing… For the Yazidis, religion is oral, nothing is written. By destroying their places of worship … you are killing cultural memory. It is the same with the Christians – it really is a threat beyond belief.”[400]

In July 2014, ISIL demolished the mosque dedicated to Jonah in Mosul

To finance its activities, ISIL is stealing artifacts from Syria[401] and Iraq and sending them to Europe to be sold. It is estimated that ISIL raises US$200 million a year from cultural looting. UNESCO has asked for United Nations Security Council controls on the sale of antiquities, similar to those imposed after the 2003 Iraq War. UNESCO is working with Interpol, national customs authorities, museums, and major auction houses in attempts to prevent looted items from being sold.[400] ISIL occupied Mosul Museum, the second most important museum in Iraq, as it was about to reopen after years of rebuilding following the Iraq War, saying that the statues were against Islam and threatening to destroy the museum’s contents.[402][403]

ISIL considers worshipping at graves tantamount to idolatry, and seeks to purify the community of unbelievers. It has used bulldozers to crush buildings and archaeological sites.[403]Bernard Haykel has described al-Baghdadi’s creed as “a kind of untamed Wahhabism”, saying, “For Al Qaeda, violence is a means to an ends; for ISIS, it is an end in itself”.[179] The destruction by ISIL in July 2014 of the tomb and shrine of the prophet YunusJonah in Christianity—the 13th-century mosque of Imam Yahya Abu al-Qassimin, the 14th-century shrine of prophet Jerjis—St George to Christians—and the attempted destruction of the Hadba minaret at the 12th-century Great Mosque of Al-Nuri have been described as “an unchecked outburst of extreme Wahhabism”.[404] “There were explosions that destroyed buildings dating back to the Assyrian era“, said National Museum of Iraq director Qais Rashid, referring to the destruction of the shrine of Yunus. He cited another case where “Daesh (ISIL) gathered over 1,500 manuscripts from convents and other holy places and burnt all of them in the middle of the city square”.[405] In March 2015, ISIL reportedly bulldozed the 13th-century BC Assyrian city of Nimrud, believing its sculptures to be idolatrous. UNESCO head, Irina Bokova, deemed this to be a war crime.[406]

Criticism

Islamic criticism

ISIL has received severe criticism from other Muslims, especially religious scholars and theologians. In late August 2014, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, condemned the Islamic State and al-Qaeda saying, “Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims”.[407] In late September 2014, 126 Sunni imams and Islamic scholars—primarily Sufi[408]—from around the Muslim world signed an open letter to the Islamic State’s leader al-Baghdadi, explicitly rejecting and refuting his group’s interpretations of Islamic scriptures, the Qur’an and hadith, used by it to justify its actions.[409][410] “[You] have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder … this is a great wrong and an offence to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world”, the letter states.[411] It rebukes the Islamic State for its killing of prisoners, describing the killings as “heinous war crimes” and its persecution of the Yazidis of Iraq as “abominable”. Referring to the “self-described ‘Islamic State'”, the letter censures the group for carrying out killings and acts of brutality under the guise of jihad—holy struggle—saying that its “sacrifice” without legitimate cause, goals and intention “is not jihad at all, but rather, warmongering and criminality”.[411][412] It also accuses the group of instigating fitna—sedition—by instituting slavery under its rule in contravention of the anti-slavery consensus of the Islamic scholarly community.[411] Other scholars have described the group as not Sunnis, but Khawarij.[413]

Kurdish demonstration against ISIL in Vienna, Austria, 10 October 2014

According to The New York Times, “All of the most influential jihadist theorists are criticizing the Islamic State as deviant, calling its self-proclaimed caliphate null and void” and have denounced it for its beheading of journalists and aid workers.[179] ISIL is widely denounced by a broad range of Islamic clerics, including al-Qaeda-oriented and Saudi clerics.[11][179]

Sunni critics, including Salafi and jihadist muftis such as Adnan al-Aroor and Abu Basir al-Tartusi, say that ISIL and related terrorist groups are not Sunnis, but modern-day Khawarij—Muslims who have stepped outside the mainstream of Islam—serving an imperial anti-Islamic agenda.[414][415] Other critics of ISIL’s brand of Sunni Islam include Salafists who previously publicly supported jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda, for example the Saudi government official Saleh Al-Fawzan, known for his extremist views, who claims that ISIL is a creation of “Zionists, Crusaders and Safavids”, and the Jordanian-Palestinian writer Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the former spiritual mentor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was released from prison in Jordan in June 2014 and accused ISIL of driving a wedge between Muslims.[415]

The group’s declaration of a caliphate has been criticised and its legitimacy disputed by Middle Eastern governments, other jihadist groups,[416] and Sunni Muslim theologians and historians. Qatar-based TV broadcaster and theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi stated: “[The] declaration issued by the Islamic State is void under sharia and has dangerous consequences for the Sunnis in Iraq and for the revolt in Syria”, adding that the title of caliph can “only be given by the entire Muslim nation”, not by a single group.[417] The group’s execution of Muslims for breach of traditional sharia law while violating it itself (encouraging women to emigrate to its territory, traveling without a Wali—male guardian—and in violation of his wishes) has been criticized;[418] as has its love of archaic imagery (horsemen and swords) while engaging in bid‘ah (religious innovation) in establishing female religious police (known as al-Khansa’ Brigades).[419]

Two days after the beheading of Hervé Gourdel,hundreds of Muslims gathered in the Grand Mosque of Paris to show solidarity against the beheading. The protest was led by the leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Dalil Boubakeur, and was joined by thousands of other Muslims around the country under the slogan “Not in my name”.[420][421] French president François Hollande said Gourdel’s beheading was “cowardly” and “cruel”, and confirmed that airstrikes would continue against ISIL in Iraq. Hollande also called for three days of national mourning, with flags flown at half-mast throughout the country and said that security would be increased throughout Paris.[420]

An Islamic Front Sharia Court Judge in Aleppo Mohamed Najeeb Bannan stated “The legal reference is the Islamic Sharia. The cases are different, from robberies to drug use, to moral crimes. It’s our duty to look at any crime that comes to us. . . After the regime has fallen, we believe that the Muslim majority in Syria will ask for an Islamic state. Of course, it’s very important to point out that some say the Islamic Sharia will cut off people’s hands and heads, but it only applies to criminals. And to start off by killing, crucifying etc. That is not correct at all.” In response to being asked what the difference between the Islamic Front’s and ISIL’s version of sharia would be, he said “One of their mistakes is before the regime has fallen, and before they’ve established what in Sharia is called Tamkeen [having a stable state], they started applying Sharia, thinking God gave them permission to control the land and establish a Caliphate. This goes against the beliefs of religious scholars around the world. This is what [IS] did wrong. This is going to cause a lot of trouble. Anyone who opposes [IS] will be considered against Sharia and will be severely punished.”[422]

The Islamic Front criticized ISIL, saying: “They killed the people of Islam and leave the idol worshippers” (يقتلون أهل الإسلام ويدعون أهل الأوثان) and “They use the verses talking about the disbelievers and implement it on the Muslims” (ينزلون أيات نزلت في الكفار على المسلمين).[423]

The current Grand Imam of al-Azhar and former president of al-Azhar University, Ahmed el-Tayeb has strongly condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stating that is acting “under the guise of this holy religion and have given themselves the name ‘Islamic State’ in an attempt to export their false Islam”[424][425] and (citing the Quran) that: “The punishment for those who wage war against God and his Prophet and who strive to sow corruption on earth is death, crucifixion, the severing of hands and feet on opposite sides or banishment from the land. This is the disgrace for them in this world and in the hereafter they will receive grievous torment.” Although El-Tayeb has been criticized for not expressly stating that the Islamic State was heretical,[426][427] the Ash’ari school of Islamic theology – to which El-Tayeb belongs – does not allow calling a person who follows the shahada an apostate.[426] El-Tayeb has strongly come out against the practice of takfirism (declaring a Muslim an apostate) which is used by the Islamic State to “judge and accuse anyone who doesn’t tow their line with apostasy and outside the realm of the faith” declaring “Jihad on peaceful Muslims” using “flawed interpretations of some Qur’anic texts, the prophet’s Sunna, and the Imams’ views believing incorrectly, that they are leaders of Muslim armies fighting infidel peoples, in unbelieving lands.”[428]

International criticism

The group has attracted widespread criticism internationally for its extremism, from governments and international bodies such as the United Nations and Amnesty International. On 24 September 2014, United Nations Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-Moon stated: “As Muslim leaders around the world have said, groups like ISIL – or Da’ish – have nothing to do with Islam, and they certainly do not represent a state. They should more fittingly be called the ‘Un-Islamic Non-State’.”[429] The group was described as a cult in a Huffington Post column by notable cult authority Steven Hassan.[430]

Criticism of the name “Islamic State” and “caliphate” declaration

The group’s declaration of a new caliphate in June 2014 and adoption of the name “Islamic State” have been criticised and ridiculed by Muslim scholars and rival Islamists both inside and outside the territory it controls.[69][70][71][431] In a speech in September 2014, President Obama said that ISIL is not “Islamic” on the basis that no religion condones the killing of innocents and that no government recognises the group as a state,[75] while many object to using the name “Islamic State” owing to the far-reaching religious and political claims to authority which that name implies. The United Nations Security Council, the United States, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom[72][73][74][432][433][434][435] and other countries generally call the group “ISIL”, while much of the Arab world uses the Arabic acronym “Dāʻish”. France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims, and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.'”[436] Retired general John Allen, the U.S. envoy appointed to co-ordinate the coalition, U.S. military Lieutenant General James Terry, head of operations against the group, and Secretary of State John Kerry had all shifted toward use of the term DAESH by December 2014.[437]

Battle of Kobani

In late August 2014, a leading Islamic educational institution, Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah in Egypt, advised Muslims to stop calling the group “Islamic State” and instead refer to it as “Al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria” or “QSIS”, because of the militant group’s “un-Islamic character”.[438][439] When addressing the United Nations Security Council in September 2014, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott summarised the widespread objections to the name “Islamic State” thus: “To use this term [Islamic State] is to dignify a death cult; a death cult that, in declaring itself a caliphate, has declared war on the world”.[440] The group is very sensitive about its name. “They will cut your tongue out even if you call them ISIS – you have to say ‘Islamic State'”, said a woman in ISIL-controlled Mosul.[441]

In mid-October 2014, representatives of the Islamic Society of Britain, the Association of British Muslims and the UK’s Association of Muslim Lawyers proposed that “‘Un-Islamic State’ (UIS) could be an accurate and fair alternative name to describe this group and its agenda”, further stating, “We need to work together and make sure that these fanatics don’t get the propaganda that they feed off.”[442][443] The “Islamic State” is mocked on social media websites such as Twitter and YouTube, with the use of hashtags, mock recruiting ads, fake news articles and YouTube videos.[444] One parody, by a Palestinian TV satire show, portrays ISIL as “buffoon-like hypocrites”, and has had more than half a million views on YouTube.[444][445]

Views of ISIL as un-Islamic

Mehdi Hasan, a political journalist in the UK, said in the New Statesman, “Whether Sunni or Shia, Salafi or Sufi, conservative or liberal, Muslims – and Muslim leaders – have almost unanimously condemned and denounced ISIL not merely as un-Islamic but actively anti-Islamic.”[446]

Views of ISIL as Islamic

Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Delma Institute, wrote in The Guardian that because the Islamic State “bases its teachings on religious texts that mainstream Muslim clerics do not want to deal with head on, new recruits leave the camp feeling that they have stumbled on the true message of Islam”.[447]

In mid-February 2015, Graeme Wood, a lecturer in political science at Yale University, said in The Atlantic, “The religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”[448]

In the media

By 2014, ISIL was increasingly being viewed as a militia rather than a terrorist group.[449] As major Iraqi cities fell to ISIL in June 2014, Jessica Lewis, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer at the Institute for the Study of War, described ISIL as “not a terrorism problem anymore”, but rather “an army on the move in Iraq and Syria, and they are taking terrain. They have shadow governments in and around Baghdad, and they have an aspirational goal to govern. I don’t know whether they want to control Baghdad, or if they want to destroy the functions of the Iraqi state, but either way the outcome will be disastrous for Iraq.” Lewis has called ISIL “an advanced military leadership”. She said, “They have incredible command and control and they have a sophisticated reporting mechanism from the field that can relay tactics and directives up and down the line. They are well-financed, and they have big sources of manpower, not just the foreign fighters, but also prisoner escapees.”[449]

While officials[which?] fear that ISIL may inspire attacks in the United States from sympathisers or those returning after joining ISIL, U.S. intelligence agencies have found no specific plots or any immediate threat. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel saw an “imminent threat to every interest we have”, but former top counter-terrorism adviser Daniel Benjamin has derided such alarmist talk as a “farce” that panics the public.[450]

Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband concluded that the 2003 invasion of Iraq caused the creation of ISIL.[451]

Some news commentators, such as international newspaper columnist Gwynne Dyer,[452] and samples of American public opinion, such as surveys by NPR,[453] have advocated a strong but measured response to ISIL’s recent provocative acts. Writing for The Guardian, Pankaj Mishra rejects that the group is a resurgence of medieval Islam and rather expresses that, “In actuality, Isis is the canniest of all traders in the flourishing international economy of disaffection: the most resourceful among all those who offer the security of collective identity to isolated and fearful individuals. It promises, along with others who retail racial, national and religious supremacy, to release the anxiety and frustrations of the private life into the violence of the global.”[454]

Allegations of Turkish support

Turkey has long been accused by experts, Syrian Kurds, and even U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden of supporting or colluding with ISIL.[455][456][457] According to journalist Patrick Cockburn, there is “strong evidence for a degree of collaboration” between the Turkish intelligence services and ISIL, although the “exact nature of the relationship … remains cloudy”.[458] David L. Phillips of Columbia University‘s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, who compiled a list of allegations and claims accusing Turkey of assisting ISIL, writes that these allegations “range from military cooperation and weapons transfers to logistical support, financial assistance, and the provision of medical services”.[459] Several ISIL fighters and commanders have claimed that Turkey supports ISIL.[460][461][462] Within Turkey itself, ISIL is believed to have caused increasing political polarisation between secularists and Islamists.[463]

In July 2015, a raid by US special forces on a compound housing the Islamic State’s “chief financial officer”, Abu Sayyaf, produced evidence that Turkish officials directly dealt with ranking ISIS members. According to a senior Western official, documents and flash drives seized during the Sayyaf raid revealed links “so clear” and “undeniable” between Turkey and ISIS “that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara”.[455]

Turkey has been further criticised for allowing individuals from outside the region to enter its territory and join ISIL in Syria.[464][465] With many Islamist fighters passing through Turkey to fight in Syria, Turkey has been accused of becoming a transit country for such fighters and has been labelled the “Gateway to Jihad”.[466] Turkish border patrol officers are reported to have deliberately overlooked those entering Syria, upon payment of a small bribe.[466] A report by Sky News exposed documents showing that passports of foreign Islamists wanting to join ISIL by crossing into Syria had been stamped by the Turkish government.[467] An ISIL commander stated that “most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies”,[462][468] adding that ISIL fighters received treatment in Turkish hospitals.[462]

Allegations of Qatari support

The State of Qatar has long been accused of acting as a conduit for the flow of funds to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. While there is no proof that the Qatari government is behind the movement of funds from the gas-rich nation to ISIL, it has been criticized for not doing enough to stem the flow of financing. Private donors within Qatar, sympathetic to the aims of radical groups such as al-Nusra Front and ISIL, are believed to be channeling their resources to support these organisations.[469][470] According to the U.S. Treasury Department, a number of terrorist financiers have been operating in Qatar. Qatari citizen Abd al Rahman al Nuaymi has served as an interlocutor between Qatari donors and leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Nuaymi reportedly oversaw the transfer of US$2 million per month to AQI over a period of time. Nuaymi is also one of several of Qatar-based al-Qaeda financiers sanctioned by the U.S.Treasury in recent years. According to some reports, U.S. officials believe that the largest portion of private donations supporting ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked groups now comes from Qatar rather than Saudi Arabia.[471]

In August 2014, a German minister Gerd Müller accused Qatar of having links to ISIL, stating “You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops. The keyword there is Qatar”. Qatari foreign minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah reiterated this stance when he stated: “Qatar does not support extremist groups, including [ISIL], in any way. We are repelled by their views, their violent methods and their ambitions.”[472][473][474][475]

Allegations of Saudi Arabian support

Although Saudi Arabia’s government rejected the claims,[476] Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia of funding ISIL.[477] Some media outlets, such as NBC, the BBC and The New York Times, and the U.S.-based think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy have written about individual Saudi donations to the group and the Saudi state’s decade-long sponsorship of Wahhabism around the world, but have concluded that there is no evidence of direct Saudi state support for ISIL.[478][479]

Allegations of Syrian support

Circle frame.svg

ISIL attacks in Syria: 1 Jan – 21 November 2014 [480]

  Attacks against Syrian government forces (13%)
  Attacks against other groups (FSA, etc.) (64%)
  Other (23%)

During the ongoing Syrian Civil War, many opposition and anti-Assad parties in the conflict have accused the Syrian leadership of Bashar Assad of some form of collusion with ISIL,[481][482] whose dominance in the opposition against the Bashar al-Assad government would give that government a basis for its claim to being under attack by “terrorists” and “a secular bulwark against al-Qaida and jihadi fanaticism”.[483] Several sources have claimed that ISIL prisoners were strategically released from Syrian prisons at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.[484] The Syrian government has bought oil directly from ISIL,[485] and in March 2015 a European Union report brought to light that the Syrian government and ISIL jointly run a HESCO gas plant in Tabqa, central Syria; the facility continues to supply government-held areas, and electricity continues to be supplied to ISIL-held areas from government-run power plants.[486] United States Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that the Syrian government has tactically avoided ISIL forces in order to weaken moderate opposition such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA),[487] as well as “even purposely ceding some territory to them [ISIL] in order to make them more of a problem so he can make the argument that he is somehow the protector against them”.[488] An IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center database analysis confirmed that only 6% of Syrian government forces attacks were targeted at ISIL from 1 Jan to 21 November 2014, while in the same period only 13% of all ISIL attacks targeted government forces.[480] The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has stated that the Syrian government has operatives inside ISIL,[489] as has the leadership of Ahrar ash-Sham.[490] ISIL members captured by the FSA have claimed that they were directed to commit attacks by Syrian government operatives.[491]

On 1 June 2015, the United States stated that the Syrian government was “making air-strikes in support” of an ISIL advance on Syrian opposition positions north of Aleppo.[492] The president of the Syrian National Coalition Khaled Koja accused Assad of acting “as an air force for [ISIL]”,[493] with the Defense Minister of the SNC Salim Idris stating that approximately 180 Syrian government officers were serving in ISIL and coordinating the group’s attacks with the Syrian Arab Army.[494]

A report on June 25, 2015 said that ISIS kept gas flowing to Assad regime-controlled power stations. Furthermore, ISIS allowed grain to pass from the Kurdish-held north-east to regime controlled areas at the cost of a 25% levy.[495]

On 28 June 2015, a source close to the Turkish National Intelligence Organization claimed an agreement was made between the Assad regime and ISIL to destroy the FSA in the country’s north, continue oil sales, assassinate Zahran Alloush and surrender Tadmur and Sukhna. The sources said that a group of commanders of both sides held a meeting at a gas production plant in Hasaka‘s al-Shaddadi area on 28 May 2015, not to stop fighting each other, but to focus on destroying a common enemy – the Syrian rebel forces, especially the FSA.[496] Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has blamed the rise of ISIL on the international communities inaction in regards to the Assad regime, which left a vacuum of power in which ISIL was able to grow.[497]

ISIL has repeatedly massacred Alawite civilians and executed captured Syrian Alawite soldiers,[296][298][498] with most Alawites supporting President Bashar al-Assad, himself an Alawite.[297]

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theorists in the Arab world have advanced rumours that the U.S. is secretly behind the existence and emboldening of ISIL, as part of an attempt to further destabilise the Middle East. After such rumours became widespread, the U.S. embassy in Lebanon issued an official statement denying the allegations, calling them a complete fabrication.[499] Others[who?] are convinced that ISIL leader al-Baghdadi is an Israeli Mossad agent and actor called Simon Elliot. The rumours claim that NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal this connection. Snowden’s lawyer has called the story “a hoax.”[500]

According to The New York Times, many in the Middle East believe that an alliance of the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia is directly responsible for the creation of ISIL. Egyptian, Tunisian, Palestinian, Jordanian and Lebanese news organizations have reported on the conspiracy theory.[501][502]

Countries and groups at war with ISIL

ISIL’s expanding claims to territory have brought it into armed conflict with many governments, militias and other armed groups. International rejection of ISIL as a terrorist entity and rejection of its claim to even exist have placed it in conflict with countries around the world.[citation needed]

Opposition within Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and other nations

Iraq Levant Maghreb Other regions
Iraq-based opponents

IraqIraqi Armed Forces

Iraqi KurdistanIraqi Kurdistan

Popular Mobilization Forces

Iraqi Turkmen Front[506]

Shabak Militia[507]

Syria-based opponents

SyriaSyrian Armed Forces[508]

National Defence Force

Ba’ath Brigades

Syrian Resistance

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command

Palestine Liberation Army

Fatah al-Intifada

Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas

SyriaSyrian Opposition[509][510][511]

RojavaSyrian Kurdistan[514]

al-Qaeda

Lebanon-based opponents

LebanonLebanese Armed Forces[519]

Hezbollah[520]

Egypt-based opponents

EgyptEgyptian Armed Forces[521]

Libya-based opponents

LibyaLibyan Armed Forces

Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade (Libyan militia)[524]

Fajr Libya battalion (Libyan militia)[525]

Algeria-based opponents

AlgeriaAlgerian Armed Forces[526]

South Asia-based opponents
AfghanistanAfghan Armed Forces[153]
IndiaIndian Armed Forces[527]
Taliban[528][529][530]
PakistanPakistan Armed Forces[531][532]

Arabian peninsula-based opponents

YemenYemeni Armed Forces[152]
Saudi ArabiaArmed Forces of Saudi Arabia[citation needed]
Bahrain
Bahrain Defence Force[citation needed]
Kuwait
Kuwaiti Armed Forces[citation needed]
Oman
Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces[citation needed]
Qatar
Qatar Armed Forces[citation needed]
United Arab Emirates
Union Defence Force (UAE)[citation needed]
al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula[152]
Houthis[533]

West Africa-based opponents

NigeriaNigerian Armed Forces[161]
NigerNiger Armed Forces[534]
ChadChadian Armed Forces[535]
CameroonCameroonian Armed Forces[534]
BeninBenin Armed Forces[534]

Southeast Asia-based opponents
IndonesiaIndonesian National Armed Forces[536]
MalaysiaMalaysian Armed Forces[536]
MyanmarTatmadaw[536]
PhilippinesArmed Forces of the Philippines[537][538][539]
SingaporeSingapore Armed Forces[536]
ThailandRoyal Thai Armed Forces[536]

Turkey-based opponents
TurkeyTurkish Armed Forces[540]

American-led Coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Airstrikes in Syria by 24 September 2014

The Global Coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Daesh), also referred to as the Counter-ISIL Coalition or Counter-DAESH Coalition,[541] is a US-led group of nations and non-state actors that have committed to “work together under a common, multifaceted, and long-term strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL/Daesh”. According to a joint statement issued by 59 national governments and the European Union, participants in the Counter-ISIL Coalition are focused on multiple lines of effort:[542]

  1. Supporting military operations, capacity building, and training;
  2. Stopping the flow of foreign terrorist fighters;
  3. Cutting off ISIL/Daesh’s access to financing and funding;
  4. Addressing associated humanitarian relief and crises; and
  5. Exposing ISIL/Daesh’s true nature (ideological delegitimisation).

Operation Inherent Resolve is the operational name given by the US to military operations against ISIL and Syrian al-Qaeda affiliates. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) is co-ordinating the military portion of the response.

The following multi-national organisations are part of the Counter-ISIL Coalition:[542]
 European Union – declared to be part, most members are participating;[542]
 NATO – all 28 members are taking part;
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf or GCC – all six current members and the two pending members, Jordan and Morocco, are taking part.

Military operations in or over Iraq and/or Syria
airstrikes, air support, and ground forces performing training
Supplying military equipment to opposition forces
within Iraq and/or Syria in co-operation with EU/NATO/partners
Humanitarian and other contributions
to identified coalition objectives
NATO members:

CCASG members:

Other:

Part of the anti-ISIL coalition engaged in anti-ISIL military operations within their own borders[542]

Note: Listed countries in this box may also be supplying military and humanitarian aid, and contributing to group objectives in other ways.

NATO members: (also EU members except Albania)

 European Union members (not in NATO)

Other:

  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina[566]

Note: These countries may also be supplying humanitarian aid and contributing to group objectives in other ways.

NATO members: (who are also EU members, except Iceland)

 European Union members (not in NATO)

CCASG members:

Other

Other state opponents

 Iran[569][570] – ground troops, training and air power (see Iranian intervention in Iraq)

 Russia[571][572] – arms supplier to Iraqi and Syrian governments. In June 2014, the Iraqi army received Russian Sukhoi Su-25 and Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft to combat the Islamic State.[573] Security operations within state borders in 2015.[574][575]

 Azerbaijan[576][577] – security operations within state borders

 Pakistan – Military deployment over Saudi Arabia-Iraq border. Arresting ISIL figures in Pakistan.[578][579][580]

Other non-state opponents[edit]

 Arab League—coordinating member response[581]
al-Qaeda[582]

AfghanistanTaliban[584]
Flag of Hamas.svgHamas[585]
Kurdistan Workers’ Party—ground troops in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Syrian Kurdistan[586]
Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan—ground troops in Iraqi Kurdistan[586]
Houthis—Shia faction in Yemen, fighting for control of the country[533]

Al-Qaeda

Al-Nusra Front is a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria. Al-Nusra launched many attacks and bombings, mostly against targets affiliated with or supportive of the Syrian government.[587] There were media reports that many of al-Nusra’s foreign fighters had left to join al-Baghdadi’s ISIL.[588]

In February 2014, after continued tensions, al-Qaeda publicly disavowed any relations with ISIL,[589] but ISIL and al-Nusra Front are still able to occasionally cooperate with each other when they fight against the Syrian government.[590][591][592]Quartz’s managing edtior Bobby Ghosh wrote:

The two groups share a nihilistic worldview, a loathing for modernity, and for the West. They subscribe to the same perverted interpretations of Islam. Other common traits include a penchant for suicide attacks, and sophisticated exploitation of the internet and social media. Like ISIL, several Al Qaeda franchises are interested in taking and holding territory; AQAP has been much less successful at it. The main differences between Al Qaeda and ISIL are largely political—and personal. Over the past decade, Al Qaeda has twice embraced ISIL (and its previous manifestations) as brothers-in-arms.[593]

On 10 September 2015, an audio message was released by Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri that criticized the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s self-proclaimed caliphate and accused them of “sedition”, described by some media outlets as a “declaration of war”.[594] However, although he denied their legitimacy, Zawahri suggested that there was still room for cooperation against common enemies and said that if he were in Iraq, he would fight alongside them.[595]

Supporters

Iraq and Syria nationals

According to Reuters, 90% of ISIL’s fighters in Iraq are Iraqi, and 70% of its fighters in Syria are Syrian. The article, citing “jihadist ideologues” as the source, stated that the group has 40,000 fighters and 60,000 supporters across its two primary strongholds in Iraq and Syria.[596]

Foreign nationals

According to a report to the UN Security Council filed in late March 2015, 22,000 foreign fighters from 100 nations have travelled to Syria and Iraq, most to support ISIL. It warned that Syria and Iraq had become a “finishing school for extremists”.[597] In mid-2014, ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had issued a call, “Rush O Muslims to your state …”.[598]

A UN report from May 2015[update] shows that 25,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” from 100 countries have joined “Islamist” groups, many of them working for ISIL or al-Qaeda.[599]

Groups with expressions of support

One source (Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC)) has identified 60 jihadist groups in 30 countries that have pledged allegiance or support to ISIL as of mid-November 2014. Many of these groups were previously affiliated with al-Qaeda, indicating a shift in global jihadist leadership toward ISIL.[600]

Memberships of the following groups have declared support for ISIL, either fully or in part.

Military and resources

Military

Main article: Military of ISIL

ISIL fighters seen here in the Anbar province, Iraq.

Estimates of the size of ISIL’s military vary widely from tens of thousands[618] up to 200,000.[31]

Foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq

As of early 2015, journalist Mary Anne Weaver estimates that half of ISIL fighters are made up of foreigners.[619] A UN report estimated a total of 15,000 fighters from over 80 countries in ISIL’s ranks as of November 2014.[620] US intelligence estimated an increase to around 20,000 foreign fighters in February 2015, including 3,400 from Western countries.[621]

List of nations by ISIL fighter origin (500 or more)
Country Population
 Tunisia

3,000

 Saudi Arabia

2,500

 Russia

1,700

 Jordan

1,500

 Morocco

1,500

 France

1,200

 Turkey

1,000

 Lebanon

900

 Germany

650

 Libya

600

 United Kingdom

600

 Uzbekistan

500

 Pakistan

500

Statistics gathered by nation indicate up to: 3,000 from Tunisia,[622][623] 2,500 from Saudi Arabia,[622][623] 1,700 from Russia,[624] 1,500 from Jordan,[623] 1,500 from Morocco,[623] 1,200 from France,[623] 1,000 from Turkey,[625] 900 from Lebanon,[623] 650 from Germany,[626] 600 from Libya,[623] 600 from the United Kingdom,[622][623] 500 from Uzbekistan,[623] 500 from Pakistan,[623] 440 from Belgium,[623] 360 from Turkmenistan,[623] 360 from Egypt,[623] 350 from Serbia,[627] 330 from Bosnia,[623] 300 from China,[628] 300 from Kosovo,[629] 300 from Sweden,[630] 250 from Australia,[631] 250 from Kazakhstan,[623] 250 from the Netherlands,[623] 200 from Austria,[632] 200 from Algeria,[623] 190 from Tajikistan,[623] 180 from the United States,[621] 150 from Norway,[633] 150 from Denmark,[623] 140 from Albania,[627] 130 from Canada,[634] 110 from Yemen,[623] 100 from Sudan,[623] 100 from Kyrgyzstan,[623] 100 from Spain,[635] 80 from Italy,[623] 70–80 from Palestine,[636] 70 from Somalia,[623] 70 from Kuwait,[623] 70 from Finland,[623] 50 from Ukraine,[623] 50 from Indonesia,[637][638] 40–50 from Israel,[636] 40 from Ireland,[639] 40 from Switzerland,[623] at least 30 from Georgia,[640] 20 from Malaysia,[638][641] 18 from India,[642] 10–12 from Portugal,[643][644] and 3 from the Philippines.[638]

According to a statement of a former senior leader of IS, these fighters receive food, petrol and housing but do not receive payment in wages, unlike Iraqi or Syrian fighters.[645]

Weapons

Conventional weapons

ISIL relies mostly on captured weapons. Major sources are Saddam Hussein‘s Iraqi stockpiles from the 2003–11 Iraq insurgency[646] and weapons from government and opposition forces fighting in the Syrian Civil War and during the post-US withdrawal Iraqi insurgency. The captured weapons, including armour, guns, surface-to-air missiles, and even some aircraft, enabled rapid territorial growth and facilitated the capture of additional equipment.[647]

Non-conventional weapons

The group has a long history of using truck and car bombs, suicide bombers and IEDs, and has used chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria. ISIL captured nuclear materials from Mosul University in July 2014, but is unlikely to be able to turn them into weapons.[648][649] In ISIL’s monthly magazine Dabiq, John Cantlie wrote of a hypothetical scenario where ISIL might be able to buy a nuclear weapon from corrupt officials in Pakistan,[650] to which India’s Minister of State for Defence said, “With the rise of ISIS in West Asia, one is afraid to an extent that perhaps they might get access to a nuclear arsenal from states like Pakistan”.[651]

Propaganda and social media

The logo of al-Hayat Media Centre, copying the style of Al Jazeera‘s logo.

ISIL is known for its extensive and effective use of propaganda.[278][652] It uses a version of the Muslim Black Standard flag and developed an emblem which has clear symbolic meaning in the Muslim world.[653]

In November 2006, shortly after the group’s rebranding as the “Islamic State of Iraq”, the group established the Al-Furqan Foundation for Media Production, which produces CDs, DVDs, posters, pamphlets, and web-related propaganda products and official statements.[654] It began to expand its media presence in 2013, with the formation of a second media wing, Al-I’tisam Media Foundation, in March[655][656] and the Ajnad Foundation for Media Production, specializing in Nasheeds and audio content, in August.[657] In mid 2014, ISIL established the Al-Hayat Media Center, which targets Western audiences and produces material in English, German, Russian and French.[658][659] When ISIL announced its expansion to other countries in November 2014 it established media departments for the new branches, and its media apparatus ensured that the new branches follow the same models it uses in Iraq and Syria.[660]

Al Furqan logo

In December 2014, FBI Director James Comey stated that ISIL’s “propaganda is unusually slick. They are broadcasting… in something like 23 languages”.[661]

From July 2014, al-Hayat began publishing a digital magazine called Dabiq, in a number of different languages including English. According to the magazine, its name is taken from the town of Dabiq in northern Syria, which is mentioned in a hadith about Armageddon.[662] The group also runs a radio network called Al-Bayan, which airs bulletins in Arabic, Russian and English and provides coverage of its activities in Iraq, Syria and Libya.[663]

ISIL’s use of social media has been described by one expert as “probably more sophisticated than [that of] most US companies”.[278][664] It regularly takes advantage of social media, particularly Twitter, to distribute its message by organising hashtag campaigns, encouraging Tweets on popular hashtags, and utilising software applications that enable ISIL propaganda to be distributed automatically via its supporters’ accounts.[665][666] Another comment is that “ISIS puts more emphasis on social media than other jihadi groups… They have a very coordinated social media presence.”[667] In August 2014, Twitter administrators shut down a number of accounts associated with ISIL. ISIL recreated and publicised new accounts the next day, which were also shut down by Twitter administrators.[668] The group has attempted to branch out into alternative social media sites, such as Quitter, Friendica and Diaspora; Quitter and Friendica, however, almost immediately worked to remove ISIL’s presence from their sites.[669]

The release of videos and photographs of beheadings, shootings, caged prisoners being burnt alive or submerged gradually until drowned—has been called “the hallmark” of ISIL.[670] Journalist Abdel Bari Atwan describes ISIL’s media content as part of a “systematically applied policy”. The escalating violence of its killings “guarantees” the attention of the media and public. Following the plan of al-Qaeda strategist Abu Bakr Naji, ISIL hopes the “savagery” will lead to a period of “vexation and exhaustion” among its Western enemies, where the US will be drawn into a direct fight with ISIS, and lacking the will to fight a sustained war will be “worn down” militarily.[234]

Along with images of brutality, ISIL presents itself as “an emotionally attractive place where people ‘belong’, where everyone is a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. A kind of slang, melding adaptations or shortenings of Islamic terms with street language, is evolving among the English-language fraternity on social media platforms in an attempt to create a ‘jihadi cool’.”[234] The “most potent psychological pitch” of ISIL media is the promise of heavenly reward to dead jihadist fighters. Frequently posted in their media are dead jihadists smiling faces, their ISIS ‘salute’ of a ‘right-hand index finger pointing heavenward’, and testimonies of their happy widows.[234]

ISIL has also attempted to present a more “rational argument” in its series of “press release/discussions” performed by hostage/captive John Cantlie and posted on YouTube. In one “Cantlie presentation”, various current and former US officials were quoted, such as US President Barack Obama and former CIA Officer Michael Scheuer.[671] In April 2015 hackers claiming allegiance to ISIL managed to black out 11 global television channels belonging to TV5Monde for several hours, and take over the company’s social media pages for nearly a day.[672] U.S. cybersecurity company FireEye later reported that they believed the cyber-attack was actually carried out by a Russian hacking group, called APT28, with alleged links to the Russian government.[673]

Finances

ISIL has numerous sources of funding to sustain its operations. According to a 2015 study by the Financial Action Task Force, its five primary sources of revenue are as followed (listed in order of significance):

  • illicit proceeds from the occupation of territory (including control of banks, oil and gas reservoirs, taxation, extortion, and robbery of economic assets);
  • kidnapping for ransom;
  • donations, including through non-profit organizations;
  • material support provided by foreign fighters;
  • fundraising through modern communication networks.[674]

In 2014 the RAND Corporation analyzed ISIL’s funding sources by studying 200 documents — personal letters, expense reports and membership rosters — captured from the Islamic State of Iraq (al-Qaeda in Iraq) by US Forces in Iraq between 2005 and 2010.[675] It found that over this period, outside donations amounted to only 5% of the group’s operating budgets, with the rest being raised within Iraq.[675] In the time period studied, cells were required to send up to 20% of the income generated from kidnapping, extortion rackets and other activities to the next level of the group’s leadership. Higher-ranking commanders would then redistribute the funds to provincial or local cells which were in difficulties or which needed money to conduct attacks.[675] The records show that the Islamic State of Iraq depended on members from Mosul for cash, which the leadership used to provide additional funds to struggling militants in Diyala, Salahuddin and Baghdad.[675]

In mid-2014, Iraqi intelligence obtained information from an ISIL operative which revealed that the organisation had assets worth US$2 billion,[676] making it the richest jihadist group in the world.[677] About three-quarters of this sum is said to be represented by assets seized after the group captured Mosul in June 2014; this includes possibly up to US$429 million looted from Mosul’s central bank, along with additional millions and a large quantity of gold bullion stolen from a number of other banks in Mosul.[678][679] However, doubt was later cast on whether ISIL was able to retrieve anywhere near that sum from the central bank,[680] and even on whether the bank robberies had actually occurred.[681]

Since 2012, ISIL has produced annual reports giving numerical information on its operations, somewhat in the style of corporate reports, seemingly in a bid to encourage potential donors.[278][682]

On 11 November 2014, ISIL announced its intent to mint its own gold, silver, and copper coins, based on the coinage used by the Umayyad Caliphate in the 7th century. Following the announcement, the group began buying up gold, silver, and copper in markets throughout northern and western Iraq, according to precious metal traders in the area. Members of the group also reportedly began stripping the insulation off electrical power cables to obtain the copper wiring.[683][684] The announcement included designs of the proposed coins, which displayed imagery including a map of the world, a sword and shield, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and a crescent moon. Economics experts, such as Professor Steven H. Hanke of Johns Hopkins University, were sceptical of the plans.[684][685] See also Modern gold dinar.

Oil revenues

Exporting oil from oilfields captured by ISIL has brought in tens of millions of dollars for the group.[185][686] One US Treasury official estimated that ISIL earns US$1 million a day from the export of oil. Much of the oil is sold illegally in Turkey.[687] In 2014, Dubai-based energy analysts put the combined oil revenue from ISIL’s Iraqi-Syrian production as high as US$3 million per day.[688]

In 2014, the majority of the group’s funding came from the production and sale of energy; it controlled around 300 oil wells in Iraq alone. At its peak, it operated 350 oil wells in Iraq, but lost 45 to foreign airstrikes. It had captured 60% of Syria’s total production capacity. About one fifth of its total capacity had been in operation. ISIL earned US$2.5 million a day by selling 50,000–60,000 barrels of oil daily.[687][689] Foreign sales rely on a long-standing black market to export via Turkey. Many of the smugglers and corrupt Turkish border guards who helped Saddam Hussein to evade sanctions are helping ISIL to export oil and import cash.[689][690][691]

In April 2015, after the fall of Tikrit, ISIL apparently lost control of “three large oil fields”, which will have significantly degraded its ability to generate income from selling oil.[692]

Other energy sales include selling electric power from captured power plants in northern Syria; some of this electricity is reportedly sold back to the Syrian government.[693]

Sale of antiques and artifacts

Sales of artifacts may be the second largest source of funding for ISIL, according to an article in Newsweek.[689] More than a third of Iraq’s important sites are under ISIL’s control. It looted the 9th century BC grand palace of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II at Kalhu (Nimrud). Tablets, manuscripts and cuneiforms were sold, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Stolen artifacts are smuggled into Turkey and Jordan. Abdulamir al-Hamdani, an archaeologist from SUNY Stony Brook, has said that ISIL is “looting… the very roots of humanity, artefacts from the oldest civilizations in the world”.[689]

Taxation and extortion

ISIL extracts wealth through taxation and extortion.[687] Regarding taxation, Christians and foreigners are at times required to pay a tax known as jizya. In addition, the group routinely practices extortion, by demanding money from truck drivers and threatening to blow up businesses, for example. Robbing banks and gold shops has been another source of income.[277] The Iraq government indirectly finances ISIL, as they continue to pay the salaries of the thousands of government employees who continue to work in areas controlled by ISIL, which then confiscates as much as half of those Iraqi government employees’ pay.[694]

Pictures show damage to the Gbiebeoil refinery in Syria following airstrikes by US and coalition forces.

Illegal drug trade

According to Victor Ivanov, head of the Russian anti-drug agency, Islamic State, like Boko Haram, makes money through trafficking Afghan heroin through its territory.[695] The annual value of this business may be up to $1 billion.[695]

Donations

ISIL is widely reported as receiving funding from private donors in the Gulf states,[696][697] and the governments of Iraq and Iran have repeatedly accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of financing and supporting the group. Ahead of the conference of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition held in Paris in September 2014, France’s foreign minister acknowledged that a number of countries at the table had “very probably” financed ISIL’s advances.[698]

Although Iran and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding the group,[699][700] there is reportedly no evidence that this is the case.[134][700][701] However, according to The Atlantic, ISIL may have been a major part of Saudi Arabian Bandar bin Sultan‘s covert-ops strategy in Syria.[702]

Unregistered charity organisations act as fronts to pass funds to ISIL. As they use aliases on Facebook’s WhatsApp and Kik, the individuals and organisations remain untraceable. Donations transferred to fund ISIL’s operations are disguised as “humanitarian charity”. Saudi Arabia has imposed a blanket ban on unauthorised donations destined for Syria as the only means of stopping such funding.[689]

Timeline of events

Index to main: 2013 events; 2014 events: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December; 2015 events: January, February, March, April, May, June.

May 2015

  • 1 May: The Guardian reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, was recovering in a part of Mosul from severe injuries he received during a March 2015 airstrike. It was reported that due to al-Baghdadi’s incapacitation from his spinal injury, he may never be able to resume direct control of ISIL again.[703]
  • 5 May: ISIL claims that it was related to the Curtis Culwell Center attack in Garland, Texas on 3 May. The Chicago Tribune reported that there is a link between the gun used in the militant attack and the Fast and Furious U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) gunwalking scandal.[704]
  • 7 May: ISIL-backed Taliban forces launched a major offensive against the north-eastern Afghan city of Kunduz, triggering a humanitarian crisis and a wave of fleeing refugees.[705]
  • 10 May: British actor Michael Enright announced by mobile phone to the Daily Mail he had volunteered to fight ISIL.[706]
  • 13 May: ISIL claimed responsibility for the killing of 43 Shia Ismaili Muslims in a bus in Karachi, Pakistan. On the same day, the Iraqi Defense Ministry reported that Abu Alaa Afri, ISIL’s Deputy Leader, had been killed in a US-led Coalition airstrike on a mosque in Tel Afar, on 12 May 2015,[707] which also killed dozens of other ISIL militants present.[22] Akram Qirbash, ISIL’s top judge, was also killed in the airstrike.[707] ISIL had issued statements in which they vowed to retaliate for al-Baghdadi’s injury, which Iraqi forces believed would happen through ISIL attacks in Europe.[22]
  • 14 May: An Al-Mourabitoun commander called Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui pledged the group’s allegiance to ISIL, expanding ISIL’s area of operation into Mali. The group’s founder, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, later issued a statement rejecting Sahraoui’s announcement.[708][709]
  • On night of 15 May, ISIL militants entered the city of Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar Province, using six near-simultaneous car bombs. ISIL also released an audio tape message, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calling all Muslims to fight against the Iraqi Government, in the Salahuddin, and Al Anbar Provinces, claiming that this is their duty as Muslims. The message breaks the rumors of his death.[710][711][712]
  • 15–16 May: U.S. Special Operations forces killed a senior ISIL commander named “Abu Sayyaf” during a raid intended to capture him in Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria overnight.[713][714]
  • 17 May: ISIL forces captured the city of Ramadi, the former capital of the Islamic State of Iraq, after Iraqi government forces abandoned their posts; more than 500 people were killed.[715]
  • 21 May: ISIL forces captured the Syrian town of Tadmur and the ancient city of Palmyra, beheading dozens of Syrian soldiers.[716] Two gas fields also fell into ISIL hands.[717] According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIL had by then seized 95,000 square kilometers of land, nearly half of Syria’s territory.[718] ISIL also reportedly kidnapped a Syriac Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Mourad, in the area between Palmyra and Homs.[719]
  • 22 May: Al-Walid, the last border crossing between Syria and Iraq that was held by the Syrian Army, fell to ISIL.[720] ISIL also carried out its first terror attack in Saudi Arabia, when a suicide bomber killed at least 21 people in a Shiite mosque in the city of Qatif.[721]
  • 27 May: ISIL seizes the Khunayfis phosphate mines 70 kilometres (45 mi) south of Palmyra, depriving the Syrian government of a key source of revenue.[722]
  • 28 May: ISIL claims the seizure of Sirte Airport.[723]
  • 31 May: ISIL launched an assault on the Syrian city of Al-Hasakah, with ISIL clashing with Syrian government forces on the southern outskirts, and Kurdish forces announcing their intent to protect their portion of the city. Kurdish forces killed at least 20 civilians in clashes accused of being ISIL and burned homes of suspected ISIL supporters near Ras al-Ayn and Tell Tamer.[724]

June 2015

  • 1 June: ISIL begins mandating that male civilians in Mosul wear full beards and imposes harsh punishments for shaving, up to and including beheading.[725]
  • 2 June: ISIL forces close the gates of a dam in Ramadi, shutting off water to Khaldiyah and Habbaniyah.[726]
  • 3 June: ISIL forces in Afghanistan reportedly capture and execute ten militants of the Taliban in the Nangarhar province claimed by the Afghan National Army.[727]
  • 7 June: The Syrian Army reported it repelled an offensive by ISIL on the town of Hasakah. Kurdish forces also seized several villages west of Ras Al Ayn, including al-Jasoum and Sawadieh.[728]
  • 10 June: President Obama authorized the deployment of 450 American advisors to Iraq to help train Iraqi forces in fighting ISIL.[729]
  • 13 June: The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia announced it had begun to move towards the ISIL-controlled border town of Tell Abyad after encircling the town of Suluk 20 km to the southeast.[730]
  • 15 June: A spokesman for Kurdish YPG units announced Syrian Kurdish fighters had taken the town of Tell Abyad from ISIL.[731]
  • 23 June: A Kurdish YPG spokesman announced the town of Ayn Issa and surrounding villages, located 50 km (30 miles) from Raqqa, were under the militia’s “total control”.[732] Abu Mohammad al-Adnani announced the expansion of ISIL to Russia’s North Caucasus region as a new Wilayat.[7]
  • 24 June: ISIL attacks Kobanî, killing at least 146 people.[733] Kurdish forces and the Syrian government claimed the vehicles had entered the city from across the border, an action denied by Turkey.[124]
  • 26 June: ISIL claims responsibility for the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, killing at least 27 people,[734] and the attacks on tourists in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people were killed.[735]
  • 27 June: ISIL demolished the ancient statue Lion of al-Lat in Palmyra.[736]
  • 30 June: Alaa Saadeh, a 23-year-old resident of West New York, New Jersey, is arrested at his home on charges of conspiring to provide material support to ISIL, and aiding and abetting an attempt to do so. His brother, designated by the United States Department of Justice as Co-Conspirator 1 (CC-1), left the United States on 5 May to join ISIL. Other co-conspirators residing in Fort Lee, New Jersey and Queens, New York were arrested on 13 June and 17 June on similar charges, as part of an investigation of a group of individuals from New York and New Jersey that the Department says conspired to provide material support to ISIL.[737][738]

July 2015

  • 2 July: Rockets were shot at southern Israel by an ISIS-affiliated group.[739]
  • 3 July: ISIL released a video showing the execution of 25 Syrian regime soldiers on the Palmyra amphitheatre stage.[740]
  • 10 July: Hafiz Saeed Khan, the Emir of ISIL’s Khorasan Province, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan.[217]
  • 11 July: ISIL claims responsibility for a car bomb blast at the Italian consulate in Cairo, Egypt.[741]
  • 20 July: 13 ISIL fighters were killed by SAAF airstrikes in the city of Al-Hasakah.[745]

August 2015

  • 2 August: Russian security forces killed 8 ISIL fighters in the North Caucasus region.[746]
  • 5 August: US launches its first attacks against ISIL from Turkey.[747]
  • 5 August: ISIL captured the town Al-Qaryatayn in central Syria.[748]
  • 12 August: US launches its first manned air strikes against ISIL from Turkey.[749]
  • 13 August: ISIL truck-bombing of a market in a Shia district of Baghdad kills scores, wounds hundreds.[750]
  • ISIL propaganda shows explosives damaging the historic ancient site of Palmyra.[751]

    19 August: ISIL beheaded Dr. Khaled al-Asaad, who was retired chief of antiquities for Palmyra because ISIL accused him of being an “apostate” and lists his alleged crimes, including representing Syria at “infidel conferences,” serving as “the director of idolatry” in Palmyra, visiting Iran and communicating with “a brother in the Syrian security services”.[752]

  • 21 August: ISIL destroyed the historic Mar Elian monastery near the town of Al-Qaryatayn in the Homs Governorate.[753][754]
  • 23 August: ISIL destroyed the 2,000-year-old Baalshamin Temple (Temple of Ba’al) in Palmyra[755]
  • 25 August: ISIL suicide bomber assassinates two Iraqi generals identified by state television as Maj. Gen. Abdul-Rahman Abu-Regheef, deputy chief of operations in Anbar, and Brig. Gen. Sefeen Abdul-Maguid, commander of the 10th Army Division.[756]
  • 29 August: Turkish military aircraft launches first airstrikes against ISIL targets as part of the Western coalition.[757]
  • 30 August: ISIL destroyed the Temple of Bel in Palmyra.[758] The bricks and columns were reported as lying on the ground and only one wall was reported as remaining, according to a Palmyra resident.[

Escape from Isis: The brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

Escape from Isis: the brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

Four million women live under the rule of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. Tonight, Channel 4 screens an important and troubling documentary showing just how hellish that life is.

RAQQA

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah
الرقة
Al-Raqqah Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphratesal-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gateQasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphrates
al-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gate
Qasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah is located in Syria

Al-Raqqah
Al-Raqqah

Location in Syria

Coordinates: 35°57′N 39°1′E / 35.950°N 39.017°E / 35.950; 39.017
Country  Syria
Governorate Al-Raqqah
District Al-Raqqah
Subdistrict Al-Raqqah
Founded 244-242 BC
Occupation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Area
 • City 1,962 km2 (758 sq mi)
Elevation 245 m (804 ft)
Population (2004)
 • City 220,268
 • Density 110/km2 (290/sq mi)
 • Metro 338,773
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)
Area code(s) 22
Website http://www.esyria.sy/eraqqa/(Arabic)

Al-Raqqah (Arabic: الرقةar-Raqqah), also called Rakka and Raqqa, is a city in Syria located on the north bank of the Euphrates River, about 160 kilometres (99 miles) east of Aleppo. It is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest dam. The city was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate between 796 and 809 under the reign of CaliphHarun al-Rashid. With a population of 220,488 based on the 2004 official census, al-Raqqah was the sixth largest city in Syria.

During the Syrian Civil War, the city was captured by terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which made it its headquarters in Syria. As a result, the city has been hit by Syrian government, US and Arab nation airstrikes. Most non-Sunni structures in the city have been destroyed by ISIL, most notably the Uwais al-Qarni Mosque which was Shiite.

History

Hellenistic and Byzantine Kallinikos

The area of al-Raqqah has been inhabited since remote antiquity, as attested by the mounds (tell) of Tall Zaydan and Tall al-Bi’a, the latter identified with the Babylonian city Tuttul.[1]

The modern city traces its history to the Hellenistic period, with the foundation of the city of Nikephorion (Greek: Νικηφόριον) by the Seleucid kingSeleucus I Nicator (reigned 301–281 BC). His successor, Seleucus II Callinicus (r. 246–225 BC) enlarged the city and renamed it after himself as Kallinikos (Καλλίνικος, Latinized as Callinicum).[1]

In Roman times, it was part of the province of Osrhoene, but had declined by the 4th century. Rebuilt by the Byzantine emperorLeo I (r. 457–474 AD) in 466, it was named Leontopolis (Λεοντόπολις or “city of Leon”) after him, but the name Kallinikos prevailed.[2] The city played an important role in the Byzantine Empire’s relation with Sassanid Persia and the wars fought between two states. By treaty, it was recognized as one of the few official cross-border trading posts between the two empires (along with Nisibis and Artaxata). In 542, the city was destroyed by the Persian ruler Khusrau I (r. 531–579), who razed its fortifications and deported its population to Persia, but it was subsequently rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565). In 580, during another war with Persia, the future emperor Maurice scored a victory over the Persians near the city, during his retreat from an abortive expedition to capture Ctesiphon.[2]

In the 6th century, Kallinikos became a center of Assyrian monasticism. Dayra d’Mār Zakkā, or the Saint Zacchaeus Monastery, situated on Tall al-Bi’a, became renowned. A mosaic inscription there is dated to the year 509, presumably from the period of the foundation of the monastery. Daira d’Mār Zakkā is mentioned by various sources up to the 10th century. The second important monastery in the area was the Bīzūnā monastery or ‘Dairā d-Esţunā’, the ‘monastery of the column’. The city became one of the main cities of the historical Diyār Muḍar, the western part of the Jazīra.[citation needed] In the 9th century, when al-Raqqah served as capital of the western half of the Abbasid Caliphate, this monastery became the seat of the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.

Bishopric

Callinicum early became the seat of a Christian diocese. In 388, Emperor Theodosius the Great was informed that a crowd of Christians, led by their bishop, had destroyed the synagogue. He ordered the synagogue rebuilt at the expense of the bishop. Ambrose wrote to Theodosius, pointing out he was thereby “exposing the bishop to the danger of either acting against the truth or of death”,[3] and Theodosius rescinded his decree.[4]

Bishop of Damianus of Callinicum took part in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and in 458 was a signatory of the letter that the bishops of the province wrote to Emperor Leo I the Thracian after the death of Proterius of Alexandria. In 518 Paulus was deposed for having joined the anti-Chalcedonian Severus of Antioch. Callinicum had a Bishop Ioannes in the mid-6th century.[5][6] In the same century, a Notitia Episcopatuum lists the diocese as a suffragan of Edessa, the capital and metropolitan see of Osrhoene.[7]

No longer a residential bishopric, Callinicum is today listed by the Catholic Church as an archiepiscopaltitular see of the Maronite Church.[8]

Early Islamic period

The remains of the historic Baghdad gate

In the year 639 or 640, the city fell to the Muslim conqueror Iyad ibn Ghanm. Since then it has figured in Arabic sources as al-Raqqah.[1] At the surrender of the city, the Christian inhabitants concluded a treaty with Ibn Ghanm, quoted by al-Baladhuri. This allowed them freedom of worship in their existing churches, but forbade the construction of new ones. The city retained an active Christian community well into the Middle Ages—Michael the Syrian records twenty Jacobite bishops from the 8th to the 12th centuries[9]—and had at least four monasteries, of which the Saint Zaccheus Monastery remained the most prominent.[1] The city’s Jewish community also survived until at least the 12th century, when the traveller Benjamin of Tudela visited it and attended its synagogue.[1]

Ibn Ghanm’s successor as governor of al-Raqqah and the Jazira, Sa’id ibn Amir ibn Hidhyam, built the city’s first mosque. This building was later enlarged to monumental proportions, measuring some 73×108 metres, with a square brick minaret added later, allegedly in the mid-10th century. The mosque survived until the early 20th century, being described by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in 1907, but has since vanished.[1] Many companions of Muhammad lived in al-Raqqah.

In 656, during the First Fitna, the Battle of Siffin, the decisive clash between Ali and the UmayyadMu’awiya took place ca. 45 kilometres (28 mi) west of al-Raqqah, and the tombs of several of Ali’s followers (such as Ammar ibn Yasir and Uwais al-Qarani) are located in al-Raqqah and became a site of pilgrimage.[1] The city also contained a column with Ali’s autograph, but this was removed in the 12th century and taken to Aleppo‘s Ghawth Mosque.[1]

The strategic importance of al-Raqqah grew during the wars at the end of the Umayyad period and the beginning of the Abbasid regime. Al-Raqqah lay on the crossroads between Syria and Iraq and the road between Damascus, Palmyra, and the temporary seat of the caliphate Resafa, al-Ruha’.

Between 771 and 772, the Abbasid caliphal-Mansur built a garrison city about 200 metres to the west of al-Raqqah for a detachment of his Khorasanian Persian army. It was named al-Rāfiqah, “the companion”. The strength of the Abbasid imperial military is still visible in the impressive city wall of al-Rāfiqah.

Al-Raqqah and al-Rāfiqah merged into one urban complex, together larger than the former Umayyad capital Damascus. In 796, the caliph Harun al-Rashid chose al-Raqqah/al-Rafiqah as his imperial residence. For about thirteen years al-Raqqah was the capital of the Abbasid empire stretching from Northern Africa to Central Asia, while the main administrative body remained in Baghdad. The palace area of al-Raqqah covered an area of about 10 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi) north of the twin cities. One of the founding fathers of the Hanafi school of law, Muḥammad ash-Shaibānī, was chief qadi (judge) in al-Raqqah. The splendour of the court in al-Raqqah is documented in several poems, collected by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahāni in his “Book of Songs” (Kitāb al-Aghāni). Only the small, restored so called Eastern Palace at the fringes of the palace district gives an impression of Abbasid architecture. Some of the palace complexes dating to this period have been excavated by a German team on behalf of the Director General of Antiquities. During this period there was also a thriving industrial complex located between the twin cities. Both German and English teams have excavated parts of the industrial complex revealing comprehensive evidence for pottery and glass production. Apart from large dumps of debris the evidence consisted of pottery and glass workshops containing the remains of pottery kilns and glass furnaces.[10]

Approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) west of al-Raqqah lay the unfinished victory monument called Heraqla from the period of Harun al-Rashid. It is said to commemorate the conquest of the Byzantine city of Herakleia in Asia Minor in 806. Other theories connect it with cosmological events. The monument is preserved in a substructure of a square building in the centre of a circular walled enclosure, 500 metres (1,600 ft) in diameter. However, the upper part was never finished, because of the sudden death of Harun al-Rashid in Khurasan.

After the return of the court to Baghdad in 809, al-Raqqah remained the capital of the western part of the empire including Egypt.

Decline and period of Bedouin domination

Al-Raqqah’s fortunes declined in the late 9th century because of the continuous warfare between the Abbasids and the Tulunids and then with the Shii movement of the Qarmatians. During the period of the Hamdānids in the 940s the city declined rapidly. At the end of the 10th century until the beginning of the 12th century, al-Raqqah was controlled by Bedouin dynasties. The Banu Numayr had their pasture in the Diyār Muḍar and the ‘Uqailids had their center in Qal’at Ja’bar.

Second blossoming

Al-Raqqah experienced a second blossoming, based on agriculture and industrial production, during the Zangid and Ayyubid period in the 12th and first half of the 13th century. Most famous is the blue-glazed so-called Raqqa ware. The still visible Bāb Baghdād (Baghdad Gate) and the so-called Qasr al-Banāt (Castle of the Ladies) are notable buildings from this period. The famous ruler ‘Imād ad-Dīn Zangī who was killed in 1146 was buried here initially. Al-Raqqah was destroyed during the Mongol wars in the 1260s. There is a report about the killing of the last inhabitants of the urban ruin in 1288.

Ottoman period

In the 16th century, al-Raqqah again entered the historical record as an Ottoman customs post on the Euphrates. The Eyalet of al-Raqqah (Ottoman form sometimes spelled as Rakka) was created. However, the capital of this eyalet and seat of the vali was not al-Raqqah but ar-Ruhā’ about 200 kilometres (120 mi) north of al-Raqqah. In the 17th century the famous Ottoman traveller and author Evliya Çelebi only noticed Arab and Turkoman nomad tents in the vicinity of the ruins. The citadel was partially restored in 1683 and again housed a Janissary detachment; over the next decades the province of al-Raqqah became the centre of the Ottoman Empire’s tribal settlement (iskân) policy.[11]

The city of al-Raqqah was resettled from 1864 onwards, first as a military outpost, then as a settlement for former Bedouin Arabs and for Chechens, who came as refugees from the Caucasian war theaters in the middle of the 19th century.

20th century

In the 1950s, in the wake of the Korean War, the worldwide cotton boom stimulated an unpreceded growth of the city, and the re-cultivation of this part of the middle Euphrates area. Cotton is still the main agricultural product of the region.

The growth of the city meant on the other hand a removal of the archaeological remains of the city’s great past. The palace area is now almost covered with settlements, as well as the former area of the ancient al-Raqqa (today Mishlab) and the former Abbasid industrial district (today al-Mukhtalţa). Only parts were archaeologically explored. The 12th-century citadel was removed in the 1950s (today Dawwār as-Sā’a, the clock-tower circle). In the 1980s rescue excavations in the palace area began as well as the conservation of the Abbasid city walls with the Bāb Baghdād and the two main monuments intra muros, the Abbasid mosque and the Qasr al-Banāt.

There is a museum, known as the Al-Raqqah Museum, housed in an administration-building erected during the French Mandate period.

Civil war

Main article: Battle of Ar-Raqqah

In March 2013, during the Syrian civil war, Islamistjihadist militants from Al-Nusra Front and other groups overran the government loyalists in the city and declared it under their control after seizing the central square and pulling down the statue of the former president of Syria Hafez al-Assad.[12]

The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front set up a sharia court at the sports centre[13] and in early June 2013 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said they were open to receive complaints at their Raqqa headquarters.[14]

Since May 2013, ISIL has been increasing its control over the city, at the expense of the Free Syrian Army and the Al-Nusra Front. ISIL has executed Alawites and suspected supporters of Bashar al-Assad in the city and attacked the city’s Shia mosques and Christian churches[15] such as the Armenian CatholicChurch of the Martyrs, which has since been converted into an ISIL headquarters. The Christian population of Al-Raqqah, which was estimated to be as many as 10% of the total population before the civil war began, has largely fled the city.[16][17][18]

In January 2014 it was reported that ISIL militants in the city gained control of the western part of a Syrian army base. The group closed all educational institutions in the city.[19]

On 25 July 2014, ISIL captured the Syrian Army base in Raqqah which garrisoned the 17th Division, and beheaded many soldiers.

During the night of 22–23 September 2014, the United States and Arab partner nations started to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in and around Raqqah and Aleppo, with continued regular airstrikes into 2015.[20][21] Coalition partners in the strikes included Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with Qatar in a supporting role.[21] The USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea and the USS Philippine Sea in the northern Persian Gulf launched more than 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles into eastern and northern Syria.[21] A second wave consisted of F-22 Raptors in their first combat role, F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, B-1 bombers and drones which launched from bases in the region.[21] 96 percent of all delivered munitions were precision-guided.[21]

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