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    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, IPA: /ˈsl/), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS /ˈss/),Islamic State (IS), and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh (Arabic: داعش‎‎ dāʿish, IPA: [ˈdaːʕɪʃ]), is an Arabic Salafi jihadist militant group and unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIL gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre.

    This group has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and many individual countries. ISIL is widely known for its videos of beheadings of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites. The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a “historic scale” in northern Iraq.

    ISIL originated as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces. The group proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate and began referring to itself as Islamic State (الدولة الإسلامية ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah) or IS in June 2014. As a caliphate, it claims religious, political, and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.[55] Its adoption of the name Islamic State and its idea of a caliphate have been widely criticised, with the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups rejecting its statehood.

    In Syria, the group conducted ground attacks on both government forces and opposition factions, and by December 2015 it held a large area in western Iraq and eastern Syria containing an estimated 2.8 to 8 million people, where it enforced its interpretation of sharia law. ISIL is now believed to be operational in 18 countries across the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, with “aspiring branches” in Mali, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines.As of 2015, ISIL was estimated to have an annual budget of more than US$1 billion and a force of more than 30,000 fighters

    Leader:
    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; also goes by the name Abu Du’a.
    Is currently based in Syria.
    Al-Baghdadi was detained for several months in Camp Bucca, which was a US-run prison in southern Iraq. He was released in 2004.
    After ISIS declared the creation of the so-called “Islamic State,” he began using the name Al-Khalifah Ibrahim, and now goes by that name with his followers.

    Ideology

    ISIL is a theocracy, proto-state and a Salafi or Wahhabi group. It follows an extremist interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence, and regards Muslims who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates. According to Hayder al Khoei, ISIL’s philosophy is represented by the symbolism in the Black Standard variant of the legendary battle flag of 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 God”. Such symbolism has been said to point to ISIL’s belief that it represents the restoration of the caliphate of early Islam, with all the political, religious and eschatological ramifications that this would imply.

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

    Strategy

    Documents found after the death of Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, a former colonel in the intelligence service of the Iraqi Air Force before the US invasion who had been described as “the strategic head” of ISIL, detailed planning for the ISIL takeover of northern Syria which made possible “the group’s later advances into Iraq”. Al-Khlifawi called for the infiltration of areas to be conquered with spies who would find out “as much as possible about the target towns: Who lived there, who was in charge, which families were religious, which Islamic school of religious jurisprudence they belonged to, how many mosques there were, who the imam was, how many wives and children he had and how old they were”. Following this surveillance and espionage would come murder and kidnapping – “the elimination of every person who might have been a potential leader or opponent”. In Raqqa, after rebel forces drove out the Assad regime and ISIL infiltrated the town, “first dozens and then hundreds of people disappeared”.

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