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Islamic State(IS), Sunni Islamic militant group committed to the establishment of an Islamic caliphatecaliphate
, the rulership of Islam; caliph , the spiritual head and temporal ruler of the Islamic state. In principle, Islam is theocratic: when Muhammad died, a caliph [Arab.,=successor] was chosen to rule in his place.
..... Click the link for more information. that would unite Muslims in a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state. IS has been mainly active in Iraq and Syria, but has stated a goal of extending its reach to other countries in the E Mediterranean. Its origins lie in Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, founded after the U.S. invasion of Iraq (2003) and headed by Abu Musab al-ZarqawiZarqawi, Abu Musab al-
, nom de guerre of Ahmad Fadhil Nazzar al-Khalaylah, 1966–2006, Islamic terrorist leader, b. Jordan. Becoming a militant Islamist in his early 20s after several years as a mostly petty criminal, he traveled to Afghanistan in 1989 to join the
..... Click the link for more information. . The group mounted terror attacks, including videotaped beheadings and suicide bombings, against U.S. forces and Shiites in Iraq and also conducted attacks in Jordan. In 2004 Zarqawi publicly aligned with Al QaedaAl Qaeda
or Al Qaida
[Arab.,=the base], Sunni Islamic terrorist organization with the stated goals of uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
..... Click the link for more information. , and the group became known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. Zarqawi was killed in 2006. The Islamic State in Iraq was then formed by the group and other militant Sunni Islamists, but U.S.-led operations weakened it. In 2010 Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiBaghdadi, Abu Bakr al-,
nom de guerre of Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, 1971–, Iraqi jihadist leader. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he helped found a Sunni militia. Arrested in 2004, he spent less than a year in prison, then joined Al Qaeda in Iraq.
..... Click the link for more information. became its leader. He revived its terrorist activities and turned it into a significant military force whose members included former officers from Saddam HusseinHussein, Saddam
, 1937–2006, Iraqi political leader. A member of the Ba'ath party, he fled Iraq after participating (1959) in an assassination attempt on the country's prime minister; in Egypt he attended law school.
..... Click the link for more information. 's army.
The group expanded into Syria after the outbreak (2011) of civil war, seized significant territory there, and renamed itself (2013) the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); it was also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In 2014 it seized significant territory in N and W Iraq, routing poorly led Iraqi forces, securing large quantities of arms, and establishing control over roughly a third of Iraq. The group also broke with Al Qaeda, renamed itself the Islamic State, and proclaimed a caliphate headed by Baghdadi. Within territory it controlled, the group's tactics were especially brutal, including videotaped beheadings, the slaughtering of captured enemy forces and of civilians regarded as infidels, forced conversions and enslavements, and the destruction of mosques, churches, and shrines, archaeological ruins, and artifacts and books it considers un-Islamic. IS also has been accused of using chemical weapons.
A number of Islamic militant groups formerly aligned with Al Qaeda realigned with IS, and IS's successes led to an influx of foreign Muslims into its ranks. Boko HaramBoko Haram
[Western education is sinful], Nigerian Islamic fundamentalist militia, officially Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad [people committed to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and jihad]. It arose (c.
..... Click the link for more information. and some former Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan allied themselves with IS in 2015. IS also established a presence in Libya, where they controlled Surt (Sirte; 2015–16). At the same time, the group's successes in Iraq led to air strikes by the United States against IS forces beginning in Aug., 2014, at first in Iraq, but later in Syria as well, and the subsequent creation of an informal international military coalition to defeat IS. IS has since suffered significant setbacks in Syria and Iraq, losing most of the territory it once controlled, but it has turned increasingly to guerrilla terror attacks in those nations. It also has conducted or inspired an increased number of terror attacks around the world and in parts of Iraq not under its control. Since late 2015 terrorists associated with IS have bombed a Russian charter plane over the Sinai peninsula and mounted deadly terror attacks in Beirut, Paris, Brussels, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.
See studies by J. Stern and J. M. Berger (2015), J. Warrick (2015), M. Weiss and H. Hassan (2015), and F. A. Gerges (2016).