Islamic State (organization)

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This article is about the organization active in the Middle East. For other uses of the term Islamic state, please see Islamic state (disambiguation).

Islamic State (IS, ISIL, ISIS, Da'esh; formerly Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, alternative translations of its former Arabic name) is an organization dedicated to the establishment of a caliphate, currently operating in northern Iraq and Syria, and widely seen internationally as a terrorist group. IS claims some 10,000 fighters within its ranks, many with citizenship of Western nations, and may control around US$2 billion in funds.[1] It has also imprisoned, ransomed or killed large numbers of hostages,[2] and has a significant social media presence.[3] It has been engaged in large-scale persecution of other religious groups, and has been declared guilty of genocide by a United Nations commission.[4] It has also reintroduced slavery.

The origin of IS is rooted in the 'al-Qaeda in Iraq' group formed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which joined with others to create the 'Islamic State of Iraq' network (ISI). Although unable to wrest control from the Iraqi government, ISI under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was able to to support opposition fighters in Syria, despite disownment by al-Qaeda. By 2014, a security vacuum in Iraq brought about by the withdrawal of U.S. troops and reinforced by the alienation of many Sunni Muslims since the establishment of Shia-dominated government[5] allowed the group to advance in western and northern areas of the country, taking Mosul and declaring a caliphate. In August, the U.S. commenced air strikes on IS forces against a backdrop of over a million people fleeing the violence.[6]

At its height, large areas of Iraq and Syria were directly controlled by this group, and small areas of Libya and Nigeria are controlled by groups declaring their allegiance to it. It now controls no significant territory.

On 20 November 2015 the United Nations Security Council unanimously called on members to use "all necessary means" against IS (this is their usual euphemism for a declaration of war).

"Islamic State" is a translation of the group's official name for itself. Politicians usually call it ISIS, ISIL or DAESH. The BBC uses forms such as "the group calling itself 'Islamic State'", "so-called 'Islamic State'" or "the 'Islamic State' group".


Death of Al-Baghdadi

Eventually, US intelligence managed to uncover the location of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in the village of Barisha in the Idlib Governorate. On October 26th 2019, American operatives associated with the Delta Force, supported by aircraft and ships, attacked the compound which the self-proclaimed Caliph was hiding in. Baghdadi fled into an underground bunker system, but faced a dead end. A military robot and dog were sent in to subdue him. Confronted with the possibility of capture or even being killed on the spot, Al-Baghdadi ignited the suicide vest he was wearing, causing the tunnel to collapse, and ending his reign over the Islamic State. The dog was injured, but was rescued. [7] The commander Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, subsequently found himself as the new leader of the Islamic State. [8]


  1. BBC News: 'The rise of Islamic State'. 11th August 2014.
  2. Human Rights Watch: 'The nightmare in Iraq'. 9th August 2014.
  3. Voice of America: 'ISIS wages skilled social media war. 18th June 2014.
  4. [1]
  5. Al-Jazeera: 'Why Maliki’s ouster is no magic bullet for Iraq'. 17th August 2014.
  6. BBC News: 'The rise of Islamic State'. 11th August 2014.
  7. The Guardian : '[2]'. 27th October 2019.
  8. newlinesmag: '[3]'. 15th April 2021.