From ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) to IS (Islamic State) – read how a most notorious terror organization evolved.
Islamic State terrorists are infamous for their extreme ruthlessness, such as their broadcast decapitations, crucifixions, mass murder and forced conversions. When and where did this heinous wave of violent zealotry originate?
Duwlat al-Islam (the Islamic State in Arabic), an offshoot of al-Qaeda, was established in 2003 by Abu-Musab a-Zarqawi as a small militia fighting the US army in Iraq. Several small and extreme Islamic Sunni factions banded together against the Americans in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, calling themselves al-Qaeda Iraq.
From its earliest days on, the terror organization became notorious for its recorded beheadings of captives. One of the first to be decapitated was Jewish-American businessman Nick Burg. The US army uncovered tapes of some 80 beheadings which were never published.
The organization branched out in its terror activities and committed barbaric attacks in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen.
A-Zarqawi was killed in 2006 during a US Air Force attack; his successor was killed three weeks later. This, however, was not enough to bury the organization, which continued its acts of terror, including those against Shi’ite Muslim targets.
IS has since developed into an army numbering approximately 30,000 terrorists. IS leader Abu-Baker al-Baghdadi, who is shrouded in secrecy, had the organization change its focus from terror attacks to territorial conquest, and under his command IS began taking control of swaths of territory – first in Iraq and then in Syria. Taking advantage of the instability in both countries, IS succeeded in overrunning the local governments and subjecting the populations to its reign of horror.
In 2014, following disagreements with al-Qaeda, IS became a self-standing terror organization. Al-Baghdadi declared all territories under IS control a Sunni caliphate, in which a strict form of Sharia (Islamic religious) law is enforced. The Islamic State functions as a state, with an organized government system and various branches of administration.
IS aspires to return to the seventh century, when Islam was established. Its attitude towards Christianity, women and all aspects of life is based on this world view.
The fact that IS has declared its rule as a caliphate and has become more encompassing in its territorial description testifies to IS’s aspiration to rule the Islamic world and, in time, the entire world.
All populations captured by IS are immediately forced to convert to Islam. If they refuse, as in the case of the Yazidis in Iraq, they are executed en masse or raped and sold into slavery.
Americans and Europeans captured by IS are held captive for years and used as bargaining chips. Recently, the beheading of two American journalists and a British relief worker generated world outrage, forcing US President Obama to declare war on the organization and to state the need to eradicate this global terror threat. American jets began to attack IS in Iraq on August 16 and the US has since broadened the campaign into Syria. Simultaneously, Iraqi and Kurd forces have begun to fight back against IS.
The US is working to establish a coalition of countries, primarily Muslim, to fight IS as well as to train and arm opposing factions fighting within Syria. Israel will contribute to the effort as well.
Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel
(With files from theatlantic.com, globalresearch.ca, telegraph.co.uk)