The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a militant group operating in Iraq and Syria. The group led by Jordanian leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was formed in April 2003 growing out of the Al Qaeda Iraq. It was formed as a reaction to the American led invasion of Iraq. The group was disowned by Al-Qaeda but despite that it has become the most lethal militant group operating in Iraq and Syria.
The last S in the group’s acronym of ISIS has it’s origin in the Arabic word ‘Al Sham’, which indicates to the Levant. The Levant includes the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Cyprus.
The groups various names:
The group has used different names since it’s formation, it was first known as the Jamaat Al Tawhid Wa Al Jihad which translates to The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad in English. In late 2004 the group’s name was changed to Tanzim Qaiidat Al Jihad Fi Bilad Al Rafidayn which translates to The Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers in English.
The group changed it’s name to Mujahideen Shura Council in 2006 after several other smaller groups merged into it. In 2013 after expanding into Syria the group adopted the name of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
A bit about the group:
The group is led by Samarra born Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The fierce militant leader has a PhD in Islamic Studies and according to some sources he used to be an Imam at a local mosque when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Al Baghdadi is a battlefield commander and a military tactician and is known to have massive fan following in the youth who admire both his bravery and tactics.
According to claims by the group it has fighters from various European countries like the United Kingdom, France, Germany and many others. The group also has many fighters from the United States; however the majority of the group fighters are Arabs.
The Groups Wealth:
The group used to rely on donations from influential and wealthy individuals in different Arab States, primarily Saudi Arab, Qatar and Kuwait. The group got most of the funding from individuals and sates that wanted it to succeed against Syrian President Bashar al Asad.
However, ISIS now earns huge amounts from extortion, the sale of ancient artifacts, and the various oil fields it has under control in Syria. The group sells the oil to third parties as well as to the Syrian Government. The group is also known to sell antiques in the black market it got it hands in from different historical sites.
According to Professor Peter Neumann of King’s College London the group now has assets worth a staggering $2 billion which are bound to increase if the group can keep hold of the territories it has occupied.
The Group’s Main Activities so far:
From the capture of the Dora area of Southern Baghdad in 2007 to the 2009 and 2010 bombings in Baghdad that killed more than 200 people the group has gained strength with every passing month. In July of 2012 a total of 32 attacks were carried out of ISIS across Iraq killing more than 100 civilians.
The group started making inroads into Syria in 2013 controlling a lot of territory in Northern Syria. The group also established it’s Lebanese arm to fight the Shia militant group Hezbollah. The groups capture Iraq’s second most populated city Mosul in June, 2014 sent shockwaves around the world. Since then ISIS has gone on to occupy many small towns and cities across Iraq. The group also has strong presence in the border region of Syria and Turkey. The group is also in control of the second largest oil field in Syria the Al Omar oil fields which it captured from a rival militant group the Al Nusra Front. Late in June this year the ISIS announced the establishment of a caliphate, with it’s leader Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi being named the caliph.