Islamic State (IS) / Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham (ISIS) / Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS or ISIL, IS)


The Islamic State has evolved into an organized and structured extremist organization that is in the process of consolidating its power as a government within the Islamic Caliphate. The IS controlled areas are managed by a hierarchy of governance structures that manage the day to day life of residents, collect income, maintain law and order and enforces its ideology of Islamic Extremism.  The IS also relies on localised alliances and foreign fighters that support defensive and offensive military sustainability. The transformation of the ISIS represents:

  • An organisation incomparable to al Qaeda in terms of structure, tactics and financial resources; but, unlike AQC has been able to integrate the best of a formal heiarchy with loose networking "self starters";
  • A shared ideology with al Qaeda (formation and consolidation of an Islamic Caliphate), though much more brutal in its interpretation than bin Laden ever envisioned.  Moreover, IS considers itself exclusive in its representation as the only legitimate religious authority;
  • The new leader in terrorism tactics for other global jihadis to follow by using both extreme brutality in achieving its objective and ability to publicize its perceived successes;
  • Its appeal to the "new generation" of jihadists has never been accomplished to this level;
  • A reach in almost all part of the world, be it via electronic media, pledges of allegiance, recruitment cells or sympathisers;
  • Economic independence by relying on financial income streams beyond international sponsorship; and
  • Military sustainability and tactical battlefield flexibility that allows an ever expanding presence in Syria and Iraq.

Videos: Explaining the IS

The IS was preceded by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), that was established during October 2006, and comprised of various insurgent groups, most significantly the original Al Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers (AQI) organization, al-Qaeda in Mesopotami - led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Mujahedeen Shura Council in Iraq, and Jund al-Sahhaba (Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions), which was integrated into the ISI. ISIS members' allegiance was given to the ISI commander and not al-Qaeda central command. The organisation known as the ISIS was formed during April 2013 and has evolved in one of the main jihadist groups fighting government forces in Syria and Iraq. ISIS regards Baquba, Iraq, as its headquarters with its allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as the group’s emir. Baghdadi’s real name is Hamed Dawood Mohammed Khalil al-Zawi. On June 29, 2014, the ISIS spokesperson, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani announced the reinstatement of the Islamic Caliphate, with the leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as as Caliph Ibrahim.

The following documentaries provide insight on the history, the ideology and the tactics and strategies of IS.

Video Notes: 17 November 2014: The Origins of the IS: Bruce Riedel details the origins and history of ISIS (Islamic State), and how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came to power.

Video Notes: 12 August 2014: VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings.

Video Notes: 7 November 2014: This year, the jihadi group knows as the Islamic State swept into significant portions of Iraq and Syria, determined to reestablish the caliphate. Their expansion is only accelerating and the group is now considered the wealthiest militant organization in the world. In this week’s episode of VICE Meets, journalist Graeme Wood breaks down the groups religious ideologies and visions for the future.

IS Evolution

The ISIS has evolved from a traditional terrorist organisation into a complex and well organised governance organisation. Important dates in the evolutionary process are:

  • October 2004: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pledged allegiance to al Qaeda: Jama‘at al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad (JTWJ) becomes known as Tanzim Qa‘idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn – al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)

  • 15 January 2006: AQI announced its merger with five other groups (Jaysh al-Ta’ifa al-Mansura, Saraya ‘Ansar al-Tawhid, Saraya al-Jihad al-Islami, Saraya al-Ghuraba, and Kataib al-Ahwal) with the formation of Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen (MSM)

  • June 2006: Death of Zarqawi/AQI announced new leader, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub al-Masri)

  • October 2006: Formation of the al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq, or the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI)

  • 10 November 2006: al-Masri pledged allegiance to ISI leader Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi (Abu Omar al-Baghdadi)
  • 18 April 2010: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi killed and replaced by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
  • 23 January 2012: Jabhat al Nusrah gains public acknowledgement in Syria

  • 9 April 2013, Baghdadi stated in an audio statement that Jabhat al-Nusra was an offshoot of ISI would be integrated into the ISIS. Jowlani (leader of Jabhat al-Nusrah) rejected the statement and therewith introduced the contest between the two groups, with Jabhat al-Nusra willing to share power and governance with groups opposed to the Syrian government whereas ISIS demanded complete control in areas.
  • 10 June 2014: ISIS seized control of Mosul (Iraq)

  • 29 June 2014: The Islamic Caliphate is announced

  • June 2014: ISIS change its name to the Islamic State

  • The ISIS transformation into Governance by Terror

ISIS Leadership

Photo Notes: Leader of the IS: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed by US forces in 2019.

In interviews conducted by Newsweek with several people that were close to al Baghdadi, the following background information was shared:

  • Al-Baghdadi real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri and is also known as Abu Awad or Abu Dua (Dua is the name of his eldest daughter).
  • A former neighbour from his hometown Samarra, Tareeq Hameed said:

“He always had religious or other books attached on the back of his bike, and I never saw him in trousers and shirt, like most of the other guys in Samarra. He had a light beard, and he never hung out in cafés. He had his small circle from his mosque.”

  • Hameed added that al-Baghdadi liked sports, mainly soccer:

“He would rarely get upset during a match, even if you crashed into him or misbehaved with him,” recalls Hameed. “He was a good defender. It was hard to pass him and score a goal against his team.”

  • Al-Baghdadi was born in 1971 in Samarra, and was raised in a lower-middle-class neighbourhood dominated by the Albu Badri and Albu Baz tribes.  Two of Al-Baghdadi’s uncles worked for Saddam Hussein’s security forces. Hashem, who knew the family, said:

“He was from a poor but well-mannered family,” says Hashem, a translator from the area who knew the family. “He was someone very introverted…go the mosque, study, read books, that’s it.”

  • According to a neighbour al-Baghdadi was supervised by two prominent clerics (now deceased), namely Sheikh Subhi al-Saarai and Sheikh Adnan al-Ameen.
  • Around the age of 18, al-Baghdadi first went to Baghdad to study, settling in the Adhamiya district. The depth of his education is also disputed. Some, such as Hameed, say he acquired a Ph.D. in religious studies. No family members are left to contact to confirm that:

“Most of his family members have left Samarra in fear of being associated with him.”

  • Al-Baghdadi reportedly assisted in the formation of Jamaat Jaish Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jamaa. In either 2004 or 2005 he was captured in Fallujah by US forces. He was detained in Camp Bucca (southern Iraq, near Umm Qasr), where his status was “civilian internee,” which meant he was linked to a terrorist group but had not been caught actively engaging in terrorist activities”. His time at Camp Bucca is unclear. Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a Syrian activist, told Newsweek al-Baghdadi was held between January 2004 and December 2006. Middle East Forum researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi says that al-Baghdadi’s activities in 2005 indicate he must have been released in late 2004.
  • It was during his time at Camp Bucca that Al-Baghdadi radicalisation was influenced by his interaction with inmates. The inmates were inspired by the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the success of al-Zarqawi and the discontent among Sunnis. Historian Jeremi Suri said that Camp Bucca was like a “virtual terrorist university”.
  • One ISIS defector, who spoke to Newsweek using only the name “Hussein” said that:

“Al-Baghdadi relied heavily on the advice of the late Haji Bakr, a senior ISIS leader and former Iraqi army officer, who was killed in January 2014. According to Hussein, his death was a major blow to al-Baghdadi. “Haji Bakr polished the image of al-Baghdadi—he was grooming him to be the prince of the Islamic State. But to be honest, Haji Bakr was the real prince of the shadows.” Al-Baghdadi still relies on a loyal inner circle of military experts and operational security experts. Many of them are people he met in Camp Bucca.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Abu Ahmed (pseudonym), a senior leader in ISIS, made the following observations on al-Baghdadi referring back to personal interactions with the ISIS leader at Camp Bucca (US incarceration facility in Iraq):

“Baghdadi was a quiet person. He had a charisma. You could feel that he was someone important. But there were others who were more important. I honestly did not think he would get this far.”

“(He) managed to create a rapport with the US Army. He was often seen as a go-between to settle disputes between rival factions in the prison camp. But as time went on, every time there was a problem in the camp, he was at the center of it. He wanted to be the head of the prison – and when I look back now, he was using a policy of conquer and divide to get what he wanted, which was status. And it worked.”

“He was respected very much by the US army. If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”

Map: Created by Janes on July 28, 2015 map of Islamic State territory held and lost since the beginning of 2015. 

Islamic State Leadership 2020

ISIS Leadership 2016

Iraq Leadership 2021










 Abu Arkan al-Ameri
Head of Sharia Council & CaliphAwad Ibrahim al-Badri al- Samarra’i Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
  Shariat / TroikaAbu Hafs Abu Bakr / Omar al-Qahtani
 Shariat / TroikaShaykh Turki bin Mubarak (bin Abdullah) al-BenaliAbu Hummam al-Athari aka Abu Sufyan as-Sulami  
 Shariat / TroikaOsman al-Nazeh al-Asiri 
 Members (2 others unknown)  
Possible personal security chief Abu Muslim al-Turkmani
Military Council Member
(former Major General)
 Abu Ali al-Anbari
Foreign fighters & hostage transportAbdullah Ahmed al- Meshedani Abu Kassem
  General Management Shawkat Hazem al-Farhat 
Shawkat Hazm al-Farhat
Abu Abdul Kadr / Abd al-Kadir
  PrinsonsBashar Ismail al-Hamdani Abu Mohammed
  General SecurityAbdul Wahid Khutnayer Ahmad
Abd al-Wahid Khadir Ahmad 
Abu Louay / Abu Ali
  FinanceMuafaq Mustafa Mohammed al-Karmoush Abu Salah
 Communications & Province CoordinationMohammed Hamid al-Duleimi Abu Hajar al-Assafi
  Head of Military CouncilWalid Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani 
Waleed Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani
Abu Ahmad al-Alawani
Co-head & likely rep to Cabinet Walid Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani 
Waleed Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani
Abu Ahmad al-Alawani
 Co-head Abu Ayman al-Iraqi
Adnan Latif Hamid al-Sweidawi
Abu Muhammad al-Suweidaw 
 Chief of StaffTarkhan Batirashvili Omar al-Shishani
 Member (former Major General)Abu Ali al-Anbari 
 "War Minister"

Nasser al-Din Allah Abu Suleiman

 Abu Suleiman
 Members (3-8 others unknown)  
 War Office: Weapons cashes & WarehousesFares Reif al-Naima / Faris Riyadh al-NuaimiAbu Shema / Sima
 War Office: Social affairs, martyrs and womenAbdul Rahman al-Afari from Tal Afar
Aouf Abd al-Rahman al-Arf 
Abu Suja / Saji
 War Office: Bomb maker & IEDsKhairy Abed Mahmoud al-Taey
Khairy Abd al-Hamoud al-Taiy 
Abu Kifa /Kifah
Military Commanders
(answer to governors)
  Iraq Commander in AnbarShakir Wahiyib al-Fahdawi 
Shaker Wahib al-Fahdawi
Abu Waheeb / Wahib 
 Iraq Commander in NinevehFawaz Haty Najm al-Luhaybi 
  Iraq Commander in (Unknown)Ghareeb@ kmkmmmsmsm
 Syria Commander in Aleppo, 
maybe also Kobani. 
Abu Khattab al-Kurdi 
 Syria & Iraq CommanderLavdrim MuhaxheriAbu Abdullah al-Kosofi
HeadAbu Ali al- Anbari 
 Iraq Wali in BaghdadAhmed Abdul Kader al-JazzaAbu Maysara  
 Iraq Wali in South & mid-EuphratesAhmed Mohsin Khalal al-JihaishiAbu Fatma
 Iraq Wali in KirkukNema Abed Naif al-Juburi
Nehma Abed Naif Jabouri
Naima Abd al-Naif al-Jouburi 
Abu Fatma / Fatima
Abu Algehiche
 Iraq Wali in SalaheddenWissam Abed Zaid al-Zubeidi
Wissam Abdu Zaid al-Zubaidi 
Abu Nabil al-Anbari (sent to Derna)
 Iraq Wali in borderlandsRidwan Taleb al-Hamduni 
Rathwan Talib Hussein Ismail al- Hamduni
Abu Jamas / Jurnas
 Iraq Wali in NinevehAbdallah Yousef Abu Bakr al-Khatouni 
 Iraq Wali in DiyalaUnknown, maybe Abu Sammi al-Wayili @abusami1980 
 Iraq Wali in AnbarAbu Ayman al-Iraqi
Adnan Latif Hamid al-Sweidawi
Abu Abdul Salem / Abd al-Salem
Abu Mohammed al-Sweidawi
 Iraq Wali in (Unknown)Abu Sammi al-Wayili@ abusami1980
 Syria Wali in Aleppo / North SyriaTarkhan BatirashviliOmar al-Shishani
 Syria Wali in ar-Raqqa / al-Raqqa Ali Moussa al-Hawikh Abu Luqman 
 Syria Wali in Deir el-ZorSaddam al-Jamal from Albukamal,
maybe replaced by one "Haji Abd al-Nasser" 
Haji Abd al-Nasser 
 Syria Wali in al-Baraka (Hasaka)  Abu Usamah al-Iraqi
 Syria Wali in Homs Abu Shuayb al-Masri - rumors
"Younger brother of Firas al-Absi
(aka Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Absi)" 
Abu Shuayb al-Masri 
MAYBE replaced by 
Abu Atheer al-Absi 
 Syria Wali in Hama  
 Syria Wali in al-Badiah  
 Syria Wali in Damascus  
 Syria Wali in (Unknown) Abu Dhar al-Jazrawi 
 HeadAbu Mohammed al-Aani 
Sharia Commanders
(answer to governors)
 Iraq Commander in NinevehAmmar Saed al- Juburi 
 Syria Commander in RaqqaAbul Layth al-Thayqami 
 Syria Commander in Deir el-ZorAbu Musab Al Tunisi 
SpokesmanTaha Sobhi Falaha Abu Mohammed al-Adnani
 Chief of Media Operation Ahmad Abousamra 
 PreacherAbdullah al-Janabi 
 Preachers (other)  
Syria Fighter Abdel Monaïm Lachiri Abu Sara
 Syria Fighter Abu Souleyman 
 Syria FighterNur ad Din Aboualla 
 Syria Fighter
(Hostages?) Unit Leader
 Abou/Abu Shaheed (deceased) 
 Hostage-holderMehdi Nemmouche 
 Hostage-holder?Abdelhamid AbaaoudAbu Omar al-Soussi
 Hostage-holder? TchechenNoxchi
 Hostage-holder? Abu Tamim
 Hostage-holder? Abu Yahya Beljiki
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Tax & FeesSair Mohammad al- Khalidi 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Khalidi's dept.Abdeljabbar al- Rawi  
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: OperationsZeyad Salim Mohammad 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: SecurityMohammad Hazem al- Ogeydi 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Ogeydi's dept.Ahmad Sadun Ahmad al-Hamadani  
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: AdminAli Muhamad al- Akrawi 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: TreasurySalim Awad Halef al- Juburi 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: W Mosul ForcesHamed Zahi al-Shummari 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: E Mosul ForcesKhaled Jassim Noah al-Juburi 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Info & IntelFiras Ali al-Sabawi 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: W Mosul IntelAhmad Ragan al- Juhayshi 
 Iraq Leader in Nineveh: E Mosul IntelRedwan Ali al- Juburi 


ISIS and Governance

Photo Notes: December 2014: ISIS Governance at the Aisha Hospital in Wilayat Al-Furat (referring to the areas of al-Qa'im in Anbar province on the border with Syria and Albukamal in Deir az-Zor province on the border with Iraq)


Map Notes: Institute for the Study of War: November 2014: This map, covering both Iraq and Syria, shows the extent of ISIS zones of control, attack, and support throughout both countries.

The IS strategy of conquer and control, which includes both military and governance tactics, is one of the most effective in the history of modern terrorism. This strategy has one objective: to establish, expand and consolidate the Islamic Caliphate. Once the IS has secured its presence by military force, it immediately begins to take control of civilian life, which include service delivery, law and order as well of religious control. Military success followed by immediate control tactics enables the expansion and consolidation of governance.  Accountability to senior IS leadership is key to the successful implementation of control once the military units have moved on to conquer additional territory. The IS strategy in gaining control over residents in towns is more than just relying on brutality such as public executions. The IS not only seeks to discredit those governing towns and cities, but to implement an alternative system of governance by means of visible presence, controlling resources such as food distributions, providing services such as health care and education and creating a system of law and order. This strategy, as informed by the IS’s extremist ideology, is implemented and maintained by local military commanders supported by alliances with local communities and tribal groups.

The following flow chart illustrates the IS hierarchy:

Governance Strategy

The IS Governance strategy relies on three tiers of leadership and execution structures:

  • First Tier of IS Governance

Top Leadership which not only provides an extremist vision, but also controls decisions implementing the IS vision within all tiers:

  • Second Tier of Governance

The Second Tier of Governance includes four “Wings”:

Political Wing

The Political Wing’s responsibility is the formulation of policies and communicating instructions, as well as ensuring that instructions are executed. The Political Wing communicates directly to the Military Wing and is supported by the Leadership Council.

Military Wing

Photo Notes: December 2014: Twitter: New M16's used by Caliphate mujahideen

The Military Wing is responsible for both defensive and offensive military planning, deployments and execution.  The Military Wing is supported by a Military and Security Council that implements policy and decisions. The Military Wing's long term objective is defined as:

“Undertaking the greatest military enterprise the region has known to strip Iran of all its power and the secret of its international control by establishing an alternate channel from the Straits of Hormuz, traversing the lands of the UAE like the Panama Canal under American custody, and establishing the biggest military base in the Gulf for the forces to protect the island on both sides of the channel, whatever the cost of the project to the Gulf and regional states.”

Intelligence Wing

The Intelligence Wing monitors the activities of the Political and Military Wings and when concerns are identified, such as suspicious behaviours or deviation from top leadership decisions and plans, the Wing reports this to the top leadership.

Ideological Wing

The Ideological Wing is comprised of religious leaders and is central to all IS activities. The Wing, also referred to as the Shura Council, promotes and protects the extremist ideology of the IS at all levels of governance, and secures the ideology as the determining factor in the relationship between the IS and people within the Caliphate. The Ideological Wing is also supported by a Media Counsel that is responsible for disseminating propaganda publications on various media networks such as Twitter, You Tube and through official statements. The Media Counsel propaganda is significant in attracting foreign fighters and supporters to the IS. The composition of the Ideological Wing and its objectives are stated as:

“The ideological leadership comprises of men with knowledge of the surroundings, and they are actually the pillars of the enterprise and the spirit of the movement. They are turned to in order to be consulted on matters, for corrections, for observations on events, giving advice and guiding the General Leadership. In reality, they are at the apex of the chain of leaders, and they formulate plans. They are not entitled, in any instance, to appear in the media or participate in private conferences about political work or public conferences except with the agreement of the General Leadership, after asking them, and after consulting with the intelligence apparatuses. These elite must adopt for themselves a headquarters in Jordan, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, for their families, guarding against arousing controversy.  The people taking part in the project are responsible for everything that they require in their lives. [The ideological leadership] is the location of communication campaigns with governments of friendly states, apparatuses linked to them and their politicians.”

Photo Notes: Ahmad Abousamra is suspected to be a leading figure at the IS’s Al Hayat Media Center (HMC). Accusations by the FBI and US prosecutors are mainly derived from his degree in computer science, his association with Tarek Mehanna, who is currently serving a prison sentence on terror related incidents, producing videos in response to 9/11 and his suspected presence in Syria. He has outstanding warrants for his arrest in the US relating to conspiring to support terrorists, conspiring to murder American soldiers and for making false statements to police.

Read More on Ahmad Abousamra

  • Third Tier of Governance

Photo Notes: Pro-ISIS Twitter Account: December 2014: Photos Show a market at Wilayat Fallujah. These postings depict IS controlled areas as well governed allowing "a normal life"

The IS governance vision concludes with a third tier of governance that reinforces IS control in areas where military control has been secured (refer to Governance section). Shura Counsels provide the implementation arms for the second tier of governance and is structured in the following manner:

The following Illustration shows a relationship of continuous monitoring of the activities of each "WIng" indicated by dashed lines , with reporting and accountabilty always referred back to the Executive Leadership of the IS:

Military Strategy

Photo Notes: Business Insider: Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along a street in northern Raqqa province on June 30, 2014.

The conquer and control strategy is dependent on a three pronged approach, namely:

Gain physical control in an area. This is achieved by various means of which the two most pronounced are gaining an IS presence prior to major assaults to create a security vacuum with kidnappings, assassinations of opposition leaders, blending in with the local communities and impeding effective local governance. This serves as a precursor for major assaults. Examples where the IS has accomplished these pre-assault goals include Baghdad, Kirkuk, Diyala and Kobani;

  • Govern the area by controlling the local communities (schools, mosques, social services); and
  • Defend the area as part of the Islamic Caliphate, usually announced by rising the IS flag.

In determining IS presence in both Syria and Iraq, conquer and control strategy requires a three tier framework to reflect such expansionism:

  •     IS presence to create a security vacuum;
  •     IS presence engaged in major assaults;
  •     IS presence by means of control and defence.

Illustration Notes: The two senior military commanders within the IS are Omar Shishani and Abu Wahib.

Video Notes: June 2014: Who is Shakir Wahib?

Military Tactics

Photo Notes: December 2014: Twitter: IS fighter targeting PKK members at the Mursitpinar Border Gate with a 23mm Sniper "Rifle"

The IS military strategy includes terrorism, guerrilla, and conventional warfare tactics. These tactics are executed by a decentralised military command structure, where IS fighting units are under the command of autonomous commanders and execute their assaults independent from one another.  Herein lies another core aspect of the command strategy: the independent authority afforded to these commanders does not exclude overall accountability to IS’s war cabinet as well as the Military and Intelligence Shura councils. Decisions on the battlefront are swift and immediate and deployment of retreat and attacks are immediate, but these are all informed and fixed within an overall IS strategy determined at senior levels of command and control. The IS use of officials from the former Saddam area adds to the success, as these commanders are not only familiar with the geographical areas, but also the communities and their leaders.

Photo Notes: 13 December 2014: First photo of ISIS tank suicide attack against SAA site in Deir Ezzor (Syria)

Photo Notes: October 2014: Wahib on the battlefront, most probably in Syria

The military sucesses of the IS are seen in the following maps, which shows IS expanded authority in Syria from March to December 2014:

March 2014:

December 2014:

ISIS Religious Authority

Screenshot Notes: Dabiq Publication: The ISIS presents itself as the true leaders of the Ummah

For More on TRAC Insight: All the issues of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq, 1-13

The IS consolidation of its religious authority within the Islamic Caliphate is dependent on gaining increased support by means of Hijrah (emigration of Muslims to the Islamic Caliphate) or where it is not possible to organise pledges of allegiance – bay’ah. The importance of bay'ah to the IS is seen in the detailed attention in its online magazine, Dabiq. Such pledges not only gives religious credibility to the IS over al Qaeda, but also is pivotal in the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate beyond the borders of Syria and Iraq, referred to as "Tamkin" (Political and Religious Authority Expansion and Consolidation). In the second edition of the IS magazine, Dabiq, request its followers to make known such pledges:

“as much as possible. Gather people in the masajid [mosques], Islamic centers, and Islamic organizations, for example, and make public announcements of bayah . Try to record these bayat and then distribute them through all forms of media including the Internet.”

The IS then explains that publications of pledges of allegiance will encourage others to follow:

“(bay ah should become) “so common to the average Muslim that he considers those holding back as grossly abnormal. This effort ... will encourage Islamic groups to abandon their partisanship and also announce their bayah.”

The fifth edition of Dabiq, titled Remaining and Expanding, articles are focussed on groups in for example Yemen, Algeria, Libya and Egypt where pledges of allegiances were made. The IS gives official recognition to these pledges by announcing wilayat (provinces of the Islamic State status) to these areas:

"Then on the 20th of Muharram 1436, the Khalīfah Ibrāhīm (hafidhahullāh) officially announced the acceptance of their bay’āt, the establishment of wilāyāt, and the nullification of all parties and groups therein. In one of the most powerful addresses given since the establishment of the Islamic State, he said, “Glad tidings, O Muslims, for we give you good news by announcing the expansion of the Islamic State to new lands, to the lands of al-Haramayn and Yemen… to Egypt, Libya, and Algeria.  We announce the acceptance of the bay’ah of those who gave us bay’ah in those lands, the nullification of the groups therein, the announcement of new wilāyāt for the Islamic State, and the appointment of wulāt for them.”

ISIS Capacity/Resources

The ISIS fighting capacity is estimated at between 150 000 to 200 000 fighters, with self sufficient financial resources to sustain and even expand the group's capacity.  In addition to oil revenue, ransom payments and the takeover of Mosul's banking system, in 2015 we are seeing diverse fraud, including substantial fraud online, abuse of the benefits system, abuse of student loans, in order to fund Islamic State.

Foreign Fighters

An estimated 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 states are fighting in Syria and Iraq, of which a large segment is in support of the ISIS (ISCR and The Soufan Group).

Illustration Notes: Washington Post: 11 October 2014: Indicates the flow of foreign fighters to Syria

Illustration Notes: ISCR Estimates of Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

ISIS Use of Foreign Fighters

The ISIS’s use of male foreign fighters is extensive as seen in the following illustration:

The ISIS’s active recruitment of western females has been previously equated with women willing to assume a domestic role in support of Islamic extremist fighters in Syria and Iraq. However, the ISIS’s all-female al Khansaa Brigade has introduced a new gender to the jihadist face whereby, though still limited, women are playing a far more active front line role than what was assumed. In almost all cases, females become part of the jihad in Syria/Iraq by getting married to Islamic Extremist fighters already in Syria, joining husbands in Syria and Iraq and also becoming part of operational brigades, though such participation is preceded by wedlock. The use of female foreign fighters is as extensive as those of male foreign fighters:

Video: What are you Waiting for?  

November 2014 Propaganda video from the militant group Islamic State shows three French fighters calling on Muslims in France to carry out attacks there or join the group’s fight in Iraq and Syria.

Financial Resources

The ISIS financial resources are categorised into foreign sponsors from individuals within states like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar and local sources from Syria and Iraq.

Illustration Notes: 28 August 2014: WSJ: Financial Sources of the ISIS

Foreign Sources

It is estimated that the ISIS has received approximately $40 million (USD) during the last two years from foreign fundings in states like Kuwait, Saudi Arabai and Qatar. According to a Newsweek report on ISIS foreign funding, the following individuals are involved:

  • Kuwait: Shafi al-Ajmi, that admitted to the collection of funds and delivered them in person to the ISIS-linked Al-Nusra Front. Al-Ajmi also acknowledged buying and smuggling arms on behalf of Al-Nusra.

Photo Notes: NewsWeek: November 2014: Kuwaiti islamist Shafi al-Ajmi - Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty

  • Kuwait: Hajjaj al-Ajmi, a powerful Kuwaiti Sunni cleric;
  • Qatar: Tariq bin al-Tahar al-Harzi (32) identified by the US Treasury as an ISIS fundraiser who collected about $2 million from Qatari funders that was channelled to the ISIS.
  • Qatar: Salim al-Kuwaru, who is suspected of acting as the financier;
  • Qatar: Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi, who, according to a US Treasury report, “oversaw the transfer of over $2 million per month to [Al-Qaeda] in Iraq for a period of time.”

Photo Notes: NewsWeek: November 2014: Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi

Local Sources

The ISIS sustainability and expansion do indicate a high level of financial independence generated from local sources rather than foreign sponsorship, of which oil revenue is a prominent contributor. Howard Shatz (Senior Economist and Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School) summarised the ISIS sources of finance as follows:

Most important, ISIS raises much of its money just as a well-organized criminal gang would do. It smuggles, it extorts, it skims, it fences, it kidnaps and it shakes down. Although supposedly religiously inspired, its actions are more like those of an organized criminal cult. To borrow from mobster Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano, members in ISIS don't get ahead just by being thugs — “at some point you have to learn to be a racketeer as well." ISIS' most important revenue source right now is the smuggling of oil from the oil fields it controls in Syria and Iraq. It has been reported to control about a dozen oil fields along with several refineries. Estimates of revenue vary, but a range of $1 million to more than $2 million a day is reasonable.

The ISIS financial independence is achieved by various sources of income, which is estimated to give the IS an income of about $2 million per day:  

  • Oil

The ISIS controls seven oil fields and two refineries in northern Iraq, and six out of 10 oil fields in eastern Syria, allowing the ISIS to sell crude oil at between $25 and $60 a barrel. ISIS control over oil fields since taking control on Mosul include: seven oilfields and several small refineries in northern Iraq, Iraq’s largest refinery at Baiji, the Najma and Qayara oilfields near Mosul, the Himreen and Ajil fields near Tikrit. According to John Dally (Eurasian foreign affairs and defense policy expert for The Jamestown Foundation) “most of the ISIS-held oil wells (one Kurdish official estimates there are roughly 80 of them) are sealed and not producing, but according to Iraqi officials, those that are pumping are having their output sent to be processed by mobile refineries in Syria in areas controlled by the Islamic State. The fuel is being turned into low quality gasoil and gasoline, which are then brought back to Mosul for sale”.

Map Notes: July 2014: The Week: Oil Infrastructure in Syria and Iraq

  • Bank Thefts

During the ISIS seizure of Mosul, it was reported that the group gained control of $429 million at the Mosul central bank. Newsweek also reported that in addition to cash kept in bank vaults in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, an estimated total of $1.5 billion has been seized from banks by ISIS. Newsweek interviews with witnesses revealed that:

“ISIS was inside the banks,” says an Iraq-based American refugee worker in Erbil, whose circle of associates in Mosul includes a Christian teacher who “went to the bank to take out money and was not allowed to.… No other employees were there, just ISIS militants.… People in Mosul believe ISIS has stolen the money.”

  • Wheat Crops

The UN estimates that ISIS controlled areas in Iraq accounts for about 40 percent of Iraq’s annual production of wheat, one of the country’s most important food staples alongside barley and rice. During July and August 2014 the ISIS took control of between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of crops in Tal Afar and Sinjar in Nineveh province from government silos, at the border with Syria. The ISIS mills the grain stored in the silos and sells the flour on local markets. According to Iraq's trade ministry, 1.1 million tonnes of wheat is stored in silos in those areas which amounts to 20% of annual Iraqi consumption (6.5 tonnes, half of which is imported). However, the selling of wheat does not yield significant revenue for the IS. The Soufan group correctly argues that:

“Controlling stockpiles of wheat, along with compensating farmers for a portion of what they seize gives the ISIS additional leverage over vulnerable populations, and the longer IS can act like a state the harder it will be to dislodge it”.

Map Notes: August 2014: Reuters: Showing five provinces under IS control, where almost 40 percent of Iraq wheat crop is produced

  • Taxation

According to business owners in Mosul, the ISIS has a formalised system of taxation.  In return for allowing business to operate, tax money is received from small merchants, petrol station owners, generator owners, small factories, big companies, pharmacists and doctors. A system referred to as Jizya (jizyah and pronounced “jiz-yuh”) is also implemented whereby non-Muslims must pay tax that should allow them protection in the Islamic Caliphate. According to al-Monitor, ISIS members in Mosul collect 50,000 dinars [$41.60] from each family as service and protection fees. The amount doubles for families whose sons did not join IS.

  • Extortion
  • Kidnapping for ransom;

According to US officials, the ISIS has raised $10 million or more in recent years from ransom payments.

  • Black market antique selling.

The ISIS controls more than a third of Iraq’s 12,000 important archaeological sites and reports indicate that the group is selling artifacts dating from 9,000 B.C. to A.D. 1,000 through intermediaries to dealers. Unverified reports estimate that artifacts dealings could be the ISIS second largest source of funding. The two primary black markets for artifacts are in Turkey and Jordan.

Weapons and Ammunition

The ISIS’s access to and current arsenal of weapons are well established, with the UN arguing that the group could maintain itself for six months to three years. Access is gained with weapons seized in both Iraq and Syria and black market purchases. States like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Croatia are suspect of exploitation by the ISIS to access and transport weapons to Syria and Iraq. Reports refer to frequent flights with weapons destined for the ISIS, from the Gulf region and states like Croatia to Turkey, from where weapons are moved over land to Syria. The ISIS also ascertained weapons produced in Russia, China and Iran.A report by the Conflict Armament Research showed that the ISIS is using weapons and ammunition from about 21 countries. Though most of these weapons were seized during armed battles in Syria and Iraq, the ISIS sustained income also indicates sufficient resources to purchase new weapons.  Conflict Armament Research found that the three biggest “suppliers” of weapons are Russia, China and the US.

The Financial Times reported in November 2015 on routes being used by ISIS to enable continued access to arms and weapons. The article listed the following weapons as being in high demand: rounds for Kalashnikov assault rifles, medium-calibre machine guns and 14.5mm and 12.5mm anti-aircraft guns. Isis also buys rocket-propelled grenades and sniper bullets, but in smaller quantities. The financial cost in acquiring arms is estimated at $1m, using assaults at the eastern city of Deir Ezzor as example. 

Map Notes: Financial Times: November 2015: Routes used for weapons smuggled to the Caliphate.

Video Notes: October 2014: Islamic State appears to have picked up a U.S. air-dropped munitions pack in Kobani but the Pentagon says the vast majority have reached Kurdish fighters. WSJ’s Mark Kelly reports.

The Daily Sabah newspaper provided a detailed list of weapons seized by the ISIS:

  • New Russian T55 tanks: 30 which the ISIS used in Syria, Deir ez-Zor, rural Humus and some in Mosul and Tikrit.
  • Russian T72 tanks: 5 to 10
  • US M1 Abrams tanks: 8
  • Military vehicles like the US made Hammers, Jeeps and trucks: More than 200
  • Cobra four by four tactical armoured vehicles
  • US made Black Hawk UH60 and Bell-IA-407 helicopters: unverified
  • Kalashnikovs, M16 and M16A4 rifles
  • RPG7 rocket-propelled grenades
  • US made low attitude air defense system FIM92 Stringer MANPAD
  • Russian model, as well as Polish and Bulgarian made ZU23-2 and ZU23-4 anti-aircraft guns
  • BM21 Grad multiple barreled bombardier rockets,
  • 155mm M198 howitzers
  • Type 59 130 mm cannons

Weapons used by the ISIS include:

Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: T-55 Tanks: Estimated that the ISIS has 30 of these tanks

Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: T-72 Tanks: Estimated that the ISIS has 5 -10 of these tanks

Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: Humvees

Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: M79 Osa Rocket Launcher

Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: RPG-7s

Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: M198 howitzer

Photo Notes: Mashable: September 2014: M79 90 mm anti-tank rockets, manufactured in 1983 in Yugoslavia (now Serbia.) The rockets were captured in Tal Khinzir, west of Ras al-Ayn, Syria in mid-June 2014.

Photo Notes: Mashable: September 2014: M16 A4 5.56 x 45 mm Assault Rifles

Photo Notes: Mashable: September 2014: Elmech EM-992 7.62 x 51 mm Sniper Rifle

Photo Notes :Bellingcat: August 2014: Warplane Missiles

Photo Notes: 12 December 2014: Twitter: ISIS claimed to have seized a SCUD missile in Anbar.

During an ISIS military parade in Raqqa on 20 June 2014, the following weapons were displayed (photos by Reuters):

Following the ISIS seizure of the Tabqa airbase in Syria, the group released the following video showing weapons captured that include German missiles:

ISIS Propaganda Campaign

Image Notes: The simplicity of the ISIS narrative of "us (ISIS) against them (all those that oppose the ISIS)" is centrifugal to the success of thee propaganda campaign.

The Islamic State (IS) is using social networks in an unparalleled way that is so extensive and sophisticated, referred to as hash tag (#) jihad. The #Jihad content consists of several aspects, namely:

  • Day-to-Day updates on progress in Syria and Iraq, whereby IS successes during battles are seen in photos and videos posted on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Live Leak;
  • “Missionary work” presenting the ISIS extremist ideology as the only rightful interpretation of Islam;
  • Marketing the IS as the legitimate representative of the Sunni Ummah
  • Effective use of technology. According to JM Berger, “one of ISIS's more successful ventures is an Arabic-language Twitter app called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, or just Dawn. The app, an official ISIS product promoted by its top users, is advertised as a way to keep up on the latest news about the jihadi group. Hundreds of users have signed up for the app on the web or on their Android phones through the Google Play store.”

Why the Success?

Screenshot Notes: From the ISIS propaganda campaign titled "The Establishment of the Islamic State".

The ISIS successful campaign is attributed to the following:

  • Simplicity in communicating a message of religious purpose
  • Sustainability irrespective attempts to close Twitter and Facebook accounts
  • ISIS projection of strength and victorious, with photos and videos of battle successes
  • ISIS projection as a government that cares, with photos and videos of community support projects and residents in controlled areas welcoming the ISIS
  • Immediacy, with followers and viewers immediately informed on successes, progress and leadership statements
  • Universal, the ISIS talks to anyone irrespective locations in the world and language barriers, by using images, translations, videos and music and English language as medium
  • Glamour, with high level of sophistication in format in videos, photos and images.

Two Pillars

The ISIS propaganda campaign rests on two pillars, namely:

A structured campaign whereby social media accounts are used to publish official ISIS videos, statements and photos. An example is the Ghuraba Media Foundation founded in 2013. Ghuraba mostly uses Twitter to distribute ISIS supportive PDF documents, essays and books. According to Jihadica, prominent contributors to the Media Foundation are two Mauritanians (Abu ‘Ubayda al-Shinqiti and Abu Salama al-Shinqiti), an Iraqi (Abu Khabab al-‘Iraqi), a Moroccan (Zakariya’ Bu Gharara), a Sudanese (Musa‘id ibn Bashir, recently arrested), and several others of unidentifiable origin (Abu Mus‘ab al-Athari, ‘Ubayda al-Athbaji, Abu Bara’a al-Sayf, and “Ahlam al-Nasr,” described as “the Islamic State’s poetess”). Examples of strucutred media accounts in support of the ISIS are:

Screenshot Notes: ISIS online propaganda magazine, Dabiq, Issue 1

An individual initiated pillar (also referred to as ISIS Fanboys) in which ISIS supporters primarily use Twitter and Facebook to publish and distribute propaganda material as well as engaging a worldwide audience with the intent to create awareness and recruit.  According to an analysis by the Recorded Future for Sky News there were approximately 60 000 pro-ISIS authors on social media accounts between May 2014 and August 2014. Since the 20 August 2014, following the release of the James Foley beheading video), Recorded Future estimated that approximately 27 000 Twitter accounts remained active.

Screenshot Notes: ISIS Facebook Page

Screenshot Notes: Shami Witness, one of the most popular ISIS supporting Twitter Accounts

Screenshot Notes: Omar Albaghdadi 1 Sound Cloud Account

Differences with al Qaeda

Though the ISIS and al Qaeda has similar ideologies with a shared objective, namely the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, the to groups battle for the hearts and minds of the jihadist world has evolved into an irreconcilable break. The differences between the two groups ralate to the religious authority, tactics and future strategy. Initially al-Baghdadi took lead in the establishment of Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and expected the JN leader's (Abu Mohammed al-Golani) to view him as senior in position. Al-Golani refusal resulted in the establishment of ISIS, with indications that approximately 65% of JN members declared their allegiance to ISIS.  Aaron Y Zelin’s article “The War between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement”, published during June 2014 in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explains the schism between the ISIS and al Qaeda/JN as one of differences over authority and methodology (manhaj).

  • Authority

ISIS rejects Zawahiri’s leadership which they viewed as a deviation from the path bin Laden. The ISIS position in this regard is seen in an Adnani’s statement of April 2014:

“The leaders of al-Qaeda deviated from the right manhaj, we say this as sadness overwhelms us and bitterness fills our hearts...Verily al-Qaeda today has ceased to be the base of jihad, rather its leadership has become an axe supporting the destruction of the project of the Islamic State and the coming khilafa (caliphate) now runs after the bandwagon of the majority and calls them as ‘the Umma,’ and softens in their stance at the expense of the religion, and the taghut  (tyrants) of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood).

al-Qaeda in turn claims that Baghdadi did, in fact, pledge bay’ah to Zawahiri, though privately and hence has broken a religious oath.

  • Methodology

The ISIS strategy is one of territorial control accompanied by residents’ adherence to the ISIS interpretation of religious law. The ISIS also does not allow any opposing views or role players in areas conquered. JN strategy is more accommodative in that it defines its role as “one among many groups (primarily other Islamist allies) that must work together not only to fight against the Assad regime, but also to govern liberated spaces”. JN also rejects the idea of coercive adherence to its ideas and religious ideology. Zelin defines this strategy of JN as a “gradualist approach”, which aims “to socialise and normalise its ideas over time so that eventually the group can legitimately implement its more narrow interpretations of Sharia”.

  • Targets

The ISIS and al Qaeda Central Command differ on the immediate targets of attack, with the ISIS focused on a “near enemy” as first priority that include the Shia as well as Iraq and Syrian governments. Al Qaeda Central Command views the “far enemy” as first priority, referring to US and Western alliance partners. In an article posted in Current History, ISIS and the Third Wave of Jihadism, Fawaz Gerges, explains this difference:

"Although Salafi jihadists are nourished on an anti-Shia propaganda diet, al-Qaeda Central prioritized the fight against the “far enemy”—America and its European allies. In contrast, AQI and its successor, ISIS, have so far consistently focused on the Shia and the “near enemy” (the Iraqi and Syrian regimes, as well as all secular, pro-Western regimes in the Muslim world). Baghdadi, like Zarqawi before him, has a genocidal worldview, according to which Shias are infidels—a fifth column in the heart of Islam that must either convert or be exterminated. The struggle against America and Europe is a distant, secondary goal that must be deferred until liberation at home is achieved. At the height of the Israeli assault on Gaza during the summer of 2014, militants criticized ISIS on social media for killing Muslims while failing to help the Palestinians. ISIS retorted that the struggle against the Shia comes first."


Affiliate Profiles

Individual Profiles

The Yemeni and Libyan branches (included in this profile) sample of further content:

Islamic State (IS) / Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham (ISIS) / Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS or ISIL, IS), also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Sham ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Islamic State, Daesh / Daish, DAISH = Dawlatul-Islam Fil-Iraqi wash-Sham is an active group formed c. 2014.
Geographic: Image: Flag of ISIS/ISIL
Ideology: Insurgent / Islamic -- Sunni / Takfiri -- Apocalyptic
Tactics: Hostage Taking / Bombing / Armed Assault/Suicide Bombings/Rocket attacks / Propaganda / Murder / Beheadings
Targets: Civilians / Religious (mosques) / Government (embassies) / Government (law enforcement) / U.S. military / Shia and Christian civilians
Abu Dua aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi aka Abu Bakr al Baghdadi al Husseini al Qurshi -- EMIR, Abu Musab al Zarqawi -- DECEASED LEADER, Abu Abdelrahman al-Bilawi -- second-in-command Anbar province DECEASED 01/2014, Saraqeb "emir" aka Abu Baraa al-Jazairi -- Belgian commander, Abu Amar, Amar Al Rafdan -- leader in Wilayat Al Khair , Abu Bakr al Iraqi or Haji Bakr -- DECEASED senior military commander and top deputy to Abu Bakr al Baghdad, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi -- Commanding ISIS fighters in the cities of Edlib, Aleppo and the mountains of Lattakia, Abu Ahmad al-Alwani -- Member of the ISIS military council, Abu Fatima al-Jaheishi (actual name: Ni'ma Abd Nayef al-Jabouri) -- Initially lead ISIS operations in southern Iraq before he moved to Kirkuk , Al Nasir Li Din Allah Abu Sulayman aka Neaman Salman Mansour al Zaidi -- war minister, Mohammed Abdullah aka Abu al-Baraa al-Azdi -- Yemeni Islamic State commander of Derna, Libya (since 11/2014) by request from Baghdadi, Mansour -- Baghdadi's driver reportedly his son-in-law, Abdelhakim Belhadj -- Leader of ISIS in Libya (unverified), Abul Mughurah al Qathani -- OFFICIAL EMIR OF LIBYA, Hassan al Karamy -- spiritual leader of the Islamic State (Libya), Saddam al-Jamal, previously FSA-branded rebel leader-- deputy of "Euphrates Province", Wisam al Zubaidi aka Abu Nabil al-Anbari -- IS in Libya (sent by Baghdadi), Mura Alsabaa -- IS Leader in Derna, Libya arrested by Shura Council 10.13.15, Hassan al-Karamy: Spiritual Leader IS in Libya

List of Islamic State Wilayat TRAC Regional Threat Assessments 

TRAC Wilayat Regional Threat Assessment Project is still continuing. The complete list of Wilayat with logos can be found: TRAC Insight: List of Islamic State Wilayats (alt. Wilayah) By Nation.

The following list are the regional threat assessments that are completed. Each link below is hot linked to the threat assessment 

Egypt and Islamic State -- Wilayat Sinai

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat al-Jazirah

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Anbar / al-Anbar

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Baghdad

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Dijlah / Tigris

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Diyala

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Fallujah / al-Fallujah

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Furat / al-Furat / Euphrates

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Janub / al-Janub

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Kirkuk / Karkuk

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Nineveh / Ninawa

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat North Baghdad / Shamal Baghdad

Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Salah al-Din / Salahuddin

Libya & Islamic State -- Wilayat al-Barqah (Cyrenacia)

Libya & Islamic State -- Wilayat Fazzan

Libya & Islamic State -- Wilayat Tarabulus (Tripoli)

Nigeria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiyah (West Africa)

Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan & Islamic State -- Wilayat Khurasan

Russia, the Caucasus, & Islamic State -- Wilayat Kavkaz

Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat ar-Raqqa

Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Barakah

Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Dimashq / Damascus

Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Halab

Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Hamah

Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Homs

Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Khayr / al-Khair

Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Aden Abyan (Aden & Abyan)

Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Hadramawt

Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Sana'a

Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Shabwa

Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Yaman


2007 claimed responsibility for an ambush at Al Taqa (Babil) in which one Iraqi soldier and 4 US soldiers were killed; 3 soldiers of the US unit were captured; 2007 claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a meeting of Al Anbar tribal leaders at Mansour Hotel, Baghdad, which killed 13, including 6 Sunni sheikhs and other prominent figures, in retaliation for the rape of a Sunni woman by Iraqi police;


2009 claimed responsibility for Baghdad bombings that killed 155 people and injured at least 721 people;


2010 claimed responsibility for a Baghdad bombings attack that killed 41 people;


2013 executed attacks against Shi’a Muslim pilgrims in and around Baghdad; 2013 suicide car bomber attacked a procession of Shi’a Muslim worshippers at a bus station in the town of Musayyib in the central Babil Province south of Iraq, killing 27 people and wounding 60; February 2013 a series of suicide attacks against Shi’a areas of Baghdad and around the southern Iraqi city of Karbala killed 34 people and wounded over 100; February 2013 another series of coordinated suicide bombings killed over 35 people in the several Shi’a-majority districts of Baghdad. October 2013 Human Rights Watch accused the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, and two other Islamist factions of systematically killing at least 190 unarmed civilians and abducting over 200 on August 4 in a series of attacks along the western coastal province of Latakia in Syria. In March 2013 al-Nusra announced that its group had split in two following its leadership's public declaration of allegiance to al-Qaeda. They are said to have become disillusioned after their Syrian leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, affirmed his loyalty to al-Qaeda after an apparent takeover at the top of Jabhat by hardline jihadists from Iraq. Some of the defecting rebels seem to have joined ISI, which is more of a political group to overthrow the Syrian government than an ideological group like al Nusra that wants to establish a caliphate in Syria.


ISIS gains in both Iraq and Syria are reflected in the following two maps (updated 1 December 2014):


Map Notes: 01 December 2014: Pieter Van Ostaeyen Blog

Map Notes: 01 December 2014: Pieter Van Ostaeyen Blog


Video: Islamic State of Iraq and Sham | Sheikh Osama bin Laden & Imam Anwar al Awlaki-Establishing Khilafah:

"Allah facilitated the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq on 13th October 2006 under the bold and courageous leadership of Sheikh Abu Umar al Baghdadi (may Allah have mercy on him).  And now we see the establishment of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham under the leadership of AbuBakr al Baghdadi, one of the most influential person of this era. The Establishment of Islamic State in Iraq and now in Sham (Syria) is the evident sign of the steadfastedness and determination of the Mujahideen from Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah to establish Tawheed of Allah on Land, that is Islamic Shariah on the methodology of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Sahaba, with the permission of Allah, The Establishment of Islamic State marks the Unity under one banner of Tawheed, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham about which Sheikh Osama bin Laden & Imam Anwar al Awlaki spoke and says Allah willing this is a sign of Establishment of Khilafah"

Video: 2013 Islamic State of Iraq and Sham Jihad Training - Islamic Army under Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi || On Tuesday 14 Ramadan 1434 A.H,( 2013-07-23 ) Ministry of information / Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham, said the following as quoted :

"Statement regarding the Ghazwah of "Defeating the Tawagit" in the two prisons of Abu Ghraib and Taji : The Almighty says: (Those before them did indeed devise plans, but Allah demolished their building from the foundations, so the roof fell down on them from above them, and the punishment came to them from whence they did not perceive) 26 Surah An-Nahl

الحمد لله ربّ العالمين، والصلاة والسلام على نبينا محمد، وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين.. وبعد:

With grace, favor and guidance of Allah, and in a daring Ghazwah which Allah facilitated for it the reasons of success, and after a series of qualitative operations and Ghazwahs that shock the pillars of the Safavid project and demolished the depth of the Rafidi protectorates in Iraq during the past four months, to repel the aggression of those licentious criminals and deter them from committing more crimes after the massacre of Hawija in the Wilayah of Kirkuk.

An in response to the call of the mujahid sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi may Allah preserve him to end the blessed "Demolishing the walls" plan that began one year ago with a qualitative operation that defeats the apostate Tawagit and breaks the shackles and liberates the lions perching in the darkness of the prisons, the mujahidin brigades set out after preparation and planning for months targeting two from the biggest prisons of the Safavid government which inherited it from the crusader campaign on Iraq, Baghdad Central prison (Abu Ghraib) and Al-Hut prison (Taji).

The operation began at 9 pm on the 13th of the noble month of Ramadan when the youth of Tawhid attacked simultaneously the main gates and the exterior walls of the two prisons by waves of car bombs driven by a group of martyrdom seekers the Awliya of Allah who vowed their souls to support their brothers, and the number of the car bombs that were detonated in the beginning of the Ghazwah at the gates and walls of the two prisons and after ended against the support forces that reached both locations was 12 cars of different sizes.

While the roads leading to the two prisons, (Baghdad- Abu Ghraib) road and (Baghdad-Mosul) road were cut after eliminating the checkpoints spread on both roads and eradicating and dispersing its elements, this coincided with targeting the Safavid army forces near the two locations in the headquarters of the Muthana brigade and Taji camp by Grad rockets and successive bursts of mortar rounds, which secured the roads leading to both locations completely and paralyzed the movement of the ground aiding forces and aviation traffic, for the stage of storming to begin by the groups of assailant martyrdom seekers who pledged to die and all of them vowed that none of them will come out alive before liberating most of the Muslim prisoners.

The clashes continued with the guards of the prison and the protection forces inside it and on the surrounding towers for several hours, and Allah facilitated the matters to the brothers by controlling all the towers and killing and injuring those in it, and combing the building from the inside with the detachments that were liberated inside the prison which were previously armed with guns, pistols and explosive belts after penetrating the security system of both prisons earlier by the security effort of the Islamic State.

And in a few hours the shackles of captivity and humiliation were broken and the prisoners breathed the fragrance of pride and dignity, and we give glad tidings to the Ummah in general and the mujahidin in particular that hundreds of Muslim prisoners were liberated including more than 500 mujahid from the best sons of this land, who were hardened by wars, and refined by battles and the ordeal of imprisonment only increased their patience, steadfast and yearning for jihad for the sake of Allah and crushing His enemies, and they have been withdrawn and evacuated to secure locations which the enemy has to pass horrors and calamities to reach them which the coward Rafidah cannot endure.

During the operation more than 120 were killed and tens were injured from the Safavid forces assigned to protect the two prisons and the Special Support forces "SAWT" that reached both locations, also most of the towers and installations seized by the mujahidin were destroyed and the military vehicles that couldn't be pulled from the location were burnt, during the clashes several prisoners were martyred and several others were wounded, while no one from the assailant brothers were killed except two who were injured and both them were evacuated, and the grace and favor is to Allah."

Video Notes: 25 April 2014: ISIS attack on the Shia al-Sadiqoon political party.


Islamic State: "Longing for Paradise" - A Video from Iraq of Training for Suicide Missions

Video Note: circulated Twitter on 5.23.15 showing an IS training squad.

Video: 2013 Hassan al Karamy, spiritual leader of the Islamic State, speaking in Sirte 2013.  Face clearly shown.

Image: Advertisement for Islamic State's encrypted messaging application.

Main Media Outlets for the Islamic State

  • Al-Furqan Media
  • Fursan Al-Balagh Media
  • Asawirti Media
  • Al-Ghuraba Media (operated in Germany)
  • Al-Hayat Media Center
  • Ifriqiyya Media (operated in North Africa)

Associated Groups

Associated Articles

Disclaimer (Click To View)

Groups and individuals included in TRAC's database range from actual perpetrators of social or political violence to more passive groups that support or condone (perhaps unwittingly) such violence. The spectrum of violence represented by these groups is vast, from Jihadists who bomb train stations to financial institutions that transfer funds. Some groups that originally engaged in violence but have since become legitimate political parties are included to provide historical perspective. TRAC is in no way attempting to determine whether groups or individuals are terrorists -- only to convey reported information about their activities and official State status. While TRAC attempts to ensure the accuracy of its TRAC database, the entries in the database are from numerous different sources. Hence, TRAC cannot and does not warrant the accuracy of the entries in its database. The editors of TRAC may modify these entries at any time and welcome comments and suggested corrections or additions.  Please write [email protected] or hit the "SUBMIT ADDITIONS" button on the page of the group profile about which you wish to comment.

Theater of Operations

Zoom out to see entire region.
Pointer does not represent exact location.
Palestinian Territories - West Bank, Iraq, Syria, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Hamah, Cyberspace, Cyberspace - MENOG (Middle East), United States -- Minnesota, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Khayr / al-Khair, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Halab, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Homs, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Anbar / al-Anbar, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Barakah, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Dimashq / Damascus, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Baghdad, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat North Baghdad / Shamal Baghdad, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Fallujah / al-Fallujah, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Kirkuk / Karkuk, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Nineveh / Ninawa, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Salah al-Din / Salahuddin, Egypt and Islamic State -- Wilayat Sinai, Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Aden Abyan (Aden & Abyan), Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Yaman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan & Islamic State -- Wilayat Khurasan, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Diyala / Dayala, Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Hadramawt, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat ar-Raqqa, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Furat / al-Furat / Euphrates, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Janub / al-Janub, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat al-Jazirah, Iraq & Islamic State -- Wilayat Dijlah / Tigris, Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Sana'a, Libya & Islamic State -- Wilayat Tarabulus (Tripoli), Libya & Islamic State -- Wilayat al-Barqah (Cyrenaica), Libya & Islamic State -- Wilayat Fazzan, Yemen & Islamic State -- Wilayat Shabwa, Nigeria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiyah (West Africa), Russia, the Caucasus, & Islamic State -- Wilayat Kavkaz / Qawqaz, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia & Islamic State- Wilayat Philippines, India & Pakistan - Jammu and Kashmir, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Syria & Islamic State -- Wilayat Hauran/Hawran