What is Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?: Explained

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Iraq's ongoing crisis has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sparked fears that the sectarian violence could impact the country's vast oil production.

In Iraq, 70% Iraqis are Shia Muslims and 60% Iraqis are Sunni Muslims.


What happened in Iraq during 8-day ISIS offensive?

The security deterioration in Iraq started on June 10 when bloody clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and hundreds of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Sunni militants who took control of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their posts in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.

The swift advance of the militants has sparked international alarm, with UN envoy to Baghdad Nickolay Mladenov warning that Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity is at stake.

On Thursday, fierce clashes took a magnified form with the confirmation of the abduction of 40 Indians and an attack on a major oil refinery of Baiji in Salahudin province with machine guns and mortar rounds.

In Tikrit, 46 Indian nurses are reportedly in constant touch with the Indian embassy in Baghdad and the Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers.

In Diyala province, security forces clashed with Sunni militants in many villages near the city of Udheim, some 60 km north of the provincial capital city Baquba, leaving 19 militants dead.

The recent abductions of foreign workers of Indians, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali, 80 Turkish and Turkmenistan nationals by the ISIS has left the world worried about what its intentions are and what does it want with Iraq?

The ongoing instability and violence in northern parts of Iraq, especially in Mosul (a city of two million people), Tikrit, Baquba, Tal Afar (a strategic Shiite-majority town in north Iraq that lies along a crucial corridor to Syria) has once again put the spotlight on the home grown terror outfits, that have proved lethal to the human existence.

What is ISIS?

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - the Islamic jihadist group is an unrecognised terror outfit based in Iraq and Syria, that made international headlines in early June and has emerged as one of the most dangerous terror organisation like that of al Qaeda and Taliban.

It is said that the retreating Iraqi soldiers in the fallen town of Mosul were so scared of the ISIS terrorists that they took off their uniforms lest they had to go through worst kind of torture.

If ISIS succeeds in taking over Baghdad, then its success would inspire other terror groups and al Qaeda offshoots like Al Shabaab in Kenya, Al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam Brigade in Algeria or Boko Haram in Kenya.

Important Points to know about ISIS

  • It maintains a stronghold near the borders of Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, and Southern Turkey.
  • The main goal of ISIS is to establish a caliphate in the Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq and Syria, which can be ruled by a Caliph.
  • ISIS came into existence in 2004 and since then it has changed its name many times from al Qaeda in Iraq" (AQI) to Hilf al-Mutayibeen to "Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)" to "Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham" to al-Dawla to Dawla al Islamiya, among many others.
  • In 2006, it seized territorial claims in Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa and parts of Babel.
  • In February 2014, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri broke all ties with ISIS.
  • It has carried out various attacks in the past in Iraq killing thousands of civilians.
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is said to be one of the top ISIS leaders.
  • It has significance presence in Aleppo and Raqqa cities of Syria.
  • ISIS major source of finance is through smuggling of raw materials of archaeological antiques, oil and an extortion racket and its total worth is believed to be $2bn.
  • ISIS has around 10,000 fighters or rebels from various countries like UK, US, France, Germany, the Arab countries and the Caucasus.
  • Besides maintaining its stronghold in Middle east and North Africa, ISIS also aims to create an Islamic World Dominion of which even India would be a part and to be specific, Gujarat is a part of their design.
  • It is known to carry out summary executions.
  • ISIS takes immense pleasure in video recording of amputation and crucification videos and then uploading it on social media sites.

Shattered Iraq looks for international aid

After days of life threatening turmoil, Iraq government, which has accused Saudi Arabia for backing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has appealed to the US to intervene and repel militants through air strikes.

The United States spent billions of dollars over several years training and arming Iraqi security forces after disbanding the Sunni-led army following the 2003 invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

The United Nartions Chief Ban Ki Moon, in his message said, "What's important is that the Iraqi government should have one state, whether it is Sunni, Shiite or Kurds, they should be able to harmoniously live together. I hope that with the strong support of regional countries and the international community in a broader sense, we will be able to help the Iraq government first of all to restore peace and stability in their country."

[What foreign media is saying about crisis in Iraq]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said the Islamic republic "will do everything" to protect Shiite shrines in Iraqi cities against the militant assault.

Australia on Thursday announced it would provide A$5 million ($4.7 million) in aid to the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the violence in Iraq and expressed concern at Australians joining the extremists.

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