ISIL territorial claims
|Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام
ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām
Designated as a terrorist organization
|Government||Islamic theocratic caliphate|
|•||Leader||Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi|
|•||Head of the Shura Council||Abu Arkan al-Ameri|
|War on Terror / Syrian Civil War|
|•||Established under the name of Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad||1999|
|•||Joined al-Qaeda||October 2004|
|•||Declaration of an Islamic state in Iraq||13 October 2006|
|•||Claim of territory in the Levant||8 April 2013|
|•||Separated from al-Qaeda||3 February 2014|
|•||Declaration of caliphate||29 June 2014
13 November 2014 (Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen)
29 January 2015 (South Asia)
12 March 2015 (Nigeria)
23 June 2015 (North Caucasus)
de facto also Iraqi dinar, Syrian pound
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|•||Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is an active extremist Islamist rebel group and self-declared Caliphate in the Middle East which claims to be a sovereign state, and as such has made announcements of territorial control and aspirations of control. No other nation recognizes ISIL as a state. Its goal is the foundation of an Islamic state and a worldwide caliphate, in accordance with Salafi Islam, by the means of military jihad.
ISIL primarily claimed territory in Syria and Iraq, subdividing each country into multiple wilayah (provinces), largely based on preexisting governance boundaries. The first territorial claims by the group outside of Syria and Iraq were announced by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on 13 November 2014, when he announced new wilayats, or provinces, in Libya (Wilayat al-Barqah, Wilayat al-Tarabulus, and Wilayat al-Fizan), Algeria (Wilayat al-Jazair), Egypt (Wilayat Sinai), Yemen (Wilayat Sanaa), and Saudi Arabia (Wilayat al-Haramayn). In 2015, new provinces were also announced in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Wilayat Khorasan), Northern Nigeria (Wilayat Gharb Afriqiya), and the North Caucasus (Wilayat al-Qawqaz).
Specific territorial claims
Iraq and Syria
When the Iraq-based insurgent group Mujahideen Shura Council announced it was establishing an Islamic State of Iraq in October 2006, it claimed authority over seven Iraqi provinces: Baghdad, Al Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and parts of Babil.
When the group changed its name to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and expanded into Syria in April 2014, it claimed nine Syrian provinces, covering most of the country and lying largely along existing provincial boundaries: Al Barakah, Al Khayr, Raqqah, Homs, Halab, Idlib, Hamah, Damascus, and Latakia. It later subdivided the territory under its control to create the new provinces of al-Furat, Fallujah, Dijla, and al-Jazeera.
ISIL divides Libya into three historical provinces, claiming authority over Barqa (or Cyrenaica) in the east, Fezzan in the desert south, and Tarabulus (or Tripolitania) in the west, around the capital.
In 2014, a number of leading ISIL commanders arrived in the city of Derna, which had been a major source of fighters in the Syrian Civil War and Iraq Insurgency. Over a number of months, they united many local militant factions under their leadership and declared war on anyone who opposed them, killing judges, civic leaders, local militants who rejected their authority, and other opponents. On 5 October 2014, the militants, who by then controlled part of the city, gathered to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In February 2015, ISIL forces took over parts of the Libyan city of Sirte. In the following months, they used it as a base to capture neighbouring towns including Harawa, and Nofaliya. ISIL began governing Sirte and treating it as the capital of their territory.
ISIL suffered reversals from mid-2015 when they were expelled from much of Derna following clashes with rival militants, following months of intermittent fighting, ISIL eventually redeployed to other parts of Libya in April 2016. Libya’s Interim Government launched a major offensive against ISIL territory around Sirte in May 2016, driving them back towards the city from the east and the west, and capturing parts of the city the following month.
The Egyptian militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis swore allegiance to ISIL in November 2014. After al-Baghdadi's speech on 13 November, the group changed its name to Sinai Province on the Twitter feed claiming to represent the group. The group has carried out attacks in Sinai.
Islamic State in Gaza
In February 2014, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem declared its support for ISIL. On 2 April 2015, elements of this group, along with members of the Army of Islam and the Gaza faction of Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, formed the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade, also known as Islamic State in Gaza, as it predominantly operates in the Gaza Strip. The group is opposed to the existence of both the State of Palestine and Israel, and has attacked both Israel and Hamas in the past.
Al-Baghdadi announced a Wilayah in Saudi Arabia in November 2014, calling for the overthrow of the Saudi Royal Family and criticizing the Kingdom's participation in the US-led coalition against ISIL. The group has carried out attacks in the country under the names of Najd Province and Hejaz Province.
ISIL established a Yemeni Wilayah in November 2014. The branch's first attack occurred in March 2015, when it carried out suicide bombings on 2 Shia Mosques in the Yemeni capital. At least 7 ISIL Wilayat, named after existing provincial boundaries in Yemen, have claimed responsibility for attacks, including Hadhramaut Province, Shabwah Province and Sana'a Province. Following the outbreak of the Yemeni Civil War in 2015, ISIL struggled to establish much of a presence in the country in the face of competition from the larger and more established Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militant group. Many of ISIL's regional cells in Yemen have not been visibly active since their establishment and the group has not been able to seize control of territory the way they have done in Iraq and Syria. The group has also experienced leadership turmoil and defections from its rank and file.
Members of Jund al-Khilafah swore allegiance to ISIL in September 2014. ISIL in Algeria gained notoriety when it beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel in September 2014. Algerian security forces killed the group's leader, Khalid Abu-Sulayman, in December 2014, and five of its six commanders in a May 2015 raid. Since then, the group has not claimed any significant attacks and has largely been silent.
On 29 January 2015, Hafiz Saeed Khan, Abdul Rauf and other militants in the region swore an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Khan was subsequently named as the Wāli (Governor) of a new branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan called Khorasan Province, named after the historical Khorasan region.
ISIL attempted to establish themselves in Southern Afghanistan, especially in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, but were resisted by Taliban forces. They were able to establish a foothold in parts of Nangarhar, and recruited disaffected members of the Taliban. In August 2015, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader, Usman Ghazi, swore allegiance to ISIL and announced that the group should be considered part of Wilayah Khorasan.
On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL via an audio message posted on the organisation's Twitter account. Abu Mohammad al-Adnani welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described it as an expansion of the group's caliphate to West Africa. ISIL publications from late March 2015 began referring to members of Boko Haram as part of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiya (West Africa Province). Boko Haram suffered significant reversals in the year following the pledge of allegiance, with an offensive by the Nigerian military, assisted by neighboring powers, driving them from much of the territory they had seized in North East Nigeria. Boko Haram suffered a split in 2016, with ISIL appointing 'Abu Musab al-Barnawi' as the group's new leader, due to disagreements with Abubakar Shekau's leadership. This was rejected by Shekau and his supporters, who continued to operate independently.
ISIL militants in Syria issued a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014: "we will liberate Chechnya and the entire Caucasus, God willing. Your throne has already teetered, it is under threat and will fall when we come to you because Allah is truly on our side." In early 2015, commanders of the militant Caucasus Emirate group in Chechnya and Dagestan announced their defection and pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In a June 2015 audio statement posted online, ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani accepted the pledges of allegiance and appointed Abu Muhammad al-Qadari (Rustam Asildarov) as ISIL Governor of a new Caucasus Province. He called on other militants in the region to join with and follow al-Qadari. The group has carried out occasional, low-level attacks since then.
A video was released by ISIL, which included Spanish speaking militants saying that they intended to conquer Spain.
On 10 July 2015, ISIL released a video containing a message saying that they intend to conquer the western Balkans, including Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro.
The 5th edition of ISIL's Dabiq magazine explained the group's process for establishing new provinces. Jihadist groups in a given area must consolidate into a unified body and publicly declare their allegiance to al-Baghdadi. The group must nominate a Wāli (Governor), a Shura Council (religious leadership), and formulate a military strategy to consolidate territorial control and implement ISIL’s version of Sharia law. Once formally accepted, ISIL considers the group to be one of its provinces and gives it support. Dabiq has acknowledged support in regions including East Turkestan (Xinjiang), Indonesia and the Philippines, and claimed that ISIL would eventually establish wilayat in these areas after forming direct relationships with its supporters there.
ISIL Spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani stated that "the legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah's [caliphate's] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas." ISIL thus rejects the political divisions established by Western powers during World War I in the Sykes–Picot Agreement as it absorbs territory in Syria and Iraq. The Long War Journal writes that the logical implication is that the group will consider preexisting militant groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) illegitimate if they do not nullify themselves and submit to ISIL's authority.
While branches in Libya and Egypt have been very active and attempted to exercise territorial control, branches in other countries like Algeria and Saudi Arabia have been less active and do not seem to have a strong presence.
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