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Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام
ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām

Participant in the Iraq War (2003–2011), the Iraqi insurgency, the Syrian Civil War, the Iraqi Civil War, the Second Libyan Civil War, the Boko Haram insurgency, the War in North-West Pakistan, the War in Afghanistan, the Yemeni Civil War, and other conflicts
Primary target of Operation Inherent Resolve and of the military intervention against ISIL in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Nigeria
  • Algerian Province
  • Caucasus Province
  • Central Africa Province
  • East Asia Province
  • Gaza Province
  • Greater Sahara Province
  • Khorasan Province
  • Libyan Province
  • Sinai Province
  • Somalia Province
  • West Africa Province
  • Yemen Province
  • Leader: Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi
  • Former leader: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 
  • Deputy leader in Iraq: Abu Fatima al-Jaheishi
  • Deputy leader in Syria: Abu Ali al-Anbari 
  • Deputy leader in Libya: Abdel Baqer Al-Najdi
  • Military chief: Abu Saleh al-Obaidi
  • Head of the Shura Council: Abu Arkan al-Ameri
  • Chief spokesperson: Abu Mohammad al-Adnani 
  • Chief of Syrian military operations: Abu Omar al-Shishani 
  • Minister of War: Gulmurod Khalimov
  • Minister of Information: Wa'il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad 
  • Spokesman: Abu Hamza al-Qurashi
  • Baqubah, Iraq (2006–2007)
  • No central headquarters (2007–2013)
  • Raqqa, Syria (2013–2017)
  • Mayadin, Syria (June–October 2017)
  • Al-Qa'im, Iraq (October–November 2017)
  • Abu Kamal, Syria (November 2017)
  • Hajin, Syria (November 2017 – December 2018)
  • Al-Susah, Syria (December 2018 – January 2019)
  • Al-Marashidah, Syria (January–February 2019)
  • Al-Baghuz Fawqani, Syria (February–March 2019)
  • Unknown headquarters from March 2019
Area of operations Territoires de l'Etat islamique juin 2015.png
ISIL's territory, in grey, at the time of its greatest territorial extent (May 2015).
Originated as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (1999)
Allies See section
Opponents State opponents

Non-state opponents

  • Syrian Democratic Forces
  • Nineveh Plain Protection Units
  •  Hezbollah
  • Ansarullah Flag Vector.svg Houthis
  • Badr Organisation
  • Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
  • European Union
  • Kata'ib Hezbollah
  • Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba
  • Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada
  • Peshmerga
  • Kurdistan Communities Union
  • Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army
  • Iraqi Kurdistan
  •  al-Qaeda
  • Ahrar al-Sham
  • Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham since 2017)
  • Libya Shield Force
  • Hamas
  • Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna
  • Taliban
  • Army of Conquest (2015–17)
Full list...

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or Islamic State, (IS) is a Sunni jihadist militant group. In Arabic it is often called "Daesh". It operates in Libya, Nigeria, Syria and a small part of northern Iraq. It is influenced by the Wahhabi version of Islam. It claims the status of independent state for the territories under its control in Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, and Syria. It is opposed to Shiism and has been described as "Shiaphobic".

The group was started in the early years of the Iraq War and associated itself with Al-Qaeda in 2004. ISIL was composed of different insurgent groups. Its aim was to establish a caliphate in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq, later expanding this to include Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, Al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIL.

ISIL is millenarianist, meaning it believes that society is going to change a lot, and everything we know will end soon.


At the height of the Iraq War, ISIL was in the Iraqi provinces of Al Anbar, Ninawa, Kirkuk, most of Salah ad Din, parts of Babil, Diyala and Baghdad. It claimed Baqubah as its capital. In the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the group has a large presence in the Syrian governorates of Ar-Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo.

The group has attacked government and military targets. It has claimed responsibility for attacks that killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. During the time coalition forces were present in Iraq, the group suffered some setbacks. By 2012, it was thought to have regained most of its strength and more than doubled the number of its members to about 2,500.

In 2013, a letter and an audio recording of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, was leaked to Al Jazeera. In it, al-Zawahiri disbanded the Syrian faction of ISIL. The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, opposed this ruling on the basis of Islamic law. The group has since continued to operate in Syria. Starting in April 2013, it made rapid military gains in large parts of Northern Syria, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described them as "the strongest group".

Worldwide Caliphate

In June 2014, it announced a worldwide caliphate. In 2014, ISIL successfully fought in a large-scale offensive in Iraq. After this offensive, ISIL is reported to have seized control of most of Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq, its surrounding Nineveh province, and the city of Fallujah. In the spring of 2015 ISIL fought for control of Tikrit, the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate.

In spring of 2016 the Army of Iraq took back Fallujah. At the end of 2016 the army took back Ramadi in Al Anbar Province, and in early 2017 Iraqi government forces retook Mosul. In October Raqqa, the former headquarters, fell.


The 2014 film The Blue Man, which is related to The New York Times article titled "Uncovering Iraq's Horrors in Desert Graves" written by John F. Burns, also mentions mass killings of Shia Muslims by the Islamic State between 2003 to 2006.

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