Islamic State Jihadist (Photo: Reuters)
The main dates concerning jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria, notably the Islamic State which has seized swathes of territory in both countries and made new gains on Friday.
- April 9: Al-Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi says that Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, is part of his Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and fighting for an Islamic state in Syria.
A day later, Al-Nusra pledges allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, distancing itself from Baghdadi. Al-Qaeda disavows ISIL in early 2014.
- January 2-4: Iraq loses control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in Anbar province to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters.
- January 14: ISIL conquers the city of Raqa in northern Syria, after fierce fighting with rival rebels. Raqa, the first provincial capital lost completely by the regime, becomes its stronghold.
- June 9: ISIL starts a lightning offensive in northwestern Iraq in which it seizes second city Mosul before sweeping across much of the Sunni Arab heartland bordering of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of members of the Christian and Yazidi sect flee.
- June 29: ISIL declares a "caliphate" across the territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria and rebrands itself the Islamic State (IS) group.
In Syria, where IS controls Raqa province and large parts of Aleppo and Deir Ezzor provinces, the announcement is rejected by most Islamist groups.
- August 8: US jets strike IS positions in northern Iraq, the first American military operation in the country since troops withdrew in late 2011.
- August 19: IS beheads US journalist James Foley, who was seized in northern Syria in 2012, in retaliation for the air strikes and releases a video of the incident. It later executes other hostages.
- September 23: The US and its Arab allies launch air strikes on IS militants in Syria.
- January 26: IS is driven out of Kobane, Syria's third largest Kurdish town on the border with Turkey, after more than four months of fierce fighting led by Kurdish forces backed by coalition air strikes.
This IS failure comes on the same day an Iraqi official says the eastern province of Diyala has been freed of the extremist group.
- March 28: Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front and its allies seize Idlib, the second provincial capital lost by Syria's government.
- April 25: A coalition of opposition forces known as the "Army of Conquest" captures Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib, the last major government-held city in the northwestern province.
- May 15: IS closes in on Syria's ancient metropolis of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, raising concerns at the UN cultural organisation.
It also seizes a government headquarters in the strategic Iraqi city of Ramadi.