A year of the Islamic State group's 'caliphate'

AFP , Monday 29 Jun 2015

Islamic State Jihadists
IS militants (Photo: Reuters)

Main dates in the history of the Islamic State jihadist group's "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, which it declared in late June 2014.

IS began as an Al-Qaeda offshoot, before disavowing the authority of that group's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2013.

Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), declare an "Islamic caliphate" across territory they have seized in Iraq and Syria.

They rebrand themselves the Islamic State (IS) and declare their chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "caliph" and "leader for Muslims everywhere".

In Syria, the group has controlled Raqa province since January, the first provincial capital to fall from regime control, which becomes its stronghold.

In Iraq in June, the jihadists launch a lightning offensive in the northwest, seizing second city Mosul before sweeping across much of the Sunni Arab heartland bordering autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of members of the Christian and Yazidi sect flee.

In a video released on social media, the hitherto elusive Baghdadi orders all Muslims to obey him.

US jets strike IS positions in northern Iraq, the first American military operation in the country since troops withdrew in late 2011.

In early September President Barack Obama vows to build "a broad, international coalition" to defeat IS.

On September 23 the US and Arab allies launch strikes on IS militants in Syria.

IS says it has beheaded American journalist James Foley, who was seized in northern Syria in 2012, releasing a video of the incident, and saying it is in retaliation for the US air strikes in Iraq.

It goes on to execute several other foreign hostages.

The group is accused of a reign of terror in its strongholds where it carries out arrests, beheadings and stonings.

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 that country's eastern province of Diyala has been freed of the extremist group.

Iraqi authorities announce the "liberation" of Tikrit, the stronghold of former strongman Saddam Hussein, from IS after a weeks-long operation led by Iraqi soldiers and police and paramilitaries dominated by Shiite militias.

The battle for Tikrit was made easier by the fact that most of its 200,000 inhabitants had fled.

IS seals its capture of Ramadi, capital of Iraq's largest province of Anbar.

The jihadist group seizes full control of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, putting the World Heritage site at risk of destruction.

IS suffers its biggest setback in Syria when Kurdish militia, backed by Syrian rebel forces, seize back full control of Tal Abyad, a key border town with Turkey and a crucial point in the jihadist supply lines.

Syrian Kurds and allied rebels capture the strategic town of Ain Issa after capturing the nearby Brigade 93 base.

The jihadists launch a surprise foray in and around Kobane, killing more than 200 civilians before Kurdish forces repel the attack three days later.

A gunman kills 38 people at a Tunisian beach resort north of Sousse in a rampage claimed by IS which says it also sent a suicide bomber into a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, killing 26 worshippers.

Apart from territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, IS has since June 2014 also gained territory in Libya, where it has seized the town of Sirte east of Tripoli, profiting from the chaos there since the 2011 uprising.

Several armed groups worldwide have also pledged allegiance to IS in the year since it announced its formation.

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