Iraqi security and allied paramilitary forces last week launched a broad offensive on Baiji, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of Baghdad.The city and nearb
SOME NASTY ASS CAVE IN THE DESERT – (CT&P) – On Tuesday, ISIS took to its radio station, WKIL, to boast that the bumbling idiots who attacked the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest in Garland, Texas, on Sunday night were “two soldiers of the caliphate.” The claim, which has not yet been verified by any American officials, is the first attack on American soil for which the terror group has taken responsibility, but ISIS vowed it would not be the last.
During his morning drive-time program, Abdul-Aziz Asad Bouhtros Boutros Boutros Boutros Haddad Skyhook (which roughly translates to “he who lusts after young female goats”) read a statement from the Islamic State Parks and Recreation Board that said that ISIS had recruited hundreds of disaffected young Muslims throughout the United States and would use these human time bombs to “bring America to its knees” like a “camel in heat.”
“We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of the Islamic State do terrible things. We have already ruined your economy by creating income inequality, we are responsible for the ongoing destruction of the polar ice caps, our agents within the police force and black community are burning your cities to the ground, and all this is just the beginning!” said Skyhook as foamed at the mouth.
“We have young, ideologically pure soldiers of the caliphate in place in all of your elementary and middle schools, and we are set to unleash them at any time! Prepare for the ‘Mother of All Class Disruptions!’ You vile infidels will reap the reward for your imperialist invasions, the theft of our blessed and merciful fossils fuels, and your fucking fast food franchises now dotting the Middle East. Die Great Satan!”
Skyhook then had to cut to traffic to report an overturned camel on the road to Mecca.
Federal investigators have yet to confirm that the two men who conducted the attack in Garland have any connections to ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or one of the gazillion half-ass terrorist splinter groups trying to earn brownie points by murdering defenseless civilians.
“At this time we have no reason to believe that these two clowns had any connections to anything other than Twitter and Facebook,” said FBI Special Agent Efrem Zimbalist III. “About the only thing they had in common was a low IQ and an inability to plan even the simplest terrorist attack. Hell, they barely even got out of their fucking car before they were turned into Swiss cheese,” chuckled Zimbalist.
When asked about the claims made by the Islamic State Parks and Recreation Board on WKIL, Zimbalist told journalists that he wasn’t overly concerned.
“You have to remember who we’re dealing with here. Neanderthals would score higher on the SAT. So don’t worry; these imbeciles couldn’t find their asses with both hands,” said Zimbalist.
This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.
Al-Khaleej (The Gulf) reports that Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) has taken new territory in the western Al-Anbar Province of Iraq and may be on the verge of taking the provincial capital, Ramadi, a week after they were decisively defeated in Tikrit in the south of Salahuddin Province. They were also pushed back from the refinery city of Beiji near Tikrit, though Iraqi authorities revealed that Daesh had slaughtered 300 members of tribes there in the past few days. Daesh killed embers of the Albu Mahall, al-Karabilah, al-Salman, Albu `Ubayd, and al-Rawiyyin tribes. Government forces received close air support from the US Air Force. But despite the success of Iraqi troops and their Shiite militia auxiliaries in Salahuddin north of Baghdad, government forces are facing setbacks to the west of the capital.
Daesh has taken al-Sufiya entirely, chasing the Iraqi army from the district. It continued to hold most of Albu Ghanim and has surrounded hundreds of families there. It has long had a toehold in western neighborhoods of Ramadi, the provincial capital of al-Anbar, and seems to be making a successful push toward the center of the town.
A member of parliament from the province, Adil Khamis al-Mahallawi, called Daesh the “Kharijites of this age,” referring to an early Islamic heretical group, more extreme members of which insisted on undeviating adherence to their understanding of Islam and excommunicated and killed those who differed with them.
He said Daesh had also killed dozens of non-combatants in the district of Albu Ghanim northeast of Ramadi
The deputy speaker of the al-Anbar provincial legislature, Falih al-Isawi, said, “The situation in the city of Ramadi is turbulent and completely bad. The entire province of al-Anbar is a inch away from being dominated by Daesh.” He also warned that Ramadi is headed for collapse.
Another member of al-Anbar’s provincial legislature, Arkan Khalaf al-Tarmuz, said that Daesh had succeeded in dominating the district of Albu Ghanim east of Ramadi, and had surrounded hundreds of families in the district. He explained that it had happened because the Sunni tribal levies of the area lack weaponry and had seen their stockpiles dwindle. They only have one security station. Likewise, the Popular Mobilization Forces, i.e. Shiite militias, had withdrawn from the area (perhaps to go fight in Tikrit and Beiji?) Al-Anbar is mostly Sunni Arab.
An official in Iraq’s security agency said that there was fierce fighting between Daesh and Iraq security forces, who are supported by tribal levies, in eastern Ramadi.
The bitter rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran can be seen played out across the Middle East, from the rise of Islamic State to the assault against the Houthis in Yemen. Amin Saikal writes about what this means for the US as it attempts to find a coherent policy.
The Middle East continues to be a zone of frenemies. The latest development is the collective military assault by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a number of its Arab allies against the Houthis as an allegedly Iranian-backed terrorist group in Yemen.
This comes hot on the heels of these countries’ refusal to assist the US-led air campaign with ground forces against ‘Islamic State’ (IS) in Iraq.
Why against the Houthis, but not IS?
The answer lies in the Saudi-Iranian geopolitical driven sectarian rivalries, and America’s attempts to maintain its de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies, negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, and fight IS with as much regional support as possible.
The Houthis are followers of Shi’a Islam and claim representation on behalf of 45 per cent of the Yemeni population. As such, they have a sectarian affiliation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Tehran has been accused of materially supporting the Houthis rebellion, which since last September has taken over the capital Sana. The Houthis have successfully fought the Saudi-backed government of president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who has fled the capital, as well as the Sunni Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Saudis and their partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Egypt want to get rid of the Houthis and reinstall Hadi’s leadership. The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has condemned the Saudi-led assault as a “genocide” and called for its end. However, the United States has backed the Saudi-led military campaign to Tehran’s annoyance.
In contrast, Saudi Arabia and its allies have only made a symbolic contribution to the US-led Western air campaign against IS. Yet, clearly what could help this campaign to roll back IS is a regional ground force to assist the Iraqi military.
Two reasons account for why this has not occurred. First, IS is an extremist Sunni, anti-Shia entity, whose ideology is rooted in the Saudi brand of Wahabi/Salafi Islam. IS, which established itself over large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territories last June, was initially a beneficiary of funds coming from Saudi Arabia and some of its oil-rich GCC partners. These countries were motivated by the consideration that Iran had gained too much influence in Iraq, which had traditionally been identified with the Arab world, and Syria, where Iranian aid has sustained Bashar al-Assad’s government as Iran’s only Arab strategic partner, and Lebanon, in which the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has reigned supreme in support of Iran’s wider regional interests.
This means that whilst Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to see IS contained, they do not find it in their strategic interests to see it eliminated as an anti-Iranian and anti-Syrian government force. The second reason is that the Iraqi government is dominated by the Shi’as, who form a majority of the Iraqi population, and cannot afford to offend Tehran by being receptive to an Arab force to fight IS on its soil.
Paradoxically, whilst opposed to IS and helping the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, as well as cooperating informally with the US and its Western allies in combating IS, Tehran shares the Arab countries’ step-back approach to IS, although for different reasons.
Iran views IS as an extension of Saudi Salafism, and does not mind to see its continuation in a symbolic form for a while to discredit the Saudi brand of Islam and thus counter the Saudi opposition to Iran. Meanwhile, to shore up its domestic and regional position, the Iranian regime, with moderate/reformist Hassan Rouhani in the presidency, wants a breakthrough in its long-standing hostilities with the United States.
In response, US president Barack Obama has found diplomacy as the best means to settle the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and to come to terms with Tehran. Yet, like the Iranian leadership, Obama faces his internal and regional detractors, who do not view a possible normalisation of US-Iranian relations to be in their strategic interests. Israel has campaigned viciously against it, and Saudi Arabia and its regional allies have voiced serious apprehension about it. For Obama to overcome this opposition, he has engaged in a regional balancing act. He has supported the Saudi-led military action against the Houthis and has blamed Iran for Yemen’s woes (although Yemen’s strife stems largely from internal factors) and assured Israel of America’s unwavering commitment to it.
What may emerge from all this is unpredictable. But one thing is sure. Irrespective of whether or not there will be a US-Iranian rapprochement, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry may continue to be a main cause of regional volatility, unless the two sides agree to a summit to settle their differences peacefully through dialogue and understanding.
As for the United States, it presently lacks a clear and coherent policy in dealing with a region riven by contradictions and paradoxes. It appears to be shuttling between various forces to find a niche of determining influence in the region. However, if there is a major improvement in its relations with Iran, that could help it to play a meaningful role in resolving some of the regional issues, ranging from Iraqi to Yemeni conflicts, that at least partly underpin the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.
Amin Saikal is Distinguished Professor of Political Science, public policy fellow and director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, and author of Iran at the Crossroads (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015, forthcoming).
The past year was a particularly cruel one for minorities in the Middle East. Since Islamic State militants seized parts of Iraq and Syria, they have relentlessly persecuted the region’s religious minorities. In doing so, the militants are trying to eradicate ancient cultures and religions that date back to Mesopotamia.
After Islamic State and its allies captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June, they gave Christian residents an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or be driven out of their homes. Many Christians fled to Turkey or the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. The extremists drove out a Christian population that had lived in Mosul for two millennia. Other groups, such as the Yazidis, have been treated far worse.
When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians living in the country. Today, the Christian population has dwindled to fewer than 400,000 — and many are on the run from Islamic State.
Islamic State’s latest targets are the Assyrians, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, who are concentrated in northeastern Syria and northern Iraq. In late February, Islamic State militants overran 12 villages in northern Syria and kidnapped more than 200 Assyrians, including dozens of women and children. Assyrians speak a modern version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
The current status of religious minorities in the Middle East is indeed dire. They are threatened by civil wars, growing intolerance, the rise of Islamic militancy, autocratic governments and the pull of emigration. But it is important to remember that there is a long history of tolerance within Islam for other religions. The survival of the Assyrians, Yazidis and others until today is a testament to a millennium-long, and often overlooked, history of religious coexistence fostered by Islam.
Over the past 50 years, militant movements and some Islamic regimes that favor a literalist approach to revealed texts have imposed austere interpretations of the Quran and of Islamic law, or shariah, ones that run counter to a millennium of moderate understandings, including tolerance for other faiths. Shariah is not a monolithic system of medieval codes, set in stone and solely based on cruelty and punishment. Since the seventh century, the body of law has co-evolved with different strains of Islamic thought — tolerance versus intolerance, forgiveness versus punishment, innovative versus literalist.
To believers, shariah is more than a collection of laws; it is infused with higher moral principles and ideals of justice. Shariah literally means “the path to the watering hole,” an important route in the desert societies of pre-Islamic Arabia. Historically, Islamic law is based on four sources: the Quran, the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Mohammad (the Sunnah), analogical reasoning and the consensus of religious scholars. Because the Quran did not provide a system of laws, Islam’s early leaders would rely on the Sunnah, a collection of the prophet’s sayings and stories about his life. (The word Sunnah also means path, and it is the root of the designation “Sunni” — those who follow the prophet’s path — the dominant sect in Islam.)
In the 13th century, as the Mongols swept across Asia and sacked Baghdad, the Mongol warrior Hulagu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, asked Muslim jurists at the time: Would they prefer to live under an unjust Muslim ruler or a just nonbeliever? Wanting to keep their heads, most preferred Hulagu’s rule. But one jurist forcefully rejected the Mongol invasion, and his decision reverberates to this day. Ibn Taymiyyah, a scholar from Damascus, issued several fatwas, or religious rulings, against the Mongols, who were threatening to overrun the Levant.
After Hulagu, some Mongol leaders nominally converted to Islam, but Ibn Taymiyyah still considered them infidels. He also argued that it was permissible for believers to kill other Muslims during battle if those Muslims were fighting alongside the Mongols. Ibn Taymiyyah is the intellectual forefather to many modern-day Islamic militants who use his anti-Mongol fatwas, along with his rulings against Shi’ites and other Muslim minorities, to justify violence against fellow Muslims, or to declare them infidels.
Ibn Taymiyyah inspired the father of the Wahhabi strain of Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia today, the 18th-century cleric Mohammad bin Abd al-Wahhab, who decreed that many Muslims had abandoned the practices of their ancestors. Wahhab’s followers led a failed uprising against Ottoman rule in the Hijaz, the region of Arabia where Islam was founded. The Wahhabi appropriation of Ibn Taymiyyah’s teachings would have a profound impact on the future of Islamic militancy. Their brief rule over Islam’s holy sites in the early 19th century introduced pilgrims from across the world to the idea that violent revolution could be construed as a religious obligation.
Today’s Islamic militants and repressive regimes — especially Saudi Arabia, which has used its oil wealth to export Wahhabi doctrine throughout the Muslim world — are obsessed with literalist interpretations of shariah and punitive aspects of the Quran, as opposed to strands that emphasize Quranic exhortations to forgiveness. The weight of Islamic history skews toward moderate understandings, but in recent decades these regimes and militants have used their influence to breed intolerance.
How were so many minority communities able to coexist with Islam for more than a millennium? For a long time, these groups reached an accommodation with Muslim rulers by emphasizing the idea that they were ahl al-kitab, or “people of the book.” The Quran singled out Jews, Christians and Sabaeans (an ancient people who lived in what is now Yemen and southern Iraq) as possessors of books recognized by Islam as God’s revelation. As the Islamic empire expanded, Jews and Christians were granted legal status in Muslim communities as protected subjects, known as dhimmis. They were allowed to practice their faith, govern their own communities and defend themselves from aggressors in exchange for paying a special tax, the jizyah.
Other groups, including the Samaritans, Yazidis and Zoroastrians, managed to secure the label “people of the book” for themselves, and in doing so were able to coexist with the dominant religion. Islam was, especially in its initial centuries, a religion that could accommodate and incorporate ideas from elsewhere. It also did not seek to suppress the older faiths of the Middle East.
In his powerful short book, In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong, the Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf describes how in its early conquests, Islam had developed a “protocol of tolerance,” which he contrasts with Christian societies at the time. Maalouf, himself a Greek Catholic, a religious minority, wonders: “If my ancestors had been Muslims in a country conquered by Christian armies, instead of Christians in a country conquered by the forces of Islam, I don’t think they would have been allowed to live in their towns and villages, retaining their own religion, for over a thousand years.”
Maalouf notes that at the end of the 19th century, Istanbul, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire, had a majority of non-Muslims — Armenians, Greeks and Jews. “From the outset, and ever since, the history of Islam has reflected a remarkable ability to coexist with others.”
We must not allow that history to be overshadowed by overzealous regimes and the rise of Islamic State, which views non-Muslims — and even many Muslims — as people to be forcibly converted, driven into exile or put to the sword. For a long time, there was another way.
Reports this week that Mosul’s central library has been ransacked by Isis and 100,000 books and manuscripts burned has cast an international spotlight on a new wave of destruction that has been raging through the northern Iraqi city since last summer.
Earlier this month the head of the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) voiced alarm over “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.” Director general Irina Bokova said the destruction involved museums, libraries and universities across Mosul.
She added: “This destruction marks a new phase in the cultural cleansing perpetrated in regions controlled by armed extremists in Iraq. It adds to the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people.”
On Monday, Ninwa Al Ghad, a satellite channel broadcasting out of Mosul, reported that the central library had been burned with the reported loss of Iraqi newspapers from the beginning of the 20th century, as well as maps, books and collections from the Ottoman period. But confusion remains about the extent of the damage, with two local Facebook groups insisting on Thursday that, though some books were burned, the library itself was still standing.
The escalating devastation culminated on Thursday with the release of a five-minute video purportedly showing militants using sledgehammers to smash ancient artifacts in the city. The video, posted on Twitter and bearing the logo of Isis’s media arm, shows a group of bearded men in a museum using hammers and drills to destroy several large statues, including one depicting a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century BC.
The news saddens but does not surprise Shahla Kamal, who until last summer was a lecturer at Mosul University’s College of Political Science. In June she was overseeing students sitting an end-of-year exam when the dean told everyone to go home because of an immediate curfew.
Overnight, the Islamic State had taken over the city and imposed sharia laws. Shahla lost her job when Isis deemed the college “un-Islamic” and closed it along with the colleges of law, fine arts, physical education, languages, social sciences and archaeology.
Isis looted and vandalised the new multimillion-dollar physics and chemistry laboratories. Each college had its own library and these were looted, too. Some, like the library of Islamic studies, housed priceless ancient manuscripts. Not any more. The classrooms of the closed colleges and departments are now the sleeping quarters for Isis fighters, and are used as storage for their weapons cache.
In addition to the college libraries, each of Mosul University’s two campuses has a central library. Teba used to work in one of them, and visits whenever she can. The library is still intact, but Teba makes sure that squatters – who have now moved on to the campus with their farm animals – don’t use the books and furniture for firewood. She says she’s heartbroken and enraged at the fate of Mosul’s central library, and fears a similar fate for the remaining university libraries.
Mustafa was unable to salvage anything from the College of Physical Education, where he worked. The last time he went there to check on the college he was stunned to find the college’s Olympic-sized pool looking like a green swamp, and Isis fighters lounging on the furniture, their sleeping mattresses stacked up outside the dean’s office. “The Amir [Al Baghdadi] takes what the Amir wants,” the fighters said, and demanded that he hand over his keys to the department.
The college of economics and business where Soraya studied was not closed. Isis did make a number of changes, such as segregating students by gender and driving away almost all the female staff. In November 2014, Soraya quit her studies after a female Isis police officer threatened to bite her hand for taking off her regulation gloves during an exam – with the gloves on, Soraya’s pen kept slipping while she tried to write. Biting is common – one of Soraya’s friends needed three stitches on her right hand when she was bitten – and students say Isis’s female police wear a steel fitting in their mouths with jagged fangs to make their bite particularly sharp. Soraya decided at that moment to leave college and stay inside her house where she can wear anything she wants.
My family swap these stories of relatives and friends and shake our heads in disbelief. This is not the Mosul University they helped create half a century ago. In 1964, my great grandfather Abdul Fattah Al Malah, a graduate of the American University in Beirut and Oxford University, established the College of Pharmacy at Mosul University. He, and the other founders of Mosul University, all western-educated, brought a cadre of academics from Europe, the United States, India, Pakistan and several Arab countries to teach alongside Iraqi academics. That same multinational cadre went on to teach my parents who both went to study there in the 1970s.
As a child, my favourite pastime was to listen to my great grandfather reading stories to me and my cousins. Each was about the life of a groundbreaking scholar or scientist. “Education, education, education,” he would say to me, shaking his index finger like he was delivering a threat. He passed away in 1996. As much as I miss him, I am glad he is not alive to see Mosul today.
Al-Azhar, the prestigious seat of Islamic learning that is based in Cairo but respected by Sunni Muslims across the world, has steadfastly condemned gruesome executions claimed by the Islamic State group.
The millennium-old institution has emerged as a leading theological centre of Sunni Islam, the main branch of the religion, and shows a will to promote moderate Islam and dialogue with Christians.
It was swift in denouncing the immolation of a Jordanian fighter pilot by IS, which claims to have established an Islamic caliphate and imposes an extreme version of Islamic law in territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.
The group, accused by the United Nations of carrying out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, has regularly claimed to have carried out beheadings and kidnappings in Syria and Iraq.
In a video released Tuesday, IS showed its militants burning Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh alive in a metal cage.
Kassasbeh had been captured in Syria when his plane went down in December.
Al-Azhar’s grand imam, Ahmed al-Tayeb lashed out at the militants over his murder, expressing his “strong dismay at this cowardly act.”
This “requires the punishment mentioned in the Koran for these corrupt oppressors who fight against God and his prophet: killing, crucifixion or chopping of the limbs,” said Tayeb.
“Islam forbids killing of the innocent human soul… It forbids mutilating the human soul by burning or in any other way even during wars against an enemy that attacks you.”
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Tayeb’s verbal assault on IS was not his first.
At an international conference against extremism organised by Al-Azhar in December, he condemned IS for its “barbaric crimes,” which he said was an “attempt to export their false Islam.”
He also called on the United States and its allies to fight IS, and the conference itself urged Christians in the Arab world to stand firm in the face of jihadist violence and not go into exile.
US Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out during a visit to Cairo the importance of Al-Azhar’s role in the fight against the group.
Critics often accuse the Tayeb-led Al-Azhar of holding a view of Islam that is close to the one adhered by the Egyptian government.
Officially it has kept its distance from the now blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, although within Al-Azhar there are some who follow their ideologies.
The institution supervises several universities across the country offering courses to thousands of Muslim students from around the world.
It was founded in 970 by the Shiite Fatimid dynasty that ruled Egypt between 969 and 1171, but was converted to Sunni Islam after a Sunni dynasty took over the country.
The name Al-Azhar means “The Most Radiant” and was adopted in honour of Fatima al-Zahra, daughter of the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
If the Islamic world refers to these extremists as DAESH which refers to them as non Islamic bigots. Why do we in the Western press give them the credibility and legitimacy that they crave Islamic State. Do Western governments and press want to promote Islamaphobia. Is it in the interests of English speaking governments to do so?
A top Pentagon general has informally rebranded the jihadists of Isis with the name “Daesh” after allies in the middle east asked he not use the group’s other monikers for fear they legitimize its ambitions of an Islamic state.
Lieutenant General James Terry almost exclusively used Daesh in reference to the militants at a press conference Thursday, although the Pentagon’s policy to primarily use “Isil” – an acronym for “the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” – has not changed.
Terry, who leads US operations against Isis in Iraq, said partners in the region had asked him not to use the terms Islamic State, Isil or Isis (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Secretary of state John Kerry has also shifted his language in recent weeks, using Daesh 16 times and Isil only twice during remarks to Nato counterparts in Belgium. Retired general John Allen, the US envoy to coordinate the coalition against Isis, also prefers Daesh. French president Francois Hollande has used Daesh interchangeably with the group’s other names.
Daesh is also an acronym for an Arabic variation of the group’s name: al-Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa’al Sham. Most of the middle east and many Muslims abroad use Daesh, saying that although the jihadists have declared the nebulous region they control a caliphate, they neither adhere to Islam nor control a real state. Islamic clerics in particular have taken issue with the terms that include “Islamic State”. A group of British imams has suggested to prime minister David Cameron that he call the group “the Un-Islamic State”.
Supporters of Isis dislike Daesh because it separates Islam from their mission, and also because the term has become a pejorative in Arabic. Describing the word’s history, the Guardian’s middle east editor Ian Black wrote in September that Daesh has taken on a meaning beyond the jihadists’ control: “in the plural form – ‘daw’aish’ – it means bigots who impose their views on others.”
Isis itself has gone through many iterations and held shifting titles. It began in 1999 as Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, became al-Qaida in Iraq and then the Islamic State in Iraq under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, adopted “al-Sham”, and finally set out to be simply “the Islamic State”.
When Isis attempted to rebrand itself “the Islamic State” in September, residents in the Iraqi city of Mosul told the Associated Press that the jihadists “threatened to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh … saying it shows defiance and disrespect”.
THE Islamic State extremist group has executed 100 of its own foreign fighters who tried to flee their headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Financial Times reports.
An activist opposed to both IS and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is well-known to the British paper, said he had “verified 100 executions” of foreign IS fighters trying to leave the jihadist group’s de facto capital.
IS fighters in Raqqa said the group has created a military police to clamp down on foreign fighters who do not report for duty. Dozens of homes have been raided and many jihadists have been arrested, the FT reported.
Some jihadists have become disillusioned with the realities of fighting in Syria, reports have said.
According to the British press in October, five Britons, three French, two Germans and two Belgians wanted to return home after complaining that they ended up fighting against other rebel groups rather than Assad’s regime. They were being held prisoner by IS.
In total, between 30 and 50 Britons want to return but fear they face jail, according to researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, which had been contacted by one of the jihadists speaking on their behalf.
Since a US-led coalition began a campaign of air strikes against IS in August, the extremist group has lost ground to local forces and seen the number of its fighters killed rise significantly.
There have been a string of apparent setbacks for IS in recent weeks.
Iraqi Kurds claimed on Thursday to have broken a siege on a mountain where Yazidi civilians and fighters have long been trapped.
The Kurdish advances came during a two-day blitz in the Sinjar region involving 8000 Peshmerga fighters and some of the heaviest air strikes since a US-led coalition started an air campaign four months ago.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Pentagon said several IS leaders had been killed in US air strikes.
In 40 days across October and November, some 2000 air raids killed more than 500 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.