ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, as confirmed by the terrorist militant group also known by the names IS, ISIL, and Daesh. A new leader is declared.

In the news, we hear of ISIS. The violence and attacks all over the world speak of their power and infamy.

Yet what is ISIS? What brought it into existence in the first place?

It is now time for us to untangle this matter from the very start. Here’s a brief history of the organization for you.

How did ISIS start? Where are they based? 

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi founded ISIS back in 1999, when it was known by the name Jamaat al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad (JTWJ). Al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006 during a US airstrike.

Image result for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Abu Ayyub al-Masri took the leadership position, renaming the group Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). al-Masri died in 2010 during an US-Iraqi operation. This is when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became the group’s leader.

In 2013, the group expanded into Syria when they fought the forces in the country. This is when they have renamed themselves to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Currently, their territories in Syria and Iraq are almost gone. However, wire transfers and testimonies suggest that they have set up a base in Central Africa.

What are their beliefs? 

According to the Islamic Networks Group (ING), ISIS takes an extremist interpretation of Islam that Muslims themselves deem illegitimate. ING said that the ISIS is focused on the notion of  jihad, which ISIS defined as “holy war.”

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However, ING states that the Qur’an does to permit or justify the atrocities and violent behaviour committed by the ISIS. In the context of the Qur’an, jihad is only allowed as a form defence when a Muslim community is attacked.

However, ISIS has lifted Islamic scripture out of context to justify their killings and to put forward their propaganda.

How did ISIS rise to power?

The Week cited several key factors that came into play in the current strength of influence of ISIS.

  • In Iraq and Syria, the governments are led by the Shiite and Alawite Muslims. This alienated the Sunni Muslims in the region — something which ISIS took advantage of by teaching a distorted version of Islam and giving them a feeling of control through violence.
  • ISIS partnered with Saddam Hussein’s former officers and soldiers, providing them with more strength.
  • ISIS is rich. According to History.com, it is among the richest — having gained an estimate of $US 2 billion in 2014. The following were cited as the source of money of the terrorist organization:
    • Seizing control of oil refineries, banks, and other assets in their territories
    • Kidnapping for ransom
    • Taxation
    • Racketeering and Extortion
    • Donations
    • Looting
    • Support from foreign fighters

What’s next now that Baghdadi is dead?

In a seven minute recording, ISIS confirmed that death of al-Baghdadi. They also warned the US not to gloat over the death of their leader.

In the recording, they announced the rise of their new leader under by the name of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi. Apparently, al-Qurayshi was recommended by al-Baghdadi himself.

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Apart from his name, nothing else is known about the new leader of ISIS. There are speculations that the name was purposefully made generic so as to confuse the investigations on the new leader.

In the same recording, the ISIS called upon their supporters to pledge their allegiance to the al-Qurayshi. The pledge, under al-Baghdadi’s reign, meant video recordings of attackers pledging allegiance before killing their victims, according to The New York Times

The New York Times also said that counterterrorism officials are expecting video pledges from the affiliates of ISIS, including Afghanistan, Sinai, the Philippines, amongst others.

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