The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL /ˈaɪsəl/; Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS /ˈaɪsɪs/), or simply as the Islamic State, is an Islamic extremist group controlling territory in Iraq and Syria, with limited territorial control in Libya and Nigeria. The group also operates or has affiliates in many other parts of the world, including Southeast Asia.
The group is known in Arabic as ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fīl-ʿIrāq wash-Shām, leading to the acronym Da'ish, Da'eesh, or DAESH (داعش, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈdaːʕiʃ]), the Arabic equivalent of "ISIL". On 29 June 2014, the group proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named its caliph, and renamed itself "Islamic State" (الدولة الإسلامية, ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah). The new name and the idea of a caliphate has been widely criticised and condemned, with the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups all refusing to acknowledge it. As caliphate, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide and that "the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes null by the expansion of the khilāfah's [caliphate's] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas". Many Islamic and non-Islamic communities judge the group to be unrepresentative of Islam.
The United Nations has held ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has reported ethnic cleansing by the group on a "historic scale". The group has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Egypt, India, and Russia. Over 60 countries are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIL.
The group originated as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group participated in the Iraqi insurgency, which had followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. In January 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, which in October 2006 proclaimed the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).
Under the leadership of al-Baghdadi, the ISI sent delegates into Syria in August 2011 after the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011. This group named itself Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-Ahli ash-Shām or al-Nusra Front, and established a large presence in Sunni-majority areas of Syria, within the governorates of Ar-Raqqah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo.
In April 2013, al-Baghdadi announced the merger of his ISI with al-Nusra Front, and announced that the name of the reunited group was now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, both Abu Mohammad al-Julani and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leaders of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda respectively, rejected the merger. After an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIL on 3 February 2014, citing its failure to consult and "notorious intransigence".
ISIL is known for its well-funded web and social media propaganda, which includes Internet videos of beheadings of soldiers, civilians, journalists and aid workers, as well as the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage sites.
The group gained notoriety after it drove the Iraqi government forces out of key western cities in Iraq. In Syria, it conducted ground attacks against both government forces and rebel factions in the Syrian Civil War. It gained those territories after an offensive, initiated in early 2014, which senior US military commanders and members of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs saw as a re-emergence of Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda militants. Iraq's territorial loss almost caused a collapse of the Iraqi government and prompted renewal of US military action in Iraq.