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Islamic State and Abu Bakr Baghdadi: What is the status?

Islamic State and Abu Bakr Baghdadi

The Islamic State group has lost all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, but its leader and self-proclaimed “caliph” has still not caught.

With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man, responsible for steering his chillingly violent organization into mass slaughter of opponents and directing and inspiring terror attacks across continents and in the heart of Europe.

Timeline of Islamic State rise and fall:

2004-11:

  • In the chaos following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, an al Qaeda offshoot sets up there, changing its name in 2006 to Islamic State in Iraq.

2011:

  • After Syria’s crisis begins, the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sends operatives there to set up a Syrian subsidiary.
  • Baghdadi follows in 2013, breaking with al Qaeda and renaming his group “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”.

2014:

  • Its sudden success starts with the seizure of Fallujah in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria at the turn of the year.
  • The jihadists take Mosul and Tikrit in June and overrun the border with Syria.
  • At Mosul’s great Mosque, Baghdadi renames the group Islamic State (IS) and declares a caliphate.
  • In September 2014, the United States builds a coalition against IS and starts air strikes to stop its momentum, helping the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia turn the militants back from Kobani on the border with Turkey.

2016:

  • Iraq takes back Fallujah in June, the first town IS had captured during its initial blaze of success.
  • In August, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG, takes Manbij in Syria.
  • Alarmed by the Kurdish advances near its own frontier, Turkey launches an offensive into Syria against both IS and the YPG.
  • Enmity between Turkey and the YPG will continue to complicate operations against IS.

2017:

  • Islamic State suffers a year of catastrophic defeats.
  • In June it loses Mosul to Iraqi forces after months of fighting and Baghdad declares the end of the caliphate.
  • In September the Syrian army races eastwards backed by Russia and Iran to relieve Deir al-Zor and re-extend state control at the Euphrates River.

2018:

  • The Syrian government retakes IS enclaves in Yarmouk, south of Damascus, and on the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
  • The SDF advances further down the Euphrates and Iraqi forces take the rest of the border region.
  • The United States vows to withdraw troops.

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