ISIL territorial claims

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Islamic State
الدولة الإسلامية
ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah
Flag of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
لا إله إلا الله، محمد رسول الله
"Lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh, Muhammadun rasūlu llāh"
"There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.
دولة الإسلام باقية وتتمدد
Dawlat al Islam Baqiyah wa Tatamaddad
"The Islamic State remains and expands"
  • "أمتي، قد لاح فجر "
    "My Ummah, Dawn Has Appeared"[1] (unofficial)
Maximum extent of ISIL's territorial control in Syria and Iraq in late 2015.
Maximum extent of ISIL's territorial control in Syria and Iraq in late 2015.
Status Unrecognized proto-state
Designated as a terrorist organization
Capital Raqqa (2013–17)
Mayadin[2] (2017)
Official languages Arabic
Religion Sunni Islam
Government Unitary Islamic theocratic totalitarian "caliphate"
• Self-proclaimed "caliph"
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
• Head of the Shura Council
Abu Arkan al-Ameri
War on Terror
• Established under the name of Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad
• Joined al-Qaeda
October 2004
• Declaration of an Islamic State in Iraq
13 October 2006
• Claim of territory in the Levant
8 April 2013
• Separated from al-Qaeda
3 February 2014
• Declaration of "caliphate"
29 June 2014
10 July 2017
Currency Claimed Islamic dinar[3]
de facto Iraqi dinar, Syrian pound
Driving side right

The core of the territory of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was from 2014 until November 2017 in Iraq and Syria, where the organization controlled significant swathes of urban, rural, and desert territory.[4] ISIL also controls land in Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria,[5] Egypt,[6] and possibly Somalia[7] and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[8] The group also has insurgent cells in Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Tunisia, the Caucasus, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia that do not control territory.[4][9] As of October 2017, ISIS still holds 10,210 km2 of territory in Iraq and Syria, according to the US-led coalition against ISIS.[10]

In early 2017, ISIL controlled approximately 45,377 square kilometers (17520 square miles) of territory in Iraq and Syria and 7,323 km2 of territory elsewhere, for a total of 52,700 km2.[4] This represents a substantial decline from the group's territorial peak in late 2014, when it controlled between 100,000 km2[4] and 110,000 km2[11] of territory in total.[4][10] ISIL's territory has declined substantially in almost every country since 2014, a result of the group's unpopularity and the military action taken against it.[4] ISIL propaganda claims a peak territorial extent of 282,485 km2.[12]

The majority of ISIL-controlled territory, though much-diminished, continues to be in eastern Syria, in addition to isolated pockets elsewhere in the country.[4] The majority of the terrorist group's territory, population, revenue, and prestige came from the territory it held in Iraq and Syria.[4] In Afghanistan, ISIL mostly controls territory near the Pakistan border and has lost 87% of its territory since spring 2015.[4] In Libya, the group has lost nearly 100% of its territory, and as of 2017 controls only a handful of villages and neighborhoods.[4] In Egypt, the group controls 910 km2 of land centered around the village of Sheikh Zuweid, which represents less than 1% of Egypt's territory.[4] The terrorists control 6,041 km2 of territory in Nigeria, although the Nigerian government does not acknowledge the group as holding any land.[4] The group has lost 75% of its Nigerian territory since 2014 and has fallen back to its strongholds in northeast Borno State.[4]


The 5th edition of ISIL's Dabiq magazine explained the group's process for establishing new provinces. Jihadist groups in a given area must consolidate into a unified body and publicly declare their allegiance to al-Baghdadi. The group must nominate a Wāli (Governor), a Shura Council (religious leadership), and formulate a military strategy to consolidate territorial control and implement ISIL's version of Sharia law. Once formally accepted, ISIL considers the group to be one of its provinces and gives it support.[13][14] Dabiq has acknowledged support in regions including East Turkestan (Xinjiang), Indonesia and the Philippines, and claimed that ISIL would eventually establish wilayat in these areas after forming direct relationships with its supporters there.[14]


ISIL Spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani stated that "the legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah's [caliphate's] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas."[15] ISIL thus rejects the political divisions established by Western powers during World War I in the Sykes–Picot Agreement as it absorbs territory in Syria and Iraq.[16][17][18] The Long War Journal writes that the logical implication is that the group will consider preexisting militant groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) illegitimate if they do not nullify themselves and submit to ISIL's authority.[19]

While branches in Libya and Egypt have been very active and attempted to exercise territorial control, branches in other countries like Algeria and Saudi Arabia have been less active and do not seem to have a strong presence.[20][21]

Since June 2015, there have been no further provinces officially announced by ISIL. This is despite the group receiving public pledges of allegiance from militants in countries like Somalia, Bangladesh and the Philippines, and subsequently releasing statements and videos from those regions through its official media channels.[22][23][24] Analyst Charlie Winter speculates that this is due to the lackluster performance of many of ISIL's existing provinces, and that ISIL's leadership seems to be identifying new affiliates as simply "soldiers of the caliphate".[25]

Specific territorial claims

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is an active extremist Islamist rebel group and self-declared Caliphate in the Middle East that claims to be a sovereign state, and as such has made announcements of territorial control and aspirations of control. No other nation recognizes ISIL as a state. Its goal is the foundation of an Islamic state and a worldwide caliphate, in accordance with Salafi Islam, by the means of military jihad.

ISIL primarily claimed territory in Syria and Iraq, subdividing each country into multiple wilayah (provinces), largely based on preexisting governance boundaries.[26][27] The first territorial claims by the group outside of Syria and Iraq were announced by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on 13 November 2014, when he announced new wilayats, or provinces, in Libya (Wilayah Barqah, Wilayah Tarabulus, and Wilayah Fizan), Algeria (Wilayah al-Jazair), Egypt (Wilayah Sinai), Yemen (Wilayah al-Yaman), and Saudi Arabia (Wilayah al-Haramayn).[28][29] In 2015, new provinces were also announced in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Wilayah Khorasan),[20] Northern Nigeria (Wilayah Gharb Afrīqiyyah),[30] and the North Caucasus (Wilayah al-Qawqaz).[31]

Iraq and Syria

When the Iraq-based insurgent group Mujahideen Shura Council announced it was establishing an Islamic State of Iraq in October 2006, it claimed authority over seven Iraqi provinces: Baghdad, Al Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and parts of Babil.[32]

When the group changed its name to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and expanded into Syria in April 2014, it claimed nine Syrian provinces, covering most of the country and lying largely along existing provincial boundaries: Al Barakah, Al Khayr, Raqqa, Homs, Halab, Idlib, Hamah, Damascus, and Latakia.[33] It later subdivided the territory under its control to create the new provinces of al-Furat,[27][34][35] Fallujah, Dijla, and al-Jazeera.[36][37] On December 9, 2017 Iraqi military forces announced the war against ISIL in Iraq had been won and that they no longer controlled territory in Iraq. On June 2017 IS affiliate Khalid ibn al-Walid Army Started referring to themselves as "Wilayat Horan", one month later IS media started referring to all its claims in Syria as "Wilayat al-Sham".[38]

Since mid-2018 ISIL has referred to its territory in the Levant simply as Wilayat al-Sham and has done the same with Iraq calling it Wilayat al-Iraq, but still continues to acknowledge and use references to specific regions in those territories, this has also been done with its claims in Libya.[39]


ISIL divides Libya into three historical provinces, claiming authority over Barqa (or Cyrenaica) in the east, Fezzan in the desert south, and Tarabulus (or Tripolitania) in the west, around the capital.[40][41]

In 2014, a number of leading ISIL commanders arrived in the city of Derna, which had been a major source of fighters in the Syrian Civil War and Iraq Insurgency. Over a number of months, they united many local militant factions under their leadership and declared war on anyone who opposed them, killing judges, civic leaders, local militants who rejected their authority, and other opponents. On 5 October 2014, the militants, who by then controlled part of the city, gathered to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[42][43] In February 2015, ISIL forces took over parts of the Libyan city of Sirte. In the following months, they used it as a base to capture neighbouring towns including Harawa,[44] and Nofaliya.[45] ISIL began governing Sirte and treating it as the capital of their territory.[46][47]

ISIL suffered reversals from mid-2015 when they were expelled from much of Derna following clashes with rival militants,[48] following months of intermittent fighting, ISIL eventually redeployed to other parts of Libya.[49] Its leader Abu Nabil al Anbari was killed in a U.S. air strike in November 2015.[50] Libya's Interim Government launched a major offensive against ISIL territory around Sirte in May 2016,[51][52] capturing the city by December 2016.[53]

Egypt (Sinai)

Sinai province logo

The Egyptian militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis swore allegiance to ISIL in November 2014. After al-Baghdadi's speech on 13 November, the group changed its name to Sinai Province on the Twitter feed claiming to represent the group.[29] The group has carried out attacks in Sinai.

Saudi Arabia

Al-Baghdadi announced a Wilayah in Saudi Arabia in November 2014, calling for the overthrow of the Saudi Royal Family and criticizing the Kingdom's participation in the US-led coalition against ISIL.[29] The group has carried out attacks in the country under the names of Najd Province and Hejaz Province.[54]


ISIL established a Yemeni Wilayah in November 2014.[28][20] The branch's first attack occurred in March 2015, when it carried out suicide bombings on 2 Shia Mosques in the Yemeni capital.[55] At least 7 ISIL Wilayat, named after existing provincial boundaries in Yemen, have claimed responsibility for attacks, including Hadhramaut Province, Shabwah Province and Sana'a Province.[30] Following the outbreak of the Yemeni Civil War in 2015, ISIL struggled to establish much of a presence in the country in the face of competition from the larger and more established Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militant group. Many of ISIL's regional cells in Yemen have not been visibly active since their establishment and the group has not been able to seize control of territory the way they have done in Iraq and Syria.[56] The group has also experienced leadership turmoil and defections from its rank and file.[57]


Members of a militant group named Jund al-Khilafah swore allegiance to ISIL in September 2014.[58] ISIL in Algeria gained notoriety when it beheaded French tourist Hervé Gourdel in September 2014.[20] On 13 November 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced that the group had changed its name to "Wilayah al-Jazair" in accordance to the structure of the rest of groups aligned with ISIL.[28][29] Algerian security forces killed the group's leader, Khalid Abu-Sulayman, in December 2014, and five of its six commanders in a May 2015 raid. Since then, the group has not claimed any significant attacks and has largely been silent.[59]


On 29 January 2015, Hafiz Saeed Khan, Abdul Rauf and other militants in the region swore an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Khan was subsequently named as the Wāli (Governor) of a new branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan called Khorasan Province, named after the historical Khorasan region.[60][61][62]

ISIL attempted to establish themselves in Southern Afghanistan, especially in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, but were resisted by Taliban forces.[63][64][65] They were able to establish a foothold in parts of Nangarhar, and recruited disaffected members of the Taliban.[66] In August 2015, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader, Usman Ghazi, swore allegiance to ISIL and announced that the group should be considered part of Wilayah Khorasan.[67]

The group suffered reversals in 2016, losing control of some territory in the wake of attacks from US Forces, the Afghan Government[68] and the Taliban.[69] Hafiz Saeed Khan was reportedly killed in a US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan on 25 July 2016.[70]


On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL via an audio message posted on the organisation's Twitter account.[71][72] Abu Mohammad al-Adnani welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described it as an expansion of the group's caliphate to West Africa.[73] ISIL publications from late March 2015 began referring to members of Boko Haram as part of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiya (West Africa Province).[30] Boko Haram suffered significant reversals in the year following the pledge of allegiance, with an offensive by the Nigerian military, assisted by neighboring powers, driving them from much of the territory they had seized in North East Nigeria.[74] Boko Haram suffered a split in 2016, with ISIL appointing 'Abu Musab al-Barnawi' as the group's new leader, due to disagreements with Abubakar Shekau's leadership. This was rejected by Shekau and his supporters, who continued to operate independently.[75][76]

North Caucasus

ISIL militants in Syria issued a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014: "we will liberate Chechnya and the entire Caucasus, God willing. Your throne has already teetered, it is under threat and will fall when we come to you because Allah is truly on our side."[77] In early 2015, commanders of the militant Caucasus Emirate group in Chechnya and Dagestan announced their defection and pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[78][79] In a June 2015 audio statement posted online, ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani accepted the pledges of allegiance and appointed Abu Muhammad al-Qadari (Rustam Asildarov) as ISIL Governor of a new Caucasus Province. He called on other militants in the region to join with and follow al-Qadari.[31][80] The group has carried out occasional, low-level attacks since then.[81] Russian security services killed Rustam Asildarov in December 2016.[82]


In February 2014, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem declared its support for ISIL.[83] On 2 April 2015, elements of this group, along with members of the Army of Islam and the Gaza faction of Ansar Bait al-Maqdis,[84][85] formed the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade, also known as Islamic State in Gaza,[86] as it predominantly operates in the Gaza Strip.


The Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) is active since 2015, and though it remains a small militia of around 300 fighters, it has been considered possible by experts that ISS controls a number of villages in Puntland's hinterland.[7] Furthermore, the group managed to capture and hold the town of Qandala for over a month in late 2016. Despite this, ISS has not been acknowledged as official province by the ISIL central leadership.[87]


Abu Sayyaf is ISIL's most powerful affiliate in the Philippines; another ISIL-affiliated group is the Maute group. Both groups worked together with other ISIL affiliates to seize parts of Marawi City in 23 May 2017, starting the Battle of Marawi.

On 16 October, ISIL's Emir of Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon, along with the Maute group's remaining leader Omar Maute was killed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Previously, the Maute group's co-leader and Omar's brother Abdullah Maute, as well as their other 5 male siblings, have been neutralized by the ongoing counter-offensives. 2 days after the leaders' death, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said that Malaysian terrorist and senior commander Mahmud Ahmad is also presumed killed in another operation.

The Battle of Marawi was declared over by 23 October by the government, at which point all participating militants have been successfully neutralized, effectively blocking ISIL's Asian expansion. The government wiped out the Maute group after the battle.

In December 2017, remnants of the Maute group started to recruiting new members in a new group called "Turaifie Group" with as leader, Abu Turaifie he calmed himself as successor of the former leader of Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon.[88]

Democratic Republic of the Congo

In October 2017, a video emerged on pro-ISIL channels that showed a small number of militants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who declared to be part of the "City of Monotheism and Monotheists" (MTM) group. The leader of the group went on to say that "that this is Dar al Islam of the Islamic State in Central Africa" and called upon other like-minded individuals to travel to MTM territory in order to join the war against the government. The Long War Journal noted that though this pro-ISIL group in Congo appeared to be very small, its emergence had gained a notable amount of attention from ISIL sympathizers.[8]


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  • Warner, Jason (2017). "Sub-Saharan Africa's Three "New" Islamic State Affiliates" (PDF). CTC Sentinel. 10 (1): 28–32.

External links

  • From Syria to Bosnia: Isis and its affiliates around the world
  • Islamic State moves in on al-Qaeda turf
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