The rise and fall of Islamic State, whose ‘caliphate’ is now said to be over
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The rise and fall of Islamic State, whose ‘caliphate’ is now said to be over

Key moments in the history of the terror group which at one point controlled territory the size of Britain in Syria and Iraq

Illustrative photo of demonstrators chanting pro-Islamic State slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq, June 16, 2014. (AP, File)
Illustrative photo of demonstrators chanting pro-Islamic State slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq, June 16, 2014. (AP, File)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Islamic State group erupted from the chaos of Syria and Iraq’s conflicts and swiftly did what no Islamic militant group had done before, conquering a giant stretch of territory and declaring itself a “caliphate.”

Its territorial rule, which at its height in 2014 stretched across nearly a third of both Syria and Iraq, ended with a last stand by several hundred of its militants at a tiny Syrian village on the banks of the Euphrates near the border with Syria.

Here are the key moments in the rise and fall of the Islamic State group:

2013

April — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, announces the merger of his group with al-Qaida’s franchise in Syria, forming the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and expanding his reach into neighboring Syria.

This file image made from video posted on a militant website July 5, 2014, shows the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. (AP Photo/Militant video, File)

2014

January — Al-Baghdadi’s forces overrun the city of Fallujah in Iraq’s western Anbar province and parts of the nearby provincial capital of Ramadi. In Syria, they seize sole control of the city of Raqqa after driving out rival Syrian rebel factions, and it becomes their de facto capital.

February — Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri disavows al-Baghdadi after the Iraqi militant ignores his demands that IS leave Syria.

June — IS captures Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and pushes south as Iraqi forces crumble, eventually capturing Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit and reaching the outskirts of Baghdad. When they threaten Shiite holy sites, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric issues a call to arms, and masses of volunteers, largely backed and armed by Iran, join militias.

June 29 — The group renames itself the Islamic State and declares the establishment of a self-styled “caliphate,” a traditional model of Islamic rule, in its territories in Iraq and Syria. Al-Baghdadi is declared the caliph.

July 4 — Al-Baghdadi makes his first public appearance, delivering a Friday sermon in Mosul’s historic al-Nuri Mosque. He urges Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.

August — IS captures the town of Sinjar west of Mosul and begins a systematic slaughter of the tiny Yazidi religious community. Women and girls are kidnapped as sex slaves; hundreds remain missing to this day.

August 8 — The US launches its campaign of airstrikes against IS in Iraq.

September  22 — The US-led coalition begins an aerial campaign against IS in Syria.

2015

January — Iraqi Kurdish fighters, backed by US-led airstrikes, drive IS out of several towns north of Mosul. In Syria, Kurdish fighters backed by US airstrikes repel an IS onslaught on the town of Kobani on the border with Turkey, the first significant defeat for IS.

April 1 — US-backed Iraqi forces retake Tikrit, their first major victory against IS.

May 20 — IS captures the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, where the extremists later destroy archaeological treasures.

2016

February 9 — Iraqi forces recapture Ramadi after months of fighting and at enormous cost, with thousands of buildings destroyed. Almost the entire population fled the city.

June 26 — Fallujah is declared liberated by Iraqi forces after a five-week battle.

July 3 — IS sets off a gigantic suicide truck bomb outside a Baghdad shopping mall, killing almost 300 people, the deadliest attack in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion.

Iraqis inspect the damage at the site of a suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State on July 3, 2016 in Baghdad’s central Karrada district. The blast ripped through a street in the Karrada area where many people go to shop ahead of the holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, killing over 200 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said. (Sabah Arar/AFP)

October 17 — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces the start of the operation to liberate Mosul.

October 21 — IS militants and sleeper cells stage a wave of attacks with suicide blasts in the central Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing at least 80 people in an attempt to divert attention from Mosul.

November 5 — The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launch Operation Euphrates Wrath, the first of five operations aiming to retake Raqqa, starting with an encircling of the city.

2017

January 24 — Al-Abadi announces eastern Mosul has been “fully liberated.”

Februaary 19 — Iraqi forces begin the assault on western Mosul, taking the city’s airport and nearby military base within four days.

May 10 — SDF captures the strategic Tabqa dam after weeks of battles and a major airlift operation that brought SDF fighters and their US advisers to the area. The fall of the dam facilitated the push on Raqqa, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.

June 6 — SDF fighters begin an attack on Raqqa from three sides, backed by US-led coalition airstrikes.

June 18 — Iraqi forces launch battle for Mosul’s Old City, the last IS stronghold there.

June 21 — IS destroys Mosul’s iconic al-Nuri Mosque and its 12th century leaning minaret as Iraqi forces close in, according to Iraqi and coalition officials.

Iraqi civilians fleeing walk past the destroyed al-Nuri mosque as Iraqi forces continue their advance against Islamic State militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

July 10 — Iraqi prime minister declares victory over IS in Mosul and end of the extremists’ caliphate in Iraq.

Oct. 17 — SDF takes full control of Raqqa after months of heavy bombardment that devastates the city.

September-December —Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air power and Iranian forces, recapture IS territory on the western bank of the Euphrates River, seizing the cities of Deir el-Zour, Mayadin and Boukamal on the border with Iraq.

2018

August 23 — IS leader al-Baghdadi resurfaces in his first purported audio recording in almost a year; he urges followers to “persevere” and continue fighting.

September 10 — SDF launches a ground offensive, backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, to take the last territory held by IS in Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

2019

February-March — SDF besiege IS in the village of Baghouz, the last scrap of land the group holds. The advance stalls as some 30,000 civilians, mostly families of IS members, are evacuated from the pocket over the course of weeks.

March 23 — SDF declares the complete capture of Baghouz and the end of the Islamic State group’s territorial “caliphate.”

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