ISIS through the years

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The Islamic State group launched a blistering offensive in 2014, capturing nearly a third of Iraq’s territory before it was driven out at the end of 2017.

Here is a recap of the main events involving jihadists in Iraq.

Jihadist breakthrough 

In January 2014, Iraq loses its first key town since the US-led invasion as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its allies capture Fallujah and parts of Ramadi.

On June 10 ISIL launches a lightning offensive in northwestern Iraq, seizing second city Mosul and sweeping across Sunni Arab areas bordering the autonomous Kurdistan region. Tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis flee.

On June 29 ISIL declares a “caliphate” in territories it holds in Iraq and Syria, rebranding itself the Islamic State (IS) group and declaring its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “caliph”.

Read more: ISIS remains a global threat despite military defeat

Yazidi abuses

In early August IS conquers several Kurdish-held towns, including Sinjar and Zumar near the Syrian border, driving out tens of thousands of civilians, many from the Yazidi minority who flee to inhospitable mountain regions.

According to the United Nations, thousands of women and teenagers, many of them Yazidi, have suffered terrible abuse in zones controlled by IS, including rape, kidnapping, and slavery.

Anti-jihadist coalition

In August 2014 the US gets directly involved in Iraq for the first time since its troops left in 2011, bombing IS positions and initiating a coalition to fight the jihadists.

Only a minority of the countries in the coalition deploys soldiers on the ground. The US, in the biggest contribution, sends 5,000 troops to Iraq.

Read more: Fatally wounded ISIS try to reallocate resources and reappoint their killers

First defeats

On March 31, 2015, Iraq announces the “liberation” of Tikrit, a city north of Baghdad, after nearly 10 months under IS rule.

On November 13 Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes recapture the northern town of Sinjar, and on February 9, 2016 IS is ousted from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province Anbar.

The army retakes neighboring Fallujah on June 26.

Read more: Will the U.S. withdraw its troops from Syria after ISIS is…

Mosul retaken

A major offensive to retake Mosul is launched in October 2016 involving some 30,000 Iraqi troops, backed by US-led air support.

After a months-long battle that leaves the city in ruins and thousands displaced, victory is declared on July 10. The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says it marks the end of the jihadists’ “caliphate”.

In August 2017 Iraq announces Tal Afar and the surrounding areas to the west of Mosul are fully retaken, declaring “the province of Nineveh is now entirely in the hands of our forces”.

In November, Iraqi forces reclaim Rawa and Al-Qaim, the main town in the group’s last bastion in the country along the border with Syria.

Read more: Russia to meet ISIS threat from Afghanistan

Victory claimed

On December 8 Iraqi forces announce a new drive against IS fighters holding out in the western desert.

A day later, Abadi declares the “end of the war” against IS and “complete control” of Iraq’s border region with Syria.

Experts warn however that jihadists are still hiding in the vast desert plains along the porous border with Syria and IS continues to claim sporadic attacks in Iraq.

© Agence France-Presse

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