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the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State, and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh, is a Salafi jihadist militant group that follows a fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam.

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest, and Syria to the west.

Islam is the religion articulated by the Quran, a text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God, and, for the vast majority of adherents, by the teachings and normative example of Muhammad.

An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components in a phrase or a word, usually individual letters and sometimes syllables.

Profile: Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by Al Jazeera English

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The group's adoption of the name Islamic State and its idea of a caliphate have been widely criticised, with the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups rejecting its statehood.

A caliphate is an area containing an Islamic steward known as a caliph —a person considered a religious successor to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and a leader of the entire Muslim community.

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization to promote international co-operation.

The Evolution of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant by STRATFORvideo

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The group has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and many individual countries.

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ISIL is widely known for its videos of beheadings of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites.

The term "cult" has a long and revered history in the sociology of religion, and no prevailing consistent definition or practical usage in academia.

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The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a "historic scale" in northern Iraq.

Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory by a more powerful ethnic group, with the intent of making it ethnically homogeneous.

Human rights are moral principles or norms, which describe certain standards of human behaviour, and are regularly protected as legal rights in municipal and international law.

Amnesty International is a non-governmental organisation focused on human rights with over 7 million members and supporters around the world.

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ISIL originated as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces.

Al-Qaeda is a militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several other Arab volunteers who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq lasted from 20 March to 1 May 2003 and signaled the start of the Iraq War, which was dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the United States.

Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad was a militant Jihadist group led by the Jordanian national Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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The group first proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate and began referring to itself as Islamic State or IS in June 2014.

A worldwide caliphate is the concept of a single one-world government as proposed by some Muslims, in particular Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic fundamentalist militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

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As a caliphate, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.

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ISIL gained prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre.

The Sinjar massacre was the killing of 5,000 Yazidi men in Sinjar city and Sinjar District in Iraq's Nineveh Governorate by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in August 2014.

Sinjār also known as Shingal is a town in Shingal District, Nineveh Province, Ezidkhan near Mount Shingal.

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In Syria, the group has conducted ground attacks on both government forces and opposition factions.

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By December 2015, the group had control over vast landlocked territory in Iraq and Syria, with a population estimate ranging between 2.8 million and 8 million people, where it enforces its interpretation of sharia law.

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ISIL is now believed to be operational in 18 countries across the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, with "aspiring branches" in Mali, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

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