Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Isis, a year of the caliphate: Nine battles that made the group what it is

The group's influence has spread rapidly

Danny Romero
Saturday 27 June 2015 15:12 BST

Since declaring a 'caliphate' in Syria and Iraq and demanding allegiance from Muslims across the world, the influence of Isis has spread across the Middle East.

Now, a year on from the beginning of their rapid expansion, the jihadist group occupies vast swathes of the region, while their propaganda has inspired recruits from as far afield as France, Germany and the UK.

Here are the nine battles that have made the so-called Islamic State what it is today:

1) 18 April, 2010: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is killed by US and Iraqi forces

Iraqi forces in Baghdad after Abu Omar al-Baghdadi's death (AFP)

American and Iraqi forces killed Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, two of Islamic State in Iraq’s top leaders, in a safe-house in Tikrit. A number of al-Qaeda leaders were also killed during a security operation in the Thar Thar region in Anbar. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed the new leader a month later.

2) 22 July 2013: Abu Ghraib prison break

Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison (Getty)


More than 500 inmates from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison escaped after suicide bombers drove cars filled with explosives to the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on a Sunday night. Militants shot at prison guards with rocket-propelled grenades. Ten policemen and four militants were killed during the battle. Most of the inmates who were broken out were convicted senior members of al-Qaeda awaiting execution. The attack killed dozens, including at least 25 members of Iraqi security forces

3) 30 January 2014: Capture of Fallujah by Isis led jihadis

Over 100 died during battles in Ramadi and Fallujah (Getty)

The Iraqi government lost Fallujah to al-Qaeda-linked militants, after days of fighting when security forces removed an anti-government protest camp. A masked Isis fighter declared the establishment of an “Islamic emirate” in Fallujah. Over 100 people were killed during the battle in Ramadi and Fallujah, with the militants raising a flag and declaring an Islamic state.

4) 10 June 2014: Capture of Mosul and Tikrit by a few thousand Isis fighters

Kurdish troops watch Isis positions in Mosul (AFP) (AFP/Getty Images)

After three days of fighting, ISIS extremists roamed the streets of Mosul freely. Two divisions of Iraqi soldiers, about 30,000 troops, ran away from the ISIS fighting force of a few thousand.

Iraqi security sources estimate more than a thousand mainly Shi'ite troops were killed during the capture of Mosul while others deserted their army, complaining about their leadership’s lack of training and equipment. Isis fighters then arrived in Tikrit unopposed taking control of the city.

"We have lost Mosul this morning," said a colonel at a local military command centre. "Army and police forces left their positions and ISIL terrorists are in full control.”

5) 3 August 2014: Isis defeats Iraqi Kurds in Sinjar, US starts air strikes

Displaced Iraqis shelter following the Isis attack on Sinjar (AFP) (AFP/Getty Images)

At least 80 Yazidi men were massacred by Isis militants who refused to convert to Islam, after jihadists stormed a small village in Kojo in Northern Iraq. They also kidnapped 100 women and girls in northern Iraq. US drone air strikes then destroyed two armed vehicles in retaliation. Isis' push to the border sent 50,000 Yazidis fleeing for lives and hiding in the Sinjar mountains.

6) 13 September 2014: Isis launches the siege of Kobani

An explosion rocks Kobani during the siege (Getty)

After beginning its siege in September, Isis had captured 350 villages by October, raising its first banner on the outskirts of Kobani. By April they had lost most of it due to heavy clashes and resistance from YPG (Kurdish People’s Protection Unit) along with Peshmerga, the free Syrian Army and US-led coalition air strikes. After the siege, Kobani lay in ruins and thousands of refugees were unable to return.

7) March 2015: Capture of Tikrit by Iraqi army and Shia militias

Shia fighters fire a howitzer during the battle for Tikrit (AFP)

Beginning on 2 March 2015 some 20,000 Shia militiamen surrounded the city with only 3,000 government soldiers, some special forces and 1,000 Sunni tribal fighters. The Iraqi government claimed victory after a month-long battle, announcing that Tikrit was Isis-free on 12 April 2015.

8) May 2015: Isis Captures Ramadi, Iraq

Ramadi engulfed in smoke after a mortar attack (AFP)

The Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to Isis after over five months of fighting. Five-hundred people were killed during the last days of fighting between 14 and 17 May, when all Iraqi security forces had fled.

9) 20 May 2015: Isis captures and takes control of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria

The ancient Syrian city of Palmya, which fell to Isis forces (AFP)

After a seven-day battle against Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Isis took control of the historic city of Palmyra, continuing the group’s advancement west. The UN said one-third of Palmyra’s 200,000-strong population had fled. Isis then executed over 250 residents and Syrian fighters.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in