Advances and setbacks: A timeline of key ISIS battles in Iraq and Syria

Members of the Iraqi Army are photographed with an ISIS flag, claimed after fighting with ISIS militants in western Mosul, Iraq, on June 26, 2017.
Members of the Iraqi Army are photographed with an ISIS flag, claimed after fighting with ISIS militants in western Mosul, Iraq, on June 26, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BAGHDAD - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is being driven out of its Iraqi stronghold Mosul after government troops on Thursday captured the city's ruined mosque where the militant group proclaimed its self-styled caliphate. Meanwhile, its bastion in Syria's Raqqa, has been surrounded by US-backed forces.

Thursday's developments were the latest setbacks for ISIS, which declared its "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq three years ago but has since lost most of the territory it once controlled.

Here are the key dates concerning the militant group.

MILITANT GROUP'S ORIGINS

- 2004: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian leading a militant insurgency against US forces in Iraq, pledges allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and forms Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

- June 2006: Zarqawi is killed in a US airstrike and AQI joins other militant groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its leader.

 
 

- 2010: Former US detainee Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes leader after the two previous AQI leaders are killed in a joint US-Iraqi operation. Baghdadi begins rebuilding an already weakened AQI that had been pressured by a US troop surge and rejection from Sunni Arab tribesmen who are against the group's brutal tactis.

RISE OF ISIS

- April 8, 2013: ISI declares its absorption of an Al-Qaeda-backed militant group in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Al-Nusra Front. Baghdadi says that his group will now be known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and is fighting for an Islamic state in Syria.

A day later, Al-Nusra pledges allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, distancing itself from Baghdadi and rejecting the ISIS attempt to merge with the group. Al-Qaeda leaders also reject ISIS, although members loyal to Baghdadi splits from the group and remain in Syria to help in the fight. Al-Qaeda formally disavows ISIL in early 2014.

SYRIA'S RAQQA FALLS


Members of Roj Mine Control Organization search for mines and explosive devices planted by Islamic State militants to disarm them near Ain Issa village north of Raqqa, Syria, on June 20, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

- Jan 14, 2014: ISIL conquers the city of Raqqa in northern Syria, after fierce fighting with rival rebels. Raqqa, the first provincial capital lost completely by the regime, becomes its stronghold.

The city becomes infamous as the scene of some of the group's worst atrocities, including public beheadings and a hub for planning attacks overseas.

IRAQ'S MOSUL CAPTURED


Iraqis walk in west Mosul on April 25, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

- June 10, 2014: ISIL starts a lightning offensive in north-western Iraq in which it seizes second city Mosul before sweeping across much of the Sunni Arab heartland bordering autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi sect flee.

'CALIPHATE' PROCLAIMED

- June 29, 2014: ISIL declares a "caliphate" across the territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria.

It rebrands itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and declares its chief Baghdadi "caliph" and "leader for Muslims everywhere".

US-LED COALITION

- August 8, 2014: US warplanes strike ISIS positions in northern Iraq in response to an appeal from Baghdad and in September form an international coalition to defeat the group.

- Sept 23, 2014: The US and Arab allies launch air strikes on ISIS in Syria.

ISIS DEFEATS IN IRAQ

- March 31, 2015: Iraq announces the "liberation" of Tikrit, 160km north of Baghdad. ISIS had controlled Tikrit for nearly 10 months.

- Feb 9, 2016: The Sunni town of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, is recaptured from the militants, who had overrun it the previous May.

- June 26, 2016: Iraqi forces recapture Fallujah after two and a half years in which the city was outside government control.

ISIS LOSSES IN SYRIA

- Jan 26, 2015: ISIS is driven out of the Syrian border town of Kobane after more than four months of fighting led by Kurdish forces backed by coalition air strikes.

- August 6, 2016: The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by US air strikes recaptures the northern Syrian town of Manbij.

- Aug 24, 2016: Turkish troops and Syrian rebels retake the border town of Jarabulus, during Operation Euphrates Shield, which also targets Kurdish militia.

- Feb 24, 2017: The Turkish army announces that it has taken full control of the northern town of Al-Bab, the last ISIS bastion in Aleppo province.

- March 2, 2017: Syrian troops backed by Russian jets complete the recapture of the historic city of Palmyra from ISIS. The city had previously changed hands several times.


A still image taken from a video footage and released by Russia's Defence Ministry on May 31, 2017, shows bombs hitting what Defence Ministry said were ISIS targets near the Syrian city of Palmyra. PHOTO: REUTERS

THE BATTLE FOR MOSUL

Oct 17, 2016: Some 30,000 Iraqi forces backed by US-led air support launch an operation to retake Mosul.

Three months later they retake the east side of the city.

June 29, 2017: Iraq announces it has recaptured the iconic Mosul Nuri mosque, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi saying it is a sign of the group's impending defeat.

THE BATTLE FOR RAQQA

- Nov 5, 2016: The SDF launches an operation to capture Raqqa.

- June 6, 2017: They enter Raqqa and have since seized a quarter of the city.

- June 29, 2017: The SDF cuts off the last ISIS escape route - two villages on the southern bank of the Euphrates River where the militants have been passing through to withdraw from the city. SDF now pushing towards the city centre, where ISIS fighters are holding civilians.

Leading analysis group IHS Markit estimates that ISIS has lost more than 60 per cent of its territory and 80 per cent of its revenue by June 2017 since its rise three years ago.

SOURCES: BBC, AFP, ST ARCHIVES