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How ISIS Expands

Unfortunately, stories about the atrocities ISIS has been inflicting are becoming so commonplace that the murder of 12 Christians here and 20 Shiites there barely merits a mention in the 24-hour news cycle. One thing that caught our eyes is an infographic that the NY Times published called “How ISIS Expands.” Very informative.


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A central goal of the Islamic State is expansion. This week, the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, took over key cities in Iraq and Syria. It aims to build a broad colonial empire across many countries. A year after announcing its expansion goals, it is operating or has cells in more than a dozen countries.

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ISIS has continued to expand in Iraq’s Anbar Province and oil-rich areas in Syria.

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Once in control, the Islamic State imposes strict Shariah law. But unlike some other jihadist groups, it seeks to actively govern, providing services like water, roads and a judicial system.

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ISIS cells surfaced in Arsal, Lebanon, when local rebel groups rose up against the government. Analysts believe that the Islamic State is building networks in Saudi Arabiaand in the Kabylie region of Algeria in order to seed uprisings. In Yemen, an Islamic State cell added fuel to the escalating crisis there by carrying out bombings that killed 135 people in two mosques in March. The country is now in chaos.

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About three dozen jihadist groups across at least 18 nations have pledged support or allegiance to the Islamic State. Most are small, but they have networks in areas new to the militant group.

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Sources: Aaron Y. Zelin, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; SITE Intelligence Group; Institute for the Study of War; IntelCenter
by Hannah Fairfield, Tim Wallace and Derek Watkins
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