With the filmed murder of American journalist James Foley, Islamic State has burst onto the international stage.
Established over ten years ago, at the time of the Iraq War, the movement has deep roots.
The United States-led invasion of Iraq toppled leader Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party.
Under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden, the militant Islamist group Al Qaeda, became determined to set up a ‘Caliphate’ – a single, transnational Islamic state based on sharia law.
The founder and leader of Al Qaeda’s Iraqi faction was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Sunni Arab, originally from Jordan. He became a symbol for the fight against the Western powers, before being killed in a 2006 US airstrike.
His death dealt a blow to Al Qaeda. The group recovered in Syria and changed its name to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The jihadist movement strengthened in 2010 under the direction of its current leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
Islamic State’s latest goal is the invasion of Iraq. And, with the departure of US troops from the country, it seems to be a feasible target.
Its dramatic growth is partially down to the civil war in Syria. IS used the conflict to recruit both locally and abroad; particularly from the EU. When the person appearing beside James Foley speaks, he seems to have a British accent.
This has caused international concern, as British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond explained.
“It is not just a problem for Iraq or Syria or even for the region, it is a problem for us here in the UK, in Europe, in North America, because these people, if they can establish this ISIL caliphate as they call it, in Iraq and Syria, will use it as a base to launch attacks on western interests and indeed western countries.”
While the US has intervened with air strikes on strategic positions over Iraq, IS may pose much more than a physical threat.
Some consider the spread of videos in which western hostages appear to be murdered to be a form of propaganda, as well as a way of avenging the US-led invasion of Iraq.