A look at the Islamic State militants in Syria

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

58 PHOTOS
isis syria
See Gallery
A look at the Islamic State militants in Syria
Assad is dropping barrel bombs on Syrian civilians. US drops anti-ISIS leaflets. http://t.co/dNoRtD8kzo http://t.co/evtxcrZxJC
Syrian boys sift through the rubble of a house in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Destroyed building are seen around a sign that reads, ''Kobane'' in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 24, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26, by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian schoolchildren play at recess time outside their school in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Toys and flowers are laid on gravestones in a cemetery for Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Hezbollah fighters stand next to the coffin of Shiite militant Ali al-hadi Wahbi, killed in fighting with the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria, during his funeral ceremony on March 27, 2015 in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Police used tear gas and water cannon on October 8, 2014 in Ankara to disperse demonstrators protesting against the attacks launched by Islamic State insurgents targeting the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and the lack of action by their government. Turkey's military on October 8 imposed a curfew in parts of the southeast after at least 19 people were killed in pro-Kurdish protests over the government's failure to act against jihadists attacking the Syrian border city of Kobane. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Turkish police intervene protesters taking streets across Turkey to hold unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) stands alongside outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (R) during an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Panetta at Joint Base Myer-Henderson in Arlington, Virginia, February 8, 2013. Panetta will retire once his likely successor, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, is confirmed by the US Senate. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo released by the Turkish Presidency Press Office, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, speak during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Kerry is in the region to speak with leaders about strategies to address the threat from ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the US would provide an additional $500 million in humanitarian aid to victims of the war in Syria, bringing total American assistance to $2.9 billion since the start of the conflict in 2011.(AP Photo/Turkish Presidency)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a fighter of the Islamic State group waving their flag from inside a captured government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria on Sunday. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a government soldier bombs neighborhoods near the al-Maza airport, in Damascus countryside, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
In this photo released by the Turkish Presidency Press Office, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third left, speak during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Kerry is in the region to speak with leaders about strategies to address the threat from ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the US would provide an additional $500 million in humanitarian aid to victims of the war in Syria, bringing total American assistance to $2.9 billion since the start of the conflict in 2011.(AP Photo/Turkish Presidency)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest takes the podium at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, where he took questions on ISIS, Iraq, and Syria. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, center, a Guardian correspondent and a spokesperson for both families of Javier Espinosa, and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, speaks during a press conference with Monica Prieto, left, Espinosa's wife, and, Ayman Mhanna, right, director of Samir Kassir Eyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. The families of two Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria 11 weeks ago appealed publicly today for their safe and immediate release. Javier Espinosa, bureau chief of El Mundo in the Middle East with 25 years of front line reporting, and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, award-winning freelance photographer, were abducted on the 16th of September at a check-point near Tal-Abyad, northern Syria. They were taken to facilities belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Raqqa. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
This undated picture released by the family of Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, shows Spanish photographer Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, right, who was kidnapped in Syria 11 weeks ago walks next to a Syrian boy riding a bike in Aleppo, Syria. The families of two Spanish journalists kidnapped in Syria 11 weeks ago appealed publicly today for their safe and immediate release. Javier Espinosa, bureau chief of EL MUNDO in the Middle East with 25 years of front line reporting, and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, award-winning freelance photographer, were abducted on the 16th of September at a check-point near Tal-Abyad, northern Syria. They were taken to facilities belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Raqqa. (AP Photo/Ricardo's Family)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a prime time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Vowing to target the Islamic State with air strikes 'wherever they exist', Obama pledged to lead a broad coalition to fight IS and work with 'partner forces' on the ground in Syria and Iraq. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters of the Islamic State waving the group's flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Abu Moussa al-Ansari, a fighter from the Islamic State group, who they say was killed in the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Moderate Syrian rebels are buckling under the onslaught of the radical al-Qaida breakaway group that has swept over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Some rebels are giving up the fight, crippled by lack of weapons and frustrated with the power of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Other, more hard-line Syrian fighters are bending to the winds and joining the radicals. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Moderate Syrian rebels are buckling under the onslaught of the radical al-Qaida breakaway group that has swept over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Some rebels are giving up the fight, crippled by lack of weapons and frustrated with the power of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Other, more hard-line Syrian fighters are bending to the winds and joining the radicals. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) patrolling in Raqqa, Syria. The ISIL led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is believed to have been operating from inside Syria in recent months, is the main driver of destabilizing violence in Iraq and until recently was the main al-Qaida affiliate there. Al-Qaida’s general command formally disavowed the group this week, saying it "is not responsible for its actions." (AP Photo/militant website, File)
Druze men stand in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they look at smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDOF) use binoculars to watch smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated image posted Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the Islamic State group that captured the Tabqa air base from the Syrian government on Sunday, firing a captured tank, in Raqqa, Syria. A U.N. commission on Wednesday accused the extremist Islamic State organization of committing crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians, as pictures emerged of the extremists' bloody takeover of a Syrian military air base that added to the international organization’s claims. (AP Photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)
A rebel fightercarries homemade mortar rounds on September 3, 2013 in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on September 3, 2013 that a military strike on Syria over the use of chemical weapons could worsen the country's conflict. AFP PHOTO / MEZAR MATAR (Photo credit should read MEZAR MATAR/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE- This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. The Gulf nation of Qatar is hitting back at suggestions that it supports the Islamic State extremist group, saying that “determined, collective action” is needed to end sectarian violence gripping Iraq and Syria. Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah unequivocally denied funding the extremist group. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center- File)
This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a parade with a missile in Raqqa, Syria. Militants from an al-Qaida splinter group held a military parade in their stronghold in northeastern Syria, displaying U.S.-made Humvees, heavy machine guns, and missiles captured from the Iraqi army for the first time since taking over large parts of the Iraq-Syria border. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
FILE - This undated photo posted by the U.S. State Department in their Rewards for Justice website on June 18, 2014 shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The leader of the extremist group that has swept over much of northern Syria and Iraq called on Muslims Tuesday, July 1, 2014 to immigrate to the territory his group has seized to help build an Islamic state. The 19-minute audiotape from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi comes two days after his organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls. It also proclaimed al-Baghdadi the caliph, and demanded that all Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him.(AP Photo/U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice, File)
FILE - Undated file picture released on Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the official website of Iraq's Interior Ministry claims to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. While his may not be a household name, Al-Baghdadi has emerged as one of the world’s most lethal terrorist leaders. He is a renegade within al-Qaida whose maverick streak eventually led its central command to sever ties, deepening a rivalry between his organization and the global terror network. (AP Photo/Iraqi Interior Ministry, File)
This photo taken on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, shows destroyed police trucks after clashes between fighters of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Iraqi security forces in central Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced this week that it has unilaterally established a caliphate in the areas under its control. It declared the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of its new self-styled state governed by Shariah law and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him. (AP Photo)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, walking down the pulpit after delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
This image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. A video posted online Saturday purports to show the leader of the Islamic State extremist group that has overrun much of Syria and Iraq delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq, in what would be a rare - if not the first - public appearance by the shadowy militant. (AP Photo/Militant video)
Protesters in Melbourne try to raise awareness of persecution of Christians at the hands of Islamic State fighters
Protesters in Melbourne try to raise awareness of persecution of Christians at the hands of Islamic State fighters Sept-6-2014
Demonstrators hold placards as they protest against the actions of Islamic State in Iraq outside Downing Street in central London on September 7, 2014. The unity rally took place to address the genocide of the minority peoples of Iraq by the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi volunteer soldiers march after graduating from a training camp in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 1, 2014. Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli the previous day which was the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi volunteer soldiers march after graduating from a training camp in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 1, 2014. Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli the previous day which was the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, sitting next to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, center, and Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood, right, speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Turkish riot police use teargas to disperse protesters on October 8, 2014 in Ankara during a demonstration against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows that local residents watch smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate on October 8, 2014 in Ankara against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the impact of an airstrike next to the hill where Islamic State (IS) militants had placed their flag in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 8, 2014. The Pentagon warned on October 8, 2014 US air power on its own could not prevent Islamic State jihadists from capturing the Syrian border town of Kobane, even as US warplanes kept up bombing raids in the area. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurds living in Greece protest in central Athens during a pro-Kurd demonstration against attacks launched by Islamic State insurgents targeting the Syrian city of Kobane and lack of action by the Turkish government on October 8, 2014. Intensified air strikes helped Kurdish militia push back Islamic State jihadists fighting for Kobane as pressure mounted for more international action to save the key Syrian border town. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows that smoke rises during the clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed troops in Kobane (Ayn al-arab) city of Syria, on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - MARCH 17: Members of a Syrian opposition group called Jaysh al-Islam get military training in Idlib, Syria on March 17, 2015. At least 400 people get military training at Jaysh al-Islam's Idlib camp within the combat with DAESH (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant). (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

By ZEINA KARAM

BEIRUT (AP) -- As the U.S. strikes Islamic State targets in Iraq, extremists belonging to the same militant group across the border in Syria are capturing new territory and becoming bolder by the day.

There, in its power base, the Islamic State group controls thousands of square kilometers (miles) of territory, including most of Syria's oil-producing region. In the areas under its control, it has established an elaborate governing system that oversees every aspect of people's lives.

The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria as a possible precursor for airstrikes against Islamic State targets there. U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the group cannot be defeated "without addressing that side of the organization which resides in Syria."

A look at the Islamic State group in Syria:

SCOPE AND SIZE

By some estimates, the Islamic State group occupies up to 35 percent of Syria, or about a third of the country. It has consolidated its hold over an impressive stretch of territory from its westernmost end on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo, across northern Syria and most of the east. It spreads into most of the Sunni-dominated areas of northern and western Iraq, right up to the edges of Baghdad. That terrain includes the oil fields of Syria's eastern Deir el-Zour province and parts of Hassakeh. It also includes parts of Aleppo province, including the major towns of Manbej and al-Bab, where the group's black flags flutter over government buildings and main squares. Because it controls territory on both sides of the border, the group can move fighters, weapons and goods between Iraq and Syria with relative ease.

CALIPHATE CAPITAL

The Islamic State's declared capital is Raqqa, a city in northeastern Syria along the Euphrates River. With a population of 500,000, Raqqa is the group's power base. Foreign fighters, some with their families, have flocked there from all over the world. Although it always has been a conservative city with strong tribal presence, Raqqa was once a diverse, thriving commercial center. Today, it is patrolled 24 hours a day by vice squads known as the Hisba - armed fighters in long robes who make sure their strict interpretation of Islam is observed. The militants have banned music and smoking, and have forced women to cover up. They have carried out beheadings in the main square for violators of Shariah, or Islamic law. People who were killed have had their bodies hung from crosses. The group recently imposed a curriculum in Raqqa schools, scrapping subjects such as philosophy and chemistry.

RESOURCES AND GOVERNING

The group controls virtually all major oil fields of eastern Syria, including the Omar oil field, Syria's largest, with a capacity to produce 75,000 barrels a day. According to several activists, the group has resumed some pumping and has secured revenue by selling crude oil at lower-than-market prices and exporting to Iraq and Turkey through middlemen with tankers. The group also enjoys other assets, such as three major border crossings, grain silos and the al-Furat dam, Syria's largest. In the past two years, the group has become entrenched in parts of Syria, establishing a governing system that includes administrative offices, Islamic courts and traffic police.

MILITARY STRENGTH

The group is a formidable fighting force in Syria, battling anyone who stands in its way. Since about the beginning of the year, the group has been engaged in a war of attrition with Western-backed rebels, overwhelming their outposts and picking off towns and villages one by one through force and intimidation. Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting, which has detracted from the rebellion's main goal of toppling President Bashar Assad. More recently, the jihadists have turned their attention to Assad's forces, seizing a series of military bases, including the Tabqa airfield in Raqqa province. Following its blitz in Iraq, the group has moved tanks, cannons, Humvees and surface-to-surface missiles into Syria, parading the hardware recently in Raqqa. Most of the group's leaders are believed to be in Syria, including Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen and one of its most prominent military figures.

ASSAD'S ACTIONS

Assad has recently stepped up airstrikes against strongholds of the Islamic State group, perhaps to try to ward off U.S. involvement, to show he can do the job himself and to portray himself as a partner for the international community. The Syrian government has opened the door for potential cooperation with the U.S. to contain the Islamic State group but says any strikes should be done in coordination with Damascus. That's a problem for the U.S., which risks appearing on the same side as Assad, whose ouster the Obama administration has sought for years. U.S. strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria may help Assad by legitimizing his government at the expense of those seeking to topple him. Any U.S. airstrikes would likely focus on areas near the Iraqi border and militant targets such as training camps in Raqqa, where Assad's air defense capabilities are almost nonexistent.

COMPLICATIONS

U.S. airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State group would be much more complicated than in Iraq, where they are sanctioned by Baghdad and where battle lines are more clearly drawn. The picture in Syria is more complex, with a host of military players operating in close proximity to each other, including the Islamic State group, the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, Western-backed rebels and pro-government forces. While the Western-backed rebels have urged the U.S. to extend airstrikes to target the Islamic State group, more hard-line groups in Syria oppose any U.S. involvement.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Read Full Story

People are Reading