×
fight against ISIS
March 5, 2019

The Islamic State retained control of just one village in Syria, Baghouz, and on Tuesday, about 500 fighters fleeing the area surrendered to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Baghouz has seen intense fighting in recent weeks, and SDF commanders told CNN the remaining ISIS fighters are among the most experienced militants. They used their wives and children as human shields, and launched attacks via tunnels. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said that over the last 48 hours, more than 6,000 people have fled Baghouz, with 3,500 evacuated on Tuesday alone.

Baghouz is in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, and if it is recaptured, ISIS will no longer have any territorial control, CNN reports. The terrorist organization once held a vast stretch of land, roughly the size of Portugal, in Syria and Iraq. Catherine Garcia

October 16, 2017

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias backed by the United States, says it controls more than 90 percent of Raqqa, Syria, and won't stop fighting for the last seven neighborhoods until every Islamic State fighter is gone.

Raqqa is ISIS's de facto capital, and on Sunday, the Syrian Democratic Forces made a final push to get ISIS militants out of its last strongholds in the city. They started their offensive to recapture Raqqa in June, and some commanders believe they may have the entire city under their control within a few days, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Several civilians were able to leave Raqqa over the weekend after tribal and council leaders negotiated safe passage, and a Kurdish news agency filmed footage of residents greeting Syrian Democratic Forces troops with kisses and hugs. In August, officials said they believed 4,000 citizens remained in Raqqa, which has been devastated by constant bombings. Most of ISIS's leaders once lived in the city, and it's where they planned some of their most heinous foreign attacks, but most fighters have left for Syria's Dair Alzour province, and experts say that's likely where the group is planning its last stand. Catherine Garcia

September 12, 2017

The Islamic State, after losing ground in Syria and Iraq, is switching its attention to a different battleground: the Philippines.

ISIS's media arm has released a seven-minute video in English that uses militants already in the southern part of the Philippines to encourage would-be fighters to join them as they fight government troops near Marawi, a city of 200,000 people. Since May, Philippine soldiers have been trying to get ISIS-linked militants out of the city, and more than 60 troops have been killed and 200 wounded in clashes. In the video, a fighter calls on Muslims, specifically those in Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia, to come to the Philippines to help the fight in Marawi, joining militants from three ISIS-aligned groups: Maute, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and Abu Sayyaf, a onetime offshoot of al Qaeda.

Asia is ISIS's new focus, U.S. intelligence officials and private analysts told NBC News, partly because Muslim insurgents have been active in the Philippines' southern islands for decades now, and ISIS sees it as the best place for them to get support and launch attacks. "ISIS wants to be seen as global and the Philippines provides them with an opportunity," a U.S. official said. While intelligence officials were afraid that ISIS losses in the Middle East would translate to a rush of militants returning to their homelands, there has yet to be a mass exodus, officials told NBC News, and it's believed they will likely stay in Iraq and Syria and fight as insurgents. Catherine Garcia

August 7, 2017

The Pentagon is mulling over a plan to give the military authority to launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets in the Philippines, two defense officials told NBC News Monday.

If the plan is approved, armed drones would carry out the strikes, which would hit targets considered threats to U.S. allies in the region, the officials said. The authority could be granted as early as Tuesday. The U.S. has a small military presence in the Philippines, supporting the country's forces that are fighting ISIS in the southern islands. "We are providing them some training and some guidance in terms of how to deal with an enemy that fights in ways that are not like most people have ever had to deal with," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday. Catherine Garcia

July 24, 2017

A 16-year-old girl who left Germany to join the Islamic State has been captured in Mosul, Iraq, and told authorities there she is sorry for joining the terrorist organization and wants to be with her family again, the German magazine Der Spiegel reports.

The teen, Linda Wenzel, is in a Baghdad prison, and she's receiving consular support, said Lorenz Haase, the senior public prosecutor in Dresden. She is from the small town of Pulsnitz, near Dresden, and went missing last summer. Several German media outlets say they have interviewed Wenzel, and she told them she wants to "get away from here. I want to get away from the war, from the many weapons, from the noise."

Wenzel also told the media she was shot in the left thigh and her right knee was injured during a helicopter attack, and she is prepared to cooperate with police. Catherine Garcia

July 11, 2017

Despite several reports that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, Gen. Stephen Townsend, commanding officer of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, is adamant that he has seen absolutely no proof of al-Baghdadi's demise.

"Despite all the helpful reports to us from every source imaginable, I'm unable to confirm or deny where he is, or whether he is alive or dead," he said Tuesday. "Let me just say, for the record, my fervent hope is it is the latter. I don't know how to say it any other way … I don't have a clue. Simple as that. So, don't know if he's alive. Don't know if he's dead. I don't know where he's alive. I don't know where his dead body is. I don't have a clue. I'm not trying to message anything."

One thing Townsend does know is he hopes al-Baghdadi is "deader than a doornail," and the United States, if it sees proof al-Baghdadi is still alive, will find him and kill him. Reuters reported on Tuesday that the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it has confirmed his death, and in June, Russia's defense ministry said al-Baghdadi may have been killed when an air strike targeted ISIS commanders outside of Raqqa, Syria. There is a $25 million reward for al-Baghdadi's capture. Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2017

Abdul Hasib, the head of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, was killed last month during an operation conducted by Afghan and U.S. forces, Afghan officials confirmed Sunday.

Two U.S. Army Rangers were also killed during the April 27 raid in the eastern province of Nangarhar, along with 35 ISIS fighters and commanders. Hasib became the terrorist group's leader in Afghanistan after Hafiz Saeed Khan was killed in a 2016 drone strike; ISIS has been active in the country since 2015. The affiliate, also known as Islamic State Khorasan, has been blamed for several recent attacks in Afghanistan, including an assault against Kabul's main military hospital, which left dozens of patients and employees dead. Catherine Garcia

April 26, 2017

Foreign fighters are leaving the Islamic State in droves, with many surrendering to or being caught by Turkish border police over the last few weeks, The Guardian reports.

People who sympathized with the terrorist group are also fleeing, as ISIS loses ground in its stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. Last week, Kary Paul Kleman, a 46-year-old from Florida, and Stefan Aristidou of London surrendered at the Kilis crossing, accompanied by Aristidou's British wife, Kleman's Syrian wife, and two Egyptian women whose husbands were killed in battle, The Guardian reports. Aristidou claimed he traveled to Syria two years ago not to fight but to live, later admitting he was in Raqqa. Kleman's mother said after he got a divorce, he converted to Islam and moved to Egypt in 2011. He married and divorced an Egyptian woman, then moved to Dubai and married a Syrian woman. His family said he went to Syria in 2015 to help with humanitarian efforts.

The United States estimates that up to 30,000 foreign fighters have likely crossed into Syria to fight with ISIS, and as many as 25,000 have been killed. Turkish and European officials have said their embassies are being contacted by ISIS fighters who have joined in recent years and are asking to return home, The Guardian reports. While many foreigners are ready to leave ISIS, there are others more committed than ever; Western intelligence officials believe that at least 250 ISIS fighters over the last two years have been smuggled over the Turkish border and are now in Europe. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads