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Initially known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Daesh was founded in Iraq in 2004 as a Sunni jihadist group whose initial aims were to wage jihad to expel foreign forces from Iraq—specifically coalition forces participating in the United States-led 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of the country, and to overthrow Iraq’s new government and replace it with a Sunni Islamist state governed according to its radical interpretation of Sharia Islamic law. In 2014, AQ issued a statement formally disavowing the group as a branch of AQ and adding that it was not responsible for Daesh’s actions and behaviours.

Daesh’s most prominent attacks have been suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, improvised explosive devices, armed attacks, hostage takings, and beheadings and the group routinely encourages it supporters in Western countries to launch lone wolf attacks against military, police, security, intelligence members, as well members of the civilian population.

Recent Developments

In June 2014, Daesh announced the establishment of an Islamic caliphate spanning from the Syrian governorate of Aleppo in the west to the Iraqi province of Diyala.

In February 2015, Daesh released a video showing the beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.  The video, bearing the logo of Al Hayat, Daesh’s media arm, shows masked fighters dressed in black with machetes parade along a rocky beach towards the camera with a row of handcuffed captives in orange jumpsuits. In the video, titled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross”, a fighter speaking fluent English, with Arabic subtitles, implies that they are taking revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden by American commandos and his burial at sea.

On November 13, 2015, gunmen armed with explosives and machine guns coordinated attacks in six Paris locations, ranging from restaurants and a concert venue, to a sports stadium. At least 120 people were killed and about 200 were wounded. In its statement, Daesh revealed that eight men wearing explosive belts and carrying machine guns had raided “carefully chosen” targets in the heart of the French capital, including the Stade de France national stadium, the Bataclan concert hall, and a number of other targets.

On March 22, 2016, at about 8:00 am, two bombs exploded at Brussels Airport. Both explosions were believed to have been carried out by suicide bombers. About an hour later, another bomb exploded at the Maelbeek metro station, near the political hub of the city and close to European Union offices. The attacks killed 31 people and injured 340. Daesh claimed responsibility for the explosions and warned ominously of more attacks.

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