The Islamic State jihadist group which Syrian rebels said were expelled Thursday from the northern town of Al-Bab has suffered a string of setbacks since taking over swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The jihadists’ two main strongholds of Mosul in Iraq and Raqa in Syria are both under attack from forces backed by a US-led coalition.
– Syria –
– KOBANE: The Kurdish town in northern Syria became a symbol of the fight against IS. The jihadists were driven out by US-backed Kurdish forces in January 2015 after more than four months of fighting.
– TAL ABYAD: Another town on the Turkish border, Tal Abyad was captured by Kurdish and Arab rebels in June 2015. It was the gateway to a key supply route between Turkey and Raqa.
– PALMYRA: IS seized the ancient town in May 2015. It blew up UNESCO-listed Roman-era temples and looted ancient relics. Syrian regime forces backed by Russian warplanes and allied militia ousted IS in March, 2016, but IS fighters won control back on December 11.
– MANBIJ: On August 6, 2016, a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by US air strikes recaptured Manbij following a two-month battle. IS had seized the town in 2014 and used it as a hub for moving jihadists to and from Europe. It also controlled a key IS supply route.
– JARABULUS: Turkish troops and Syrian rebels swept almost unopposed into the border town on August 24, 2016, during Operation Euphrates Shield, which also targets Kurdish militia.
– DABIQ: Syrian rebels backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery captured Dabiq in October, 2016. Under IS control since August 2014, Dabiq has ideological significance because of a prophecy that Christian and Muslim forces will battle there at the end of times.
– AL-BAB: Turkish-backed Syrian rebels announced on Thursday that they had taken full control of the northern town, the IS last bastion in Aleppo province, after weeks of deadly fighting.
– THE BATTLE FOR RAQA: On November 5, 2016, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters began an operation to capture IS’s de facto Syrian capital. On February 17, the US Defence Department said IS leaders were fleeing Raqa and that cutting off IS access in Raqa was nearly complete.
– Iraq –
– TIKRIT: The hometown of late dictator Saddam Hussein, north of Baghdad, fell in June 2014, soon after Mosul. It was declared liberated in March 2015 in an operation by Iraqi troops, police and Shiite-dominated paramilitaries.
– SINJAR: Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition air power recaptured Sinjar, northwest of Baghdad, in November 2015, cutting a key supply line linking jihadist-held areas in Iraq and Syria. IS captured Sinjar in August 2014 and pursued a campaign of massacres, enslavement and rape against its Yazidi minority.
– RAMADI: The capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province, Ramadi was declared fully recaptured in February, 2016. Neighbouring Fallujah, the first Iraqi city seized by the IS in January 2014 was recaptured in June 2016.
– QAYYARAH: Iraqi forces backed by coalition aircraft retook Qayyarah in August, 2016 providing Baghdad with a platform to assault Mosul, the country’s second city 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the north.
– THE BATTLE FOR MOSUL: Iraqi government forces launched a major offensive to recapture Mosul on October 17, 2016. In three months, they succeeded in retaking the eastern part of the city. On February 19, 2017, they launched an offensive to retake the more densely-populated west.
– Libya –
– SIRTE: The head of Libya’s unity government announced on December 17, 2016, the liberation of the IS’s Libya bastion of Sirte, while underlining that the battle against Islamist rebels was not over. IS seized Sirte in June 2015 after it was driven out of Derna, its first Libyan bastion.